Archives For Benjamin Kane

I catch myself singing the lyrics to Jay-Z’s classic song, “99 Problems” with a slight alteration: “I’ve got 99 problems, but meetings ain’t one.”

While I sing this song to lighten my mood, I’m well aware of the effects meeting have on my energy levels and health.  Meetings take an enormous amount of energy—shifting from a quick conversation about Sunday’s bulletin to meeting with a grieving family who needs to plan their family member’s funeral, back to writing a sermon for Sunday before prepping for tomorrow’s Bible study is a challenge we all face. 

The challenge is balancing those four in a healthy way.  Below are four realities of being a minister that force us to consider how our physical, spiritual, emotional and mental energy is zapped and/or lifted because of meetings and how we might best live into our call. 

1. Meetings are a part of church life

We have to acknowledge this reality.  They are how business gets done, decisions made and events planned; and there are a lot of them.  I say this to squelch any desires to end meetings as we know them.  The church is different than a business and we need to meet to make decisions because so many people are involved.  People need to talk things out and share their opinions and we all need to consider the ramifications of our decisions. 

In addition, the work we do at the church is Holy and that doesn’t simply happen—it takes prayer, discernment, and courage because the decisions we make affect God’s people (and they have opinions!).  So don’t try to get rid of meetings. 

Instead, manage when they are and how they’re conducted.  We can’t control whether or not there are meetings, but we can control the timing and topics.  Stay on task, have an agenda and begin and end on time. (Here’s a great, short article on best meeting practices.) 

2. Be Honest

Because meetings are a part of church life they will take energy to plan the timing and the contents of each meeting.  This is when we have to be honest with ourselves and then with others.  God didn’t intend for us to live life to the extremes by running from one place to the other with a stop at the fast-food joint in between.

Be honest with yourself and listen to your body.  Are you especially tired after a meeting or a day of meetings?  What about that meeting (or day) was draining?  Take notes on how particular meetings affect you.  I now know that after meeting with a family who is planning a funeral service I need to take time to write down my thoughts immediately.  I’ve canceled meetings or appointments because the work of crafting a homily for the Witness to the Resurrection service takes precedence over other work.  I’m also freshest right after those meetings and can get my thoughts out to edit later. 

Where I’m growing is in my ability, to be honest with others about what I need to do in order to be faithful to my call.  There are times when I simply don’t have the energy or clarity to be a full participant in a meeting.  I’ve learned how to become the ministerial version of a baseball manager who can walk to the mound tapping my arm as I seek a reliever.  I can’t always pitch a whole game!

3. Use Your Elders and Staff

Delegate, delegate, delegate.  The three hardest words for pastors to utter.  It is easier to just do it ourselves, we say too often; it will get done that way and it won’t cause any controversy.  Plus you are the paid staff and most everyone else is a volunteer.  Stop

We believe in the Priesthood of All Believers (yes, I capitalized that for emphasis!) so live it out too.  I need to hear this as much as others.  People in our churches are way more competent than we give them credit.  In their jobs and lives, they are managers, teachers, doctors, lawyers and a whole host of other professions who know how to lead a meeting, run a committee and lead the church.  More often than not, they just need to be asked and given permission to lead. 

There are some committees at my church that function without much assistance from me.  I meet with the committee chairs and make sure we are on the same page, but I don’t often attend their meetings.  That’s when the Elders and Committee Chairs get to shine and do the Holy work of the church.

4. Live the Liturgical Calendar

There’s a reason we have seasons—both outside and inside the church.  We need time to rest, to be contemplative, to be active and growing and time to be penitent.  The liturgical calendar offers a seasonal understanding of life—so live it.  Advent and Lent are busy times in the church, but summer is often a little slower.  Don’t meet during Advent or Lent as a spiritual practice.  Look at your yearly calendar (both personal and church-wide) and plan your meetings in advance so you have time to prepare.  Then be honest with yourself and others when people ask for a meeting.  Is this a good time this week or could it wait until next?

Build in seasons of dormancy when you can do what all pastors should do: USE YOUR VACATION.  Don’t be that pastor.  Use your vacation and go recharge.  The work we do is demanding on a physical, mental, spiritual and emotional level.  We are dealing with heavy (both figuratively and literally) stuff that takes time to process and decompress.  We have to acknowledge that it is hard to plan a funeral service, lead that funeral service on a Thursday and then officiate a wedding two days later.  Those are drastically different experiences and simply moving from one to the next without much thought or taking time to decompress is unhealthy and—in my humble opinion—unfaithful. 

We aren’t called simply to fulfill tasks on a calendar or an agenda; we also aren’t called to be a “one-person-show.”  We are called to fulfill a Holy endeavor that will drain and supply our energy each day, if not each hour.  We are called to participate in the Holy work God is doing in and through us and those around us.  

Other tips:

  1. For those on the Board of Pensions plan, use your free mental health visits—talking to a trained professional is vital to our health.
  2. Read your Presbytery’s manual on vacation and time off—they often write great lines like, “Pastors should plan vacations that last at least a week so they can rest and be renewed.”  Those resources are great when talking with your Personnel Committee and/or Session. 
  3. Leave work early more often than you think you should.  Getting out of the office, breathing fresh air and spending time with family and friends is healthy. 
  4. Schedule your own meetings with God, reading and/or napping (yes, I really do want to be a kindergartener again!)  It is known that Rev. Eugene Peterson used to schedule time with Dostoevsky and that made him honor the fact that he was renewed through reading. Go add a “meeting” right now! 


