Being a “young” pastor, I was not even aware of how much modern culture had shaped my view of the pastorate, the responsibilities of the pastor, and how easily we are called away from our first duties for other tasks. It was while I read Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity that I was challenged to ask the question, “Do I have a study or an office?” Perhaps the better question is, “Which one should I have?”
According Peterson (and I agree) the pastor should have a study, rather than an office. Now this is more than an exercise in semantics. Rather, it is choosing to intentionally look at the role and responsibility of the pastor in a specific way—as a shepherd, leader, and spiritual guide. Peterson theorizes that understanding your work space as a “study” will steer the pastor back to his three primary responsibilities: prayer, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction.
On the contrary, seeing your work space as an “office” will point you more in the direction of a CEO, manager, and executive. While there are aspects of the CEO, manager, and executive that corresponds to the leadership role of the pastor, it is important for the pastor and his congregants to understand that the priority of the pastor is not to manage the church, but to lead and guide her.
With that in mind, here are 3 Steps for Transforming the Pastor’s Office into a Study:
1. Call It What It Is…a Study!
Put a sign on the door—“Pastor’s Study.” Do not ask people to “meet at the office.” Meet in your study. Again, it is not semantics—but rather it is a tool of instruction to retrain you and others to better understand the nature of pastoral ministry.
2. Divide and Conquer!
At a previous pastorate at a very large church the administrative aspects of leading the church were daunting. I constantly found the administrative tasks distracting me from the most important tasks of pastoral leadership. I ended up having two working areas: a study and an office. I spent a couple of hours a day in the office returning calls, meeting with staff, counseling, etc. The rest of the time I spent in the study praying, reading the Bible, and preparing sermons. If you have the space or can make the room, I encourage you to designate separate space away from the study for administrative tasks.
We all know and appreciate one simple fact about ministry: People are the ministry. In 2014 there are dozens of ways to interact with people: face-to-face contact, email, letters, phone calls, texts, social media, and the notorious church bulletin. Never has there been a greater opportunity for pastors to engage and interact with people than what we have today. At the same time, though, each of these avenues of communication also represents a potential distraction from the priorities of prayer and Bible study. Balance is the key. Do not hide in your study like a hermit, but do not neglect your time of prayer and deep study. It is that time in prayer and study that equips us and enables us to properly engage our people.
I know a lot of super talented pastors—they are good scholars, men of prayer, excellent communicators, and capable leaders. Most do very well in all aspects of pastoral ministry. To insure our effectiveness and our commitment to pastoral priorities, please have a study—not an office. Excel at the primary tasks of prayer, Bible study, and spiritual guidance.