What Preachers Are Fighting Part 6: Busy-ness: An American Way of Life

To go to the five previous parts of this post series:

What Preachers are Fighting, Part 1: The Epidemic of Fear

What Preachers are Fighting, Part 2: Guards at the Gate

What Preachers are Fighting, Part 3: Getting Past the Guards

What Preachers are Fighting, Part 4: Sense Making and Surprises

What Preachers are Fighting, Part 5: Compromise – Of Buses, Attention and HBO

This time, Busy-ness: An American Way of Life

When I was growing up – before buffets were anywhere and everywhere – there was a restaurant in my town that offered what they called a “one-trip buffet.” You could get as much food from the bar as you wanted for one price, as long as it fit on one plate.

Yep. All you can eat, on one plate.

Can you imagine the havoc that kind of policy would wreak? There were men (sorry guys, it was mostly the men) who became skilled at balancing just the right combination of steamship round, shrimp, and mashed potatoes feet into the sky so they could make it back to the table before the whole thing came toppling down in a mashy mess. It really was a feat of engineering to stack four sourdough rolls at just the right angles in just the right places to solidify the structure for the arduous return trip to the booth.

Seeing his profits piled pyramid shaped and walking away, the owner of the restaurant struck back by getting smaller plates, of course. Then it became a twist on the old philosophy argument about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. How many clam fritters can balance on a hockey puck?

According to some of the latest research, our lives have become like those plates – filled and stuffed and over-stuffed and tumbling over. We have to fit more, but we can’t. But we have to.

Don’t we?

You really don’t need me to tell you how busy we’ve become do you?

In their 2007 book, Busier Than Ever: Why American Families Can’t Slow Down, (cited at the bottom of the post), Stanford University researchers Charles Darrah, James Freeman and J.A. English-Lueck conclude:

Busyness is so deeply ingrained in today’s families that people often take it for granted. It may seem so obvious as hardly to be worth analyzing. The activities that make up busyness may seem unimportant, but the phenomenon of busyness is anything but trivial. It consumes the lives of countless families. It is transforming America. Busyness reveals issues that reach to the heart of who we are and what we wish to become.

The ABC News Report: Americans: Overworked and Overstressed by Dean Schabner – also specified below – delivered the depressing news.

Not only are Americans working longer hours than at any time since statistics have been kept, but now they are also working longer than anyone else in the industrialized world.

A trio of recent books, The White-Collar Sweatshop by Jill Andresky Fraser, The Overworked American by Juliet Schor, and The Working Life by Joanne B. Ciulla, have been embraced by a public that apparently feels harassed by the pressures of the workplace.

Road rage, workplace shootings, the rising number of children placed in day care and the increasing demand on schools to provide after-school activities to occupy children whose parents are too busy have all been pointed to as evidence that Americans are overstressed and overworked.

Bureau of Labor statistics released last year confirmed what Fraser had been hearing in four years of interviews with white-collar workers. In 1999, more than 25 million Americans – 20.5 percent of the total workforce – reported that they worked at least 49 hours a week, and 11 million of those said they worked more than 59 hours a week.

You are nodding your head, not the least bit surprised.

But here’s the twist. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about you.

Hectic Won't Preach

I hope you know that this leaderhelps website was born because I love the local church and care about her lay leaders, ministers, pastors, teachers and preachers.

So, it is in that spirit that I write not about the busyness of the people in your congregation, Sunday School class or small group. Yes, they are busy and, yes, that should be a consideration of yours as you shepherd them.

But you can’t help them with their busy lives until you are managing your own. And based on the research I’ve seen (some below) and the conversations I’ve had, the scourge of busy-ness may actually be worse for our ministers of the Gospel.


From London & Wiseman – Pastors at Greater Risk (click to enlarge)

And here’s a truth from the easier-said-than-done category. You cannot teach and preach effectively without incorporating dependable consistent times of quiet, listening, and prayerful rest before the Lord.

Hassle and hectic won’t preach or lead. The Lord won’t allow it.

Your cup won’t run over until it’s full.

You can’t fill it from a fire hose. You need the calm steady flow of Holy Spirit.

And that requires life in your life.

Maybe I’ll do some research and study on leading a busy congregation, but, for now, it’s about you.

And me.


Pastors at Greater Risk

Americans: Overworked, Overstressed

Busier Than Ever!: Why American Families Can’t Slow Down

Taking a Break from the Lord’s Work


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  1. Amen. I’m pointing directly at myself with this one.

  2. Lord help me to beware the barrenness of a too busy life.