It is Tuesday, almost a week after Ash Wednesday, and I still haven’t cleaned up from the Ash Wednesday service.  Well, that’s not all together true; the table cloths are put away, the food stored and the floors swept, but the ashes are still out; so is the olive oil and the glass jar I used to wipe crosses on people’s foreheads.  I want to put them away; I like a tidy office, but something urges me to keep them out.  Maybe it is laziness, or maybe it is a sign of the season of Lent, or maybe it is a reminder that we are dust and to dust we shall return.

We say those words each Ash Wednesday.  Then, like the post-service clean up at home, we wipe away the ashes from our foreheads, brush our teeth and crawl into bed, prepared for the season of Lent.  Our focus turns to our dreams, where we live out the potential nightmares of how we’ll cope without chocolate or alcohol for the next six weeks; or we have beautiful, fantasy dreams of becoming a whole new person because of all the good food we’ll eat instead.  Some of us are trying one of the new trends that invite us to add something to our lives this season.  And those of us with kids are attempting to explain how this season works and why we give things up or add things to our lives.  So we give our children “Good Deeds” charts and ask them to collect money for a worthy charity—all of these remind us that this season of forty (let’s be honest, forty-six) days is different.

I’m also looking at a book on my desk called Becoming Who You Are by James Martin, SJ.  In it, Martin explores insights on the true self from Thomas Merton and other saints.  It was a suggestion from Amazon so I picked it up as Lenten reading.  What I’ve realized is that I like the participle in the title, “becoming”.  We aren’t ever there.  We are works-in-progress.  So the ashes still sit on our forehead, even after they’ve been wiped clean and we’ve curled up into bed.

I think I want to keep the burnt palm branches and the olive oil and the glass jar on my desk for Lent because I’m not ready to put an ashen cross on my forehead each day—that would invite too many questions.  I’m becoming something in this season; we all are.  We are always becoming something that God intends.  I don’t know if you are like me, but I get caught up in becoming who I want to be, or who I think God wants me to be, or who I think the best advertisers or my favorite people think I should be.  I’m particularly fond of following ministers whom I want to emulate so I find myself trying to become a younger version of them.

We are all dust.  And that means we’re blown around by the winds of life.  We are all dust.  And that means we are created from the materials God used to enliven creation.  We are all dust.  And that means we are brothers and sisters walking a path worn down by our Lord so it is just a little easier.  We are all dust.  If you forget or need a reminder, come by my office and you can see the ashes, olive oil and glass jar; I’ll even mix them up for us if you want.


Advent and Christmas usually affect pastors in one of two ways (or maybe both!): we are drained beyond belief and know January will be tough; or we are riding high because we had big crowds and people loved what we said and how great our choirs sang.

The holidays drained and energized me and I was left wondering what to do with all the excitement coupled with the strong desire to sleep! Given that the New Year offers an invitation to start anew or resolve who you wish to be, I thought about what I hoped 2016 would hold. I had these thoughts while I was holding my six-month-old daughter, Phoebe.

Watching her I realized I had much to learn from her. I wondered what 2016 would be like if I acted like she did? The way she interacts with the world, tries new things and deals with all that comes her way (new toys, foods, family, etc.) made me wonder how much ministers could learn from a developing infant. Here are five things I’ve noticed about her that might aid ministry:


This doesn’t mean she likes everything (see #2), but she is all about a new toy, food, and sitting location. We’ve made it to the stage where we have to watch what is in her immediate location as it will inevitably be in her hands and/or headed to her mouth. How often do ministers find themselves in a routine that works because we are too afraid or lazy to try something new? I’m often fearful of trying anything new because that means I have to step out of my comfort zone or put extra energy into something new. But what if we developed or grew or learned something new because we tried something new?


The girl won’t eat prunes for the life of her parents. This is hard because her older sister LOVED them so we assume she would like them too. But she isn’t going to eat them, come hell or high-water (or another spoonful). How often do ministers keep doing the same thing because it’s easy and we don’t want to upset anyone? What are some things you or your church does that could stop? What holds you back from making those decisions?


January is a tough month because it comes on the heels of a big season. We are tired; we are worn out and believe a few good days of vacation will do the trick. But we all know that isn’t enough. When Phoebe is tired she starts talking (albeit in an unknown language) and it’s a clear sign she needs to rest. I don’t know about you, but I’ve realized that I need to rest (close the computer and head home—no matter what else needs to be done) when I can’t write or my words won’t form. Give yourself permission to rest.


It doesn’t matter whether or not I just left the room for a minute, when I return it is a glorious occasion and her smile makes that known. I know there are times when I don’t feel terribly cheerful, but I also know what it means to be greeted by one of those ear-to-ear smiles that announces to the world, “Welcome, we are excited you are here.” Maybe the church needs to share a few of those for our folks who join us for worship, education or whenever the doors are open.


This has less to do with what she does and more to do with how people interact with her. She (and our other daughter) are greeted with love and affection (as are all children in our church) simply because they show up. And it’s infectious. People see others greeting (or trying to greet!) the kids and then they want to say hi, too. And the best part is parents see how other adults greet their children and they feel loved and welcomed too. To welcome children is to welcome God, in my opinion.

Do you act like a six-month old? How? If not, what holds you back?