August has always been a strange month for me. I don’t know what to do with it. This past ministry year concluded in May and is well behind me. We had our celebration reports in front of church, telling stories of life change and God’s goodness through Gems and Cadets, Sunday School and youth group. June was special because we commissioned and invested in the 25 people who went to Guatemala City. It was the first time the church did an intergenerational and international trip. We also began a new prayer ministry. Exciting stuff but that was June and now it’s August.
July was good. As a Pastor, I try to take a little extra time to relax and refuel. I had a little vacation time and a few missionaries were in town and shared their work which is always good to hear. But so many people of the congregation are away on vacation, at family reunions, and spending the weekend at the cottage. July is a welcome change of pace that allows me to slow down. But that was July and now it’s August.
It’s not September yet. The educational season is on the horizon but I find few people want to talk about it, much less commit to it. “It’s still summer!”, they say as they respond to my emails and pack up the camper for yet another weekend at the Conference Grounds. The Council usually doesn’t meet in August. “Not much to decide” says the chairman; “it’s only August.” I agree.
I’m ready to go. I’m refreshed and ready but it doesn’t seem the church is ready. Everyone is still on “summer” mode. What do I do with August? But when a friend recently asked me— "How are you prepared inwardly for the new season?"—it gave me pause. I like to think I am organized, visionary, and administratively astute, but honestly, as a pastor, I had not thought much about hearts and souls. Mostