There seems to be countless studies reinforcing the painfully obvious fact that distracted drivers are dangerous. Reports like this are common:
Several recent studies show that people using their phones when walking or driving have slower reaction times and pay less attention to their surroundings. A 10% spike in pedestrian fatalities over last year marks the largest year-to-year increase in four decades. (USA Today 3/12/16)
Distracted drivers are dangerous because they are oblivious to how their actions affect those around them. It is not uncommon to see people driving through heavy traffic in Nashville with their phones on top of their steering wheels.
Distracted pastors are dangerous as well to a degree—both to themselves and to others. Here are three typical scenarios which tempt pastors to become dangerously distracted:
When We Push Past People on Sundays
I sometimes rush past people on Sundays because I do not want to be late to worship, small group, or the bathroom (don’t judge me). Sometimes it is unavoidable, like last Sunday when I helped a member who was passed out on the floor after worship. I had to awkwardly rush past people in the hall who didn’t know I was trying to mobilize our medical and security team.
During the week, I am tempted to rush past staff or others on the way to an appointment or task. Jesus never seemed to rush through the crowds or diss his disciples.
Try to reduce your role on Sundays to preaching on stage and pastoring off stage. Recruit and equip others to do everything else (Ephesians 4:11).
When We Constantly Allow Our Ministries to Interrupt Our Families
When pastors get home, we need to be careful not to carry our phones around like teenagers in hopes that our family doesn’t notice.
This is not only distracting, it is dangerous. We all know that our ministries will never be stronger than our families. Managing our homes well is not optional, so do your family and church a favor by setting healthy boundaries that will benefit both.
Take a huge step of faith by turning your phone off when you are spending quality time with your family.
When We Constantly Allow Our Families to Interrupt Our Ministries
You might be surprised to see this other side of this ministry coin from me. It is my intention to help you win both at home and at church which requires that you attain some measure of discipline about both.
The generation of pastors in front of me generally struggles with putting their ministries before their families. The generation of pastors behind me struggles with using their families as an excuse to neglect their ministries. We can all win at home and church, but not without intentionally reinforcing these healthy boundaries.
Prioritizing our nuclear family does not give us a pass on neglecting our faith family. If our conversations and ministry meetings are consistently being hijacked by family or friends, we are becoming dangerously distracted pastors. Unless it is an emergency, finish what you are doing and get back with them as soon as possible.
During conventional working hours, Janet and I have a simple way of communicating urgency; she calls or texts twice in row. Otherwise, I assume what she is contacting me about is not time sensitive. This has been an effective, guilt-free system for both of us.
Multitasking is neither efficient nor appropriate because our minds can only focus well on one thing at a time. A divided attention span slows down our reaction time and leads to dangerous relationship erosion at best, and relationship fatalities at worst.
And, we don’t need USA Today to tell us that.