SIDEBAR: Separation

by John Opalewski

Longevity in ministry requires a leader to practice the art of separation. When you have people responsibility, disengaging from work tends to be a monumental challenge. Leadership is influence, but it is often intrusive.

The apostle Paul referenced this reality in 2 Corinthians 11:28: “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

A beneath-the-surface pressure exists in pastoring that never seems to go away completely. A few contributors to this ongoing pressure include the budget; the expectations of people; and fear that if you speak the truth in love, people in whom you have invested a lot of time and energy may bolt. Then there are the random calls at night or on your day off; concerns over retaining valuable team members; and perhaps pressure from an overbearing board member. All these things can intrude on your personal life. Extending your leadership run requires you to practice separation.

Separation is a learned behavior. It is easy to write about but much harder to practice. The ministry possesses an unpredictable element. Emergencies happen. But honestly, real emergencies rarely happen. You cannot control real crises, but you must understand that not every animated request from a member of your church is a genuine emergency. Separation means learning to distinguish between what is real and what is not.

Separating from work requires you to shut down your computer when you get home. Turn off the sound indicators on your smartphone that signal the arrival of an email or text message. Those noises entice you to look — and suddenly the separation you are attempting to gain gets lost. It only takes one email or text message to set the work wheels in motion.

Separation. Without it, your leadership shelf life will contract. With it, you set yourself up for a longer, more fulfilling, and more influential ministry.

John Opalewski, Washington, Michigan