22nd February 2018
Do you ever feel under pressure?
As 2018 began, I wrote a paper for the elders and senior leadership team of King’s called 100 Days and Vision 2030. It was an attempt to manage expectations and agree priorities as I plan for my sabbatical which starts at the end of May this year. The second part of the paper was about showing that we have years ahead of us to get to all we want to achieve together.
My experience of sabbaticals (my last one was eight years ago) has been extremely positive – at an emotional level they have been life changing. I have seen pastors go through burnout far too often, putting pressure on their families and leaving churches uncertain as to what the future holds. I am extremely grateful to the elders and trustees of King’s for the opportunity to stand back and recharge – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
However, one of the downsides of an approaching sabbatical is that people suddenly realise you are not going to be around for a while! They start bringing forward requests and suggestions, aware that if they don’t catch me soon, they will have to wait until my return in September. And I am having to identify those essential tasks, things which would normally wait until June or July, which require my attention before my sabbatical begins. One seemingly small item builds upon another, and before you know it, you can begin to feel overwhelmed.
So what can you do when you feel under pressure? Here are a few things which I find helpful when the demands are great but time is short:
1. Keep praying. It is tempting to cut prayer times short when we are very busy, but this can quickly lead to too much reliance on ourselves and not enough on God. It is hard to keep going if we are not being fuelled spiritually.
2. Do not compromise on boundaries. We may think that by working on days off, or cramming in just one more evening meeting, the pressure will ease. This is seldom the case and can increase the chances of burnout before we even arrive at the start of a break.
3. Prioritise your work. I have two lists at the moment, one of things I must get to before my sabbatical begins, and another of things that can wait until after I get back.
4. Manage expectations. It is important to communicate with team members what needs to take priority and what can be left for now.
5. Continually re-evaluate your priorities. These may need adjusting as circumstances change and new information comes in. I make adjustments all the time.
We all go through busy periods and times of pressure. If we are to keep going and not experience burnout, we need to find ways of managing these seasons, even if it means making some tough decisions.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
8th February 2018
Just over 23 years ago, Deb and I were seeking God about our future and felt called to London, our great capital city. It was a big move for us – our son Ben was three and Josh just six months, and it meant leaving the support of our families and long-term friends. But we felt certain God had spoken. In 1995, we moved from our provincial hometown of Bedford, with a population of 100,000, to the sprawling city of London, home to millions.
We ended up in Catford in the south-east borough of Lewisham, but we were always called to London. A few years after arriving at King’s, I started to serve as the Newfrontiers London team leader, a role I carried out for ten years. During that time we planted ten new churches in various parts of the city. At the same time, we began to see substantial growth in a number of the established churches, including my own.
Roll on some twenty years from when we first arrived, and how times have changed! Last Thursday, with Dave Holden’s encouragement, I hosted a gathering of the London leaders still partnering in the new era of the Newfrontiers wider family. We met at Westminster Chapel, right in the heart of the city. One after another people shared reports of growth, salvation, new sites and new churches. This was mixed with vision to see the city reached for the Gospel, with dreams of tens of churches and new sites planned in the coming years. When we arrived in London more than two decades ago, the largest Newfrontiers church gathered 300 people on a Sunday. On Thursday we heard that Tope’s church is regularly gathering over 2000 and there are many others of over 500 now. So many signs of life and health! If you have not already done so, I recommend reading Andrew Wilson’s review, which summarises the morning very well.
In my years as a leader, I have learned that past performance is often the best indicator of future performance. Well, if what we have seen happening in the different London churches over the last two decades is anything to go by, then the next twenty years promise to be exciting and fruitful. As I said at the end of Thursday morning, I believe the best is yet to come.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
1st February 2018
Whatever happened to January? It seems to have flown by! This year, with a summer sabbatical fast approaching, my diary is being squeezed as I try to fit in all that needs to be completed in the next four months. A few days ago, a young pastor contacted me about meeting up to talk through some leadership challenges he’s facing. Whilst I was keen to make time for him, I was only able to offer him a date once I return from sabbatical in the autumn.
Before going into pastoral ministry, I was involved in selling computer systems in the printing industry. This was back in the days of page makeup, when the early Apple Macs were just coming onto the market – it was that long ago! My company paid well, gave me a nice car and generous commission on any sales made, but the role also came with an annual sales target of £750k – a lot of money back in the eighties! It was up to me to make it happen. I had to decide whether to visit existing clients or concentrate on looking for new business. I had to work out whether a long journey in the car to visit a potential client was worth making. There was no daily structure provided, no weekly or monthly rhythms – I had to learn to be self-motivated, planning and organising how I spent my days to achieve the goals I had been set.
I have observed over the years that many pastors struggle with the number and variety of tasks that come with the role. Sometimes, it is a real challenge to assess what should be a priority and what could wait – it can feel as if everything is screaming for our attention. When this is the case, I find it helpful to list each task and then categorise each one as A, B or C, according to its degree of importance. I find this prevents me from feeling overwhelmed and spending time on the wrong things – it helps me identify the priorities among the many demands. This is also an exercise I go through from time-to-time with any members of staff who report to me – it helps them to know which of the many items on their to-do list I view as being most important.
With my sabbatical now less than four months away, I am trusting that the lessons I learned in my sales days will help me prioritise wisely, focus on the right things and make optimum use of the time remaining. Hopefully, I will then reach the end of May finish line knowing that everything is in place for me to be away for the summer.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
25th January 2018
On Sunday we begin a new teaching series based out of the book of Philippians, called Disciple. Over the next eight weeks, we are encouraging everyone to do three things: come on Sundays, follow the daily Bible notes and join a group, so we can go deeper together.
The Great Commission calls us to make disciples, not just new believers. Different churches have different methods to encourage spiritual growth and discipleship, and at King’s we have found Andy Stanley’s approach to be very helpful – some of you may have come across his teaching, ‘Five Things God Uses to Grow Your Faith’, which suggests there are five areas God can use to help us develop spiritually. These are:
1. Practical Teaching
2. Providential Relationships
3. Private Disciplines
4. Personal Ministry
5. Pivotal Circumstances
I have observed in my own life how God has used a combination of these five things to grow me as a disciple. So yes, my personal prayer and Bible study have been important, but so have some of the relationships God has brought into my life – I can think of many people whose example and wisdom have been hugely helpful to me. And yes, the practical teaching I have heard over the years has deepened my knowledge and understanding, but God has also taught me a great deal through different events in my life – both joyful and challenging ones – and also through serving, as a pastor and in other roles. I have always been nervous of too formulaic an approach to discipleship (though it worked well for the Methodists!) and prefer a more flexible approach which reflects the uniqueness of each person. Spiritual growth is multi-faceted, and God has many ways of helping us on our journey of becoming more like Jesus.
In the end, spiritual growth is our own responsibility, which is why I encourage you to read the daily Bible notes, get in a group to share, encourage and learn from one another, and to be here on Sundays to allow the word of God to shape your lives.
Andrew Wilson will be opening the series on Sunday, and I look forward to seeing you there.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
Steve Tibbert leads King’s Church London, with sites in Catford, Downham and Lee. Over the past fifteen years the church has seen continued growth, both in size and diversity. Steve is also involved in Newfrontiers and regularly coaches other lead elders. His book, Good to Grow, was published in July 2011. He is married to Deb, and they have three sons.