Matt Norman wrote an article a while back using a great metaphor: Football.
I remember watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play. One of the players caught an interception and ran it all the way back, 91 yards, for a touchdown. This was a very exciting play to watch. The Bucs took the lead, and this player took the bench. This worked out ok, because there was another player there to take his place while he recovered from his long sprint.
When I took over the children’s ministry I hit it with the same energy as this player running for the end zone. The problem was there was no one to stand in for me while I recovered, and I couldn’t run full speed towards the end zone for an indefinite period of time. It was like the end zone kept moving and no matter how fast I ran or how hard I worked, it never got closer. This led to a lot of stress and frustration.
Maybe it’s personalities… my wife likes lots of margins in her world. She won’t pack her schedule in. She maintains space in between events, trips, home, activities, etc. She is really good at maintaining margins and this brings her incredible peace. I, on the other hand, like to pack it all in! 3 minutes of space? No problem. I can write that article for you or make that graphic real quick! This active and packed life I like to lead brings me a lot of peace as well. If my wife and I were to switch these two, opposing traits, it would lead to the opposite of peace: stress and frustration.
So, I guess it depends on your personality.
However, whether you are a parent or a children’s ministry leader/volunteer, you are influencing others. So regardless of whether it depends on your particular personality, when you are affecting others who have wildly different personalities (like my wife and I)…
You must engage life or ministry in a pace that is sustainable.
I would like to be a father for longer than 2 years. But if I try to pack it all in, then I will wear my family out from moving from thing to thing too quickly. I might strain the relationship. I might place too high of expectations on my two daughters to run at my pace. That is why the blend of a frenetic pacer (such as myself) and a slow, methodical mover (like my wife) works wonders for our family.
I would also like to be a pastor for a lifetime. Not only that, but, Lord willing, I’d like to be in one place for a lifetime. This is not accomplished in sprints of 2-3 years where every night of the week is filled with activities or meetings or planning, nor where all of life is centered around the sprint of ministry somehow impressing (imaginary) folks who don’t care. I must gather around myself other that are a lot like my wife who help slow me down and offer a good blend of action and space.
Matt Norman offers some further perspective on his journey related to sustainability, which are worth reading his whole article.
Anything worth growing has to go through various seasons.
We can’t short circuit that process. We can try to speed it up, but we have to let the LORD guide us. And the LORD tends to operate at the speed of a growing garden that takes intentional planting, consistent watering, wise pruning, constant patience, and a readiness to harvest when things are ripe and ready. We don’t like to wait on the LORD’s work, so we often overwhelm the garden.
It is tempting to overwhelm the ministry environments we are involved in as well as the kids we are raising at home instead of engaging in intentional planting, consistent watering, wise pruning, constant patience, and a readiness to harvest when things are ripe and ready.