This is the first of my promised blogs and all of them will be my personal opinion, I am not representing anyone else and you are free to disagree with me. We have all made mistakes in ministry, and I have made a lot of those I shall blog about, and that is one important way we can learn. I hope through reading this blog you will avoid unnecessary mistakes, or recognise the ones you are making and do things differently, even better! You never know, writing this blog might turn out to be another one of my mistakes!
If I write about something you have done and you know me, be assured you are not the only one and I am not having a go at you – I’ll tell you to your face. That is an important principle I will come to in another blog and on more than one occasion.
Our church members will fully expect us to have a day off and it is important to include occasional reference to when your day off is in your newsletter or other general means of communication e.g. web site. That way most people will try to remember to avoid contacting you or try to make commitments for you on your day off.
So what is the issue with days off, how can we offend people when talking about our day off? All too easily! The point is this, the vast majority of church members serve and attend meetings in their free time, their “day off”. They don’t understand the pressures of “living over the shop” and we can’t expect them to.
It is important that we are sensitive when declining to attend meetings and events on our day off. It’s not that we shouldn’t have a day off, of course we should protect it sensibly, but as with many things it is how we do it that is important.
I rang a Vicar on one occasion, I didn’t know when their day off was, they answered the phone and before I had finished my friendly greeting they snapped: “It’s my day off, ring me tomorrow” and then put the phone down before I had even been able to apologise. That is an extreme example to which I did not react very well in my spirit!
But often I have seen church members raise eyebrows when we have been trying to arrange a church meeting or event or a personal meeting and a clerical colleague has said “I can’t do it then, it’s my day off”. The church member is thinking “you expect me to do things for the church on my day off/free time”, but too often clergy do not seem to be aware of this cause and effect.
I have learnt to rarely decline to do something “because it is my day off”, rather I say “I’m sorry I’ve already got a commitment then” or “Sorry, I can’t do that day”. Phrases like these, which include an apology for not being available, seem to be so much more acceptable and sensitive, and are completely truthful – my day off is one of my commitments to my spouse/myself and therefore I can’t do something else that day.
When it comes to answering the telephone, why was that Vicar I rang answering the phone on their day off? Don’t do it! Use the answerphone but please don’t say on the message “I can’t answer your call as it is my day off” – the answerphone message should simply say “I am not available” – that message then applies throughout the week. I shall be writing another blog about when it is appropriate to use the answerphone and when it is not! If you have a spouse or family who may want to answer the phone on the day off they can simply say “Sorry, he/she is not available today”.
You should be willing to change your day off for something exceptional, sometimes it is necessary to make a church commitment on your day off – it is then your responsibility to ensure you take another day as your day off that week or the next – no one else can do it for you. But don’t get into the habit of doing this frequently or no one will ever know when you day off is and so try to avoid it.
Next time I shall be writing on an issue raised by someone reading this blog: dealing with baptism requests with integrity without alienating enquirers
If you have any suggestions for topics do let me know!
© September 2014