Monday, September 13, 2010

DRIVE by Wal-mart

A couple from our church tailed us in the Wal-mart parking lot. It was Labor Day. We needed Diet Pepsi and brats for a cookout no one could attend. The other couple needed hot dog buns. They were buying for a dinner party of their own.

On the way in, the husband noticed his pastor was dressed down and holding a grocery list in the middle of the afternoon. "Do pastors get Labor Day off?" he asked, chuckling.

I supplied my typical, self-deprecatory response: "I did all my work yesterday."

Earlier in the day I played golf with a high school student and our youth intern. After tearing up the course (with my club, not my score), I met a grad student from our church for lunch. Picnic and play: Did I work?

There is this curious line between work and play in vocational ministry. Forty hours used to be standard. Somewhere along the line, typical hours mushroomed. Fifty-five became the new median. Earlier in the year, a pastor speaking to a group of youth workers said, "Unless you work fifty-five hours, you won't be part of my team." I withdrew my resume.

In his recent book Drive, Daniel Pink suggests that play, when it becomes work, kills motivation. External motivators (money and pensions) are losing clout. Autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the internal motivators that will shape our future economy.

Engineers develop stickier products when unleashed to create than tied to flow charts and formalities. Artists working for free turn out a better canvas than the commissioned painter. Monkeys solving puzzles find better solutions when allowed to play than taunted by reward.

Pink's ideas are compelling, but they have yet to translate to the random pastoral review conducted in the Wal-mart bakery section. I don't have the time to explain the importance of my family life to ministry. I don't have the space to illustrate the connection between a golf swing and spiritual growth. Nor is Wal-mart the place to articulate a grand vision about our future economy, driven by autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

In Wal-mart there is one value: cheap. Always low prices... even on Labor Day, when pastors dress down and cook out.

1 comment:

Andy Jewett said...

interesting the kind of things that we "expect" of our pastors... the ability to be above all this humanity business, super-human, infallible, incapable of wearing jeans? Love your thoughts. Have a great rest of your week.