Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Bi-Vocational Life

Every once in a while, someone will ask me if I'm still employed at Olive Garden, and how that's going. My response is always to say that things are going well (which is not a lie), but I expect oftentimes that people would like to know more about how I'm able to manage a family and two jobs (one of which is ministry, which is a very huge one!). So I thought this would be a good week to share with you some of the adjustments I've made to make things go more smoothly, as well as some of the challenges that we deal with in trying to make it all work.

As soon as I found out we were implementing an emergency budget and that my salary would be reduced by 15%, I went out and found a supplemental job. Tanya and I had already run the numbers and realized that we would not be able to make a pay cut work for us, so I asked the elders for permission to get another job once we enacted the emergenecy budget. Since that time, I've been working about 15-20 hours a week at Olive Garden as a cook, and I've cut back to about 35 hours a week at the church. Here are some of the things that help:

1) Olive Garden has been extremely understanding regarding my schedule, and this makes planning possible. When I was hired, I told them that I would never be available to work on Sundays, but that I could work any other days. When I was training, they had me working doing lots of different things--opening, lunch, dinner, split shifts, whatever. I conveyed to them that it made it difficult to schedule meetings, etc., when I didn't know from week to week which evenings I'd be working. They quickly moved me to a set schedule, and as a bonus they didn't have me work any evenings at all, so that conflicts would never be an issue. My OG schedule is now pretty much always the lunch shift Monday through Thursday. Knowing what to expect makes it much easier to plan my weeks and set appointments.

2) Early on, I discovered that composing my messages each week was suddenly much more difficult. Prior to working at Olive Garden, I would block out an entire day (usually Tuesday) to write the bulk of my message. Occasionally, I would tweak it in subsequent days as I had new thoughts or insights, but by and large the message was established by Tuesday night. Since I now work Monday through Thursday for 3-5 hours right in the middle of the day, I can't just block out an extended time for message preparation. Initially, I was grabbing a few hours here or there as I had opportunity, but this was becoming more and more of a drain, and consuming a huge part of my week. In August I asked (and received from) the Church Council permission to take a week of from OG (which they agreed to) and collect my original salary for one week's time. During that week, I was able to compose messages for August, September, October, and November (in varying stages of "done-ness"). For those four months, I had at least partially finished messages to work from, and that helped immensely. Having now run out of those messages, I can tell a huge difference. This last week, I worked on my message from Monday night through Thursday morning. This coming week is another week of just working on messages again (Pastor Brent is preaching on Sunday), so I'm hoping to have another several months' worth ready to go again.

3) I've found that being in the office less forces me to be more efficient when I'm there. I just don't have time to spend on stuff that isn't necessary. So that's been good as well.

4) I absolutely refuse to work more than I do. If something doesn't get done, then it just isn't done, and the world will go on. I make sure that I am with my family at least three evenings a week, and I don't work anywhere on Saturdays. That time is sacred time, and I don't let anything impinge on it. Without a fierce devotion to my family time, this could be a real timebomb, but the fact is the only things more important to me than the church are my relationship with my family and my relationship with God.

5) I know that many of you continue to pray for me and my family. I want to thank you so much for that. I believe that prayer makes all the difference in the world, and that God will continue to give us the grace we need to make it through this time for as long as it lasts.

Here are some of the things that I still wrestle with:

1) I don't have much time for long-range planning, goal setting, or leadership development. These are extremely important, and it will eventually harm the church if I have to push these priorities off indefinitely. However, they are time-consuming, and I find myself often having to attend to more urgent matters.

2) Due to my OG schedule, Debbie and I are hardly ever in the office together. We leave notes and so forth, but oftentimes office communication is difficult. In addition, now that her hours have been reduced from 20 to 12 under the emergency budget, she is able to do less for me. I often have to do work that I would rather hand off to a secretary because she is so restricted in her time.

3) Pastor Brent and I have eliminated our weekly staff meeting. It's amazing how well we still keep in touch with all the things that are going on between us; however, it was in our staff meetings that much of our brainstorming, planning, and goal-setting took place.

I still haven't figured all these things out, but I guess there's no way to make a less-than-ideal situation suddenly become ideal. It is a challenge, but things are also going well, and we've put some tools in place to help it be that way.

The main thing is that we continue to stay faithful to Christ and to where he calls us, and he will give us the grace to meet the challenges that face us on the way.

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