Every once in a while I decide to organize my life. I file all the papers scattered around my office, delete old emails, reorganize my inbox folders, and sort the books on the bookshelf. For a day or two I feel better about myself and slightly more efficient. Within a week I am back to my old ways and feeling like I should reorganize my life.
What is it that makes for effective ministry at the personal and institutional level? I have been to seminars that proclaim the virtues of time management. There are the books and charts I have poured over outlining healthy organizational structures. Well-meaning friends have advised me develop comprehensive policies and procedures. All of this is good, but I sometimes wonder if all of this is a smoke screen designed to keep people and programs committed to ministry from following their call.
Some of the best advice I ever received was from a stranger. It was his belief that we show value to others by choosing to waste time with them. It is not surprising that potential employers shy away from hiring people who value wasting time and hanging out. On one hand I understand this; effectiveness and efficiency are seen as opposite sides of the same coin. This is too bad.
Hanging out or wasting time with other people are the activities that develop understanding and respect for the other. When we understand and respect each other it becomes much simpler to work with each other. In a world that is religiously pluralist, culturally diverse, and ideologically separated – understanding, compassion, and empathy will only emerge if we take the time to simply be with each other. Wasting time together and hanging out without an agenda.
I cannot help but wonder what the impact would be if we started to value time together just hanging out over developing programs and structures? I am not sure that Jesus ever started a program, but his time on earth just hanging out changed everything.