I had a distinct privilege of pastoring a church in the Sierra Nevada mountains called Bridgeport Christian Fellowship in Bridgeport, California from 2010-1016. This was my first pastorate. This church was such a loving, grace-showing congregation that allowed me to learn and grow during my time there.
One of the things I had to learn quickly was how to work from home. We lived in a parsonage right behind the church and the church office was more of a workroom/copy room so I had an office set up in my home where I did the majority of my work and sermon prep. I learned some things during this time and thought since so many of my pastor buddies are experiencing this now due to the coronavirus situation, I would share some of the things that were important to me to stay productive.
GET DRESSED. I know this sounds really simple and you might think it is crazy to even say, but get up on your days of work and get dressed. There were times early in my time in California when I would just get up and stumble into my office with my pjs on or some sweats or shorts and I found that when I did this I was less focused. It seems silly but getting up and going through your regular morning routine when you are actually going to the office is pretty important to your day at the home office. So get up and get dressed in clothes you would normally wear to the office. I found that it helped my focus and productivity immensely. It will yours too.
HAVE A SPOT. Somewhere in your home set up a place that can serve as your office. You need somewhere that can be your space whether it is an extra room, a garage, a closet – someplace that gives you the quiet and privacy you need. This can be challenging especially during the “sheltering in place” situation when the kids are there and there are other things going on. If at all possible, carve out some space where you can make phone calls, watch and create media content, study, pray and more.
KEEP A ROUTINE. When you are at work during normal times, you likely have a normal schedule of how you do things throughout the week. This is an important thing to maintain on some level because it gives you a semblance of normalcy. So while many things have changed for me and my routine during this process, I try my best to have at least a few days that are primarily the same routine. For me, personally, Thursday is a non-negotiable. Thursday is study day, final-touches-on-the-sermon prep day, and now recording the sermon day. It is all about focus. Whatever you can do to help you keep the main thing the main thing is important.
STAY CONNECTED. If you are in an office full of people, stay in touch with those people. If you have teams that you are leading – paid staff or lay leaders – meet with them. Zoom is a great way to do this. If you have a mentor or an accountability partner you meet with – keep those appointments by video or audio. Being “stuck at home” we have a tendency to think we don’t need some of those relationships but ignoring those connections will cause us to go stagnant in our work and spiritual lives very quickly.
GO OUTSIDE. Now I know I said “have a spot” but there is a time (this works even when you are in the office) when getting outside, if the weather allows, can be good for your work. Getting outside helps you see from a different perspective. It often can stimulate creativity. It also does you good to get some fresh air. When I was in California I often moved out to my front yard during the spring/summer to study because this was my view. Creativity flows freely in nature from the greatest Creative ever – our great God.
The kingdom of God is at stake. People are at stake. Hearts and lives are at stake even during this weird time, so my prayer for you is that you stay focused and work hard even though your surroundings have changed. Praying for you all.