Tag Archives: Doxology

Task/Project/Time Management and the Pastor

I recently had the opportunity to gather together with a small group of DOXOLOGY alumni to discuss ways of improving the DOXOLOGY program, how to reach more pastors, and the like.  One of the topics which came to mind was the question of time management.  I thought y’all might appreciate some of my thoughts on the topic, so here goes:

The reason I got into thinking about task management as it pertains to the Office is because of my own background with stress and clinical depression.  One of my ongoing symptoms that leads to and flows from depression is the overwhelming nature of all of the “stuff” that comes at me as a pastor.  The usual pastoral duties, the left-hand kingdom duties of being the only full time staff, being the unofficial volunteer coordinator and all around cheerleader, and more generally “managing” all of the different kinds of information that come at me.  Some people communicate by email.  Others by meetings.  Phone. Notes.  Letters.  Text messages.  Facebook.  The list could go on and on.

With all of these different ways that information comes at me, it is very easy to become overwhelmed in trying to figure out how to hold onto all of these bits and pieces in a way that won’t make me insane.

Furthermore, I as a pastor really don’t want to be defined by task management.  Being a pastor is not about checking things off of a list so that I feel that I have accomplished something.  The things that I “do” must always serve the members of my flock, my family, and the others that have crossed my path.  I am very conscious of the fact that as a pastor, if I appear “busy” to people, that translates into “he doesn’t have time for me and my piddly problems.”

On top of all of that, there are all of my obligations as a husband and father which cannot be given the back burner, either.

Pastors above all really are what David Allen would call “knowledge workers”.  We don’t make a product.  There aren’t quotas to uphold or sales goals to reach.  We receive and give.  We receive God’s Word and give it to our flock.  We receive our people’s sins and give them to God.  As a pastor, that shapes how I think about who I am and what I do.

So what I want and need is a way so that all of the “stuff” doesn’t control me or define me.  I want to be able to focus on ideas and people, not things and juggling.

Enter David Allen.  David Allen is the author of a book called, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity.  I suppose in some ways it is similar to Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  I think it is far more helpful, and actually fits in with the life of the Lutheran pastor quite well.  He has several basic premises that resonate with me.  Here are some of them:

  • Your brain is for creating ideas, not storing them.
  • One of the biggest reasons people get overwhelmed or stuck is because they haven’t figured out what is the next action they need to take on something.
  • If you know everything that involves action on your part is kept in a secure system, you don’t worry as much about what you’re supposed to be doing.
I think this is enough for first thoughts.  This is a bit stream of consciousness, but that’s okay.

So what are your thoughts?  If you are a pastor, does the knowledge overload overwhelm you?




[This is my letter of referral for the DOXOLOGY program of Advanced Training in Pastoral Care. I would encourage all of you to learn more about the amazing work that this organization is doing. -P]

September 23, 2009
To Whom It May Concern:

“It is as if an angel was sitting and talking to us saying, ‘here is a weapon for you to protect you.’”

Those were the words my wife, Kathryn, used to describe our time with DOXOLOGY. We have four young children, and so time away from home is precious for both of us. It has to be worth it and important. When we started to go to the final session, where spouses attend along with the pastors, she was a little hesitant. Was this going to be another round of psychobabble, or pastors complaining about there lot in life, or would it be different?

It is different.

When I started the DOXOLOGY training cycle, it had been about a year since I was on disability for major clinical depression. I was tired, unfocused, and really wondering if I could even be a pastor anymore. On a personal level, our family was hurting and struggling to find our place and hold everything together. We were surviving, but there was little joy for me as a pastor, and we were looking at our family as more of a test of faith than a gift from God.

The first portion of DOXOLOGY, called The Gathering, was in a Roman Catholic retreat center outside of Milwaukee. The worship was rich and beautiful, as Lutherans can do so well. The pastor-in-residence for the event was caring and sympathetic, a great preacher with a sense of humor who understands the challenges and opportunities that pastors face every day. He helped us all to learn how to receive the gifts of God again. Pastors give so much, they can easily forget what it means to be a sheep. They say doctors make the worst patients. Pastors make the worst parishioners. But Pastor Ledic helped us remember that we are a part of God’s family and in need of His mercy as much as anyone to whom we minister.

It’s hard to know where to begin describing Drs. Senkbeil and Yahnke. Dr. Senkbeil is a pastor with decades of experience, who has spent countless hours in prayer and meditation on God’s Word. He specializes, if we can use that term, in the care of souls. How do we care for those God has given to us? First we must learn how to receive again. He taught us how to confess our sins, loose our burdens, how to actually be a pastor while not getting utterly consumed by the doing that defines so much of our lives today. His care for us as pastors was and is simply remarkable.

Dr. Beverly Yahnke plays a unique role in our world as pastors. As a woman, it could be intimidating for her to sit in front of a room full of pastors and talk to them about the opportunities and limits of pastoral care. Frankly, I think that she understands as few pastors do the level of burden which we care, the yoke of the sole. But she is able to speak about topics that every pastor deals with on a regular basis: depression, anxiety, compassion fatigue, managing church and family, suicide, and many more topics where my role as pastor and her role as clinical psychologist often intersect. Her understanding of the Lutheran doctrine of vocation I believe has freed her to be and to teach in her field, while simultaneously understanding the roles and needs of others.

I certainly know that my congregation has benefited tremendously from their service and the DOXOLOGY program. I had two elders join me for the second section, and it gave them helpful insights into the lives of pastors and of how pastors and congregations interact, support one another, and how we really need each other.

As I look back on the past year and a half and my ministry here at Messiah Lutheran Church, here are some of the changes that I believe have come about around here as a result of my time with DOXOLOGY:

As a pastor I am much more relaxed. I am able to look at the long view of our common work together here in Christ’s Church, and this has allowed me to not get bogged down in details and task management, but has freed me to be more people oriented and ministry oriented.

I am more confident in my role as a pastor when it comes to ongoing and emergency care for my congregation. I feel like I know what I am capable of doing and not doing, and that I can communicate these to anyone who comes in my study or whom I see at their kitchen table or around their living room.

The congregation is more at prayer than we were before. This is partly in thanks to Dr. John Kleinig and his wonderful insights on prayer and blessing, but also understanding the weaknesses and hurts that my people struggle with every day.

My own understanding of the role of marriage and family in my life is vastly different than it was two years ago. My wife and I pray and hear God’s Word together, and we are working on how to prioritize our lives and the place that our family plays in that, rather than simply reacting to the situation of the day/week/month, etc.

One final observation. The mix of pastors was fairly common for the LCMS. They would fit the gambit of worship practices, etc. But I felt we were able to speak theologically and pastorally in a way that rarely happens anywhere else. Because of DOXOLOGY and their work, I am hopeful that our church body will be able to move forward and continue to be a blessing into the twenty-first century and beyond.

I would recommend DOXOLOGY for any Lutheran pastor who desires to improve his craft as a shepherd of souls, who wants to understand better how to balance church and family life, and who needs renewal in ministry. There is joy in ministry. Thank God for that, and thank God for DOXOLOGY!

Yours in Christ,

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Pastor, Messiah Lutheran Church

DOXOLOGY Notes: Intersection of Psychotherapy and Pastoral Care

Randy Asburry did another dynamite post on Doxology. I’ve excerpted the beginning of it hear. Go. Read. Learn. Be fed.


DOXOLOGY Notes: Intersection of Psychotherapy and Pastoral Care: “In my last post I praised the recent DOXOLOGY retreat which I was privileged to attend. Beginning with this post, God willing, I want to give a series of summations and reflections on what I heard and learned at DOXOLOGY. I will follow the outline notes that all of us received in our handy-dandy binder, along with some of my hand-written notes and some reflections and commentary as I look back on the points made by the two presenters. While I hope that these posts of summary and reflection are helpful to all who read them, please let me say at the outset that they are not intended to replace attending and taking part in DOXOLOGY first-hand. Though I joyously want others to know what great things are to be had at a DOXOLOGY retreat, nothing can compare to ‘being there’ and experiencing everything, from the worship to the sessions to the camaraderie. Dr. Harold Senkbeil and Dr. Beverly Yahnke deserve all the credit for anything good and salutary you may find here, and, of course, any inaccuracies due to things such as distraction while listening, failing memory or illegible handwriting, belong solely to me. I hope you enjoy these posts, and I especially hope that they will spark a desire for my brothers in the pastoral office to attend DOXOLOGY themselves….

(Via RAsburry’s Res.)