“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time” – Ephesians 5:15
Every week my phone tests my priorities. On Sunday mornings I get a notification telling me how much time I spent staring at a screen over the course of the week. To be frank, I don’t know how to turn off this automatic notification, but even if I did know how to turn it off, I think I’d leave it on. Sometimes the number is humbling, sometimes it is encouraging, and it usually inspires me to set a new goal for the week ahead. Regardless of the precise number, the notification reminds me that the time I am given is not limitless. It encourages me to ask again the question, “How am I enjoying, using, investing this amazing gift?”
A pastor I studied with would tell his congregation, “If you only have one hour a week to dedicate to your spiritual development then don’t come to the Sunday service, instead attend a church small group.” His church prioritized the relationship building that takes place in small group conversations and prayer. More than this though, he acknowledged the reality that there is a defined amount of time that people have and will invest in their spiritual lives.
I believe it was Rev. Midgely, the Central Union Senior Minister from 1975-‘83 who championed a program called “Think Two.” The idea was to encourage church members to attend Sunday service (1 hour) and a Sunday Christian education class (1 hour). He was asking each church member to give two hours a week to the development of their spiritual lives. This hardly seems like a stretch when compared to the number of hours we give other activities in our life.
There is a common conversation in our world about how busy we are. So many are overcommitted, overextended, and running on too little sleep. We are busy trying to care for our families or engaged in good service for others, for the community, and/or for the planet. We have become masters at time management and efficiency. I am wrestling with the faithful response to this (I am sure it has something to do with Sabbath). But while I am figuring this out, I want to be thoughtful about what I ask others to do.
I want to be mindful of others’ time and, as a pastor, if I am going to ask them to do something my hope, my goal, is that the time they would give would help them grow in the faith. If someone has two hours to give to the church, how do we structure events, committee meetings, or even service projects in order that it facilities faith development? Faith formation needs to be a part of everything we do. Sometimes this looks like an opening and closing prayer, or a shared devotional, or discussion questions meant to foster relationships and trust.
We only have so much time with each other, let’s use it to “spur one another to love and goodness” (Hebrews 10:24).