The Joy of Interruptions

Benjamin Kane —  May 2, 2014

Photo Sep 27, 11 19 23 AMOne of the first things my mentor told me as I began my first call was, “Protect yourself from too many interruptions by closing your door.  You’ll never get any work done if you don’t.”  I had trouble following his advice because I love interruptions—they provide little joys of ministry.  This past week I started a new call and people have been coming by to meet me and I love the interruptions.  Here are five reasons why:

1. You Learn Something: 

People interrupt you to tell you something about someone or something.  They update you, share a story, remind you of a meeting or a promise or share their response to a program or worship service.  They also tell you who they are and why their faith or God or the church are important to them.  These are small progress reports that keep me aware of what’s happening at the church and in our community.

2. Interruptions Show People Care:

They wouldn’t interrupt you if they didn’t care about you knowing their story.  People want the pastor(s) to know what’s going on in their lives or the life of the community.  Too often we ministers think we’ll learn everything we need to know as we are shaking hands following worship.  That simply isn’t possible.  People stopping by to share his/her story should remind us that they cared enough to come visit us and share a story or concern or joy.

3. We Need Interruptions: 

Studies are saying that we need breaks in our workday.  Our brains can function for only a set period of time (20-45 minutes, depending on different studies) before we need a break.  Interruptions are a great reason to take a break as they remind us that we are not called to sit behind our desks and grind out sermons, curriculum, and newsletter articles.

4. Interruptions Allow People To See Our World: 

Anytime a parishioner comes into my office they don’t just look at me.  Like any human, they are scanning the room, checking out my pictures, books, posters and how I’ve arranged my office.  They are trying to see my values, passions and what’s important in my life.  I love watching people do this.  Usually they’ll focus on a particular picture or book and a conversation ensues.  These are gifts for me—they let me share intimate details about my life.

5. Interruptions Teach Us How To Stay On Task: 

My mentor’s advice meant to teach me to protect my time so I could do my job.  And I will close my door to signal I need to write a sermon or have a meeting or read on occasion.  But I’ve also learned how to welcome an interruption and then tell the individual that I need to get back to work.  This is a skill one learns through experience and it is a necessary one for ministers.  We get pulled in a different directions and need to announce what we need to do in order to serve the congregation effectively.  Being interrupted on occasion helps hone this skill.

How do you handle interruptions?  Are they a source of joy or not?  Why?

Benjamin Kane

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Ben is a husband, father, son, brother, and a PC(USA) minister. These identities provide him myriad glimpses of God's unconditional love and grace. He is a Duke basketball fan, NPR listener, reader of almost anything, occasional writer & runner, hopeful New Yorker cartoon creator, and discerner as to who God is. He is the Pastor at Howard Memorial Presbyterian Church in Tarboro, NC--"the crossroads of western civilization."