Today I met with a group of Presbyterian ministers here in Portland, Oregon. We’re going to spend a few months discussing my book, Leaders Who Last. We spent some time today talking about overfunctioning. One of the group members, Susan Grewe, co-pastor of Savage Memorial Presbyterian Church, quoted an important mentor of hers, David Steele. He said, “the art of ministry is knowing what not to do, and not doing it.”
There are really two parts to putting this counsel into practice: first of all, we have to figure out what not to do. What is our job, and at least as important, what isn’t our job. Then, and what may be harder, we have to discipline ourselves not to do them. For us overfunctioning types, this creates anxiety (what if no one steps in to do this essential thing which I know is not mine to do?) I have to be honest and say sometimes I know what not to do, and do it anyway (reminding my husband of things falls in this category).
Do you know what not to do? Can you not do it?
4 replies on “Do You Know What Not to Do?“
Karin, yes, you put your finger on the challenge — every time this comes up, we have the opportunity to prayerfully reflect, is this mine to do or not? Kathleen Norris in her great book Acedia and Me talks about saying yes to things at church she didn’t want to do, as a discipline.
Interesting idea! I’ve struggled with this at work lately. “For us over-functioning types, this creates anxiety (what if no one steps in to do this essential thing which I know is not mine to do?) I have to be honest and say sometimes I know what not to do, and do it anyway.” I have NOT done ‘it’, as a spiritual exercise, to prove that I could leave ‘it’. On the other hand, I have felt extreme guilt that I KNEW ‘it’ needed doing, but didn’t have the humble servant heart to do ‘it’, being self-protective about my boundaries. It would have caused me no grief or too much effort to do ‘it’. Well, I guess it’s back to thinking, praying, and asking for wisdom and clarity for each circumstance. Should I do it or is it not mine to do?
Thanks, Vern. Yes, it’s extremely hard to put into practice. For me, it’s a spiritual discipline.
Great concept…hard to put into practice…
I’ll be interested to read your reports on the process of your group…