The more I have tried to manage time, the more frustrated I have become. (This has been a lifelong pursuit!) When folks who seem to have their lives in order talk about managing time like one might manage a restaurant or a baseball team, my eyes glaze over. They tend to be replete with verbosity regarding time management strategies that assume that if something doesn’t work one just “fires” the problem or “benches” it the way one might fire a server or bench a player...

This may work for some people. It doesn’t work for me.

My EPIPHANY [a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way] came when I realized that it isn’t about managing TIME, it is about managing MYSELF. I’m guessing this is obvious to a lot of people. It was not obvious to me. I had to shift — to reframe — “time management” as “self-management” (which is what it really is, isn’t it?!)

This has parallels in the church and our individual spiritual growth.

We often talk about growing our congregations — about “church growth” — as if a congregation is a discrete entity (an “individual” thing) but it is not. Just like our bodies are made up of multiple organs that are made up of multiple cells (how’s that for oversimplification?) our congregations are made up of families and individuals who are connected through all kinds of relationships. The only way to “grow” a congregation is to help each person in the congregation grow.

Of course this growth can happen in a lot of different ways, but I’m thinking that if each person in a congregation is doing their best to be open to (and take some responsibility for) their own spiritual development and growth, the whole congregation will benefit from that. The whole congregation will grow. Maybe it will grow numerically, maybe not. But it will definitely grow and that growth will have outcomes outside of the congregation.

Spiritual development and growth can happen in many ways. One thing that’s bothered my whole adult life is the idea that a person’s spiritual development and growth are the sole responsibility of the pastor of the congregation the person attends. Now certainly providing for the spiritual growth of a child or teen is the responsibility of the faithful adults in the lives of those children or teens. And for adults new to faith, a heavier responsibility exists for the adults in their lives to help them learn about their new faith and the practice of it (through study, service, etc.) But for adults who have been part of a community of faith for years, I challenge you to take responsibility for yourselves.

Pastors and other congregational leaders cannot (should not) be your only source of spiritual nutrition. Certainly rely on your pastors for guidance, challenge, encouragement and (hopefully) inspiration. But grown believers should be able to feed themselves. If you don’t know how, ask your pastor.


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