Church Leadership
Avoiding The Trap Of A Punch-The-Clock Mentality In Ministry
It’s too easy to define our ministry by how many hours we put in. Then it's very easy to slip into the trap of defining our value by those hours.

Too many pastors suffer from PCM. Punch-the-clock mentality. And if you don't, you may be struggling to work with church leaders who do.

PCM usually develops in people who have spent their entire working lives in jobs where they get paid hourly. Every work day they punch in and punch out.

These people perform some of the most important jobs in our society. They keep our communities safe, clean and livable. Many great people live their entire work lives punching a clock to feed us, house us, clothe us, care for our kids and make the products we use.

So, there’s nothing wrong with a punch-the-clock job or the people who perform vital services through them. But there is a problem when we have a punch-the-clock mentality.

Ministry Doesn’t Clock In – Or Out

Of course, not everyone who punches a clock has PCM, nor is PCM limited to those who do. Ministers are susceptible to it, as well – the ones who get a salary and the ones who do it without monetary compensation.

But ministry doesn't work by punching a clock. Mostly because, when you’re in ministry as the true calling that it should be, you’re never really off the clock. Sure, we need to take regular Sabbaths and vacations. But even on vacation you’re never not a pastor.

Ministry is not about the number of hours we work. It’s about faithfulness and effectiveness.

Ministry is not about the number of hours we work. It’s about faithfulness and effectiveness.

If we can do better ministry in fewer hours, we should.

But when we have PCM, it’s too easy to define our ministry by how many hours we put in. Then it's very easy to slip into the trap of defining our value by those hours.

When we have PCM and work fewer hours we feel guilty. So we try to assuage that guilt by working more hours, getting burnt out and feeling like a martyr. Either way, we become slaves to the clock and our own egos.

PCM tells us that if something isn't working well, the answer is to put in more hours. Work harder. But that’s never the answer.

Fewer Hours, More Faithfulness And Effectiveness

We need to stop believing the lies of PCM and know the truth – that ministry is about faithfulness and effectiveness.

When we have a mentality of faithfulness and effectiveness, we’re not driven to put in a relentless number of work hours when something isn't going as well as we’d hoped. But we don’t give up either. Instead, we’ll seek God’s strength and wisdom. Try something new. Change tactics. Listen more, instead of just working harder.

There’s a humility that comes with seeking to be faithful and effective. We become less reliant on our efforts, more reliant on Christ.

Strive to be effective, but live in faithfulness.

What About My Other Church Leaders With PCM?

What happens when a pastor overcomes their PCM, only to face a church staff, members, or leadership council that’s still afflicted with it and expects you to live by its rules?

Pastor them. Equip the saints.

Strive to be effective, but live in faithfulness.

Lead them out of the trap of PCM in their own lives. Teach the biblical principles of faithfulness and effectiveness. That’s one of the lessons in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, for instance. Be faithful and effective in a little, and Jesus will entrust us with more. (Matthew 25:14-30)

It won’t be easy. In my experience, some people are chronic PCM sufferers. But you’d be surprised by how many people can find freedom from it if we give them the tools to understand it.

Even as they head off every day for their punch-the-clock jobs (along with so many of our bivocational pastoral colleagues) we can help relieve them of the pressure that PCM sufferers live with – that their value is defined by the hours they work. If we do that for them, they’re more likely to release us from the tyranny of it, as well.

No one’s life is defined by the hours they work. Or by the widgets they produce. Or the promotions they receive.

That includes us, pastors. Our life and ministry is not about the hours we put in, the size of our church, or the people who know our name.

It’s about effectiveness and faithfulness. And only Jesus knows the final tally on that.

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August 21, 2017 at 2:15 AM

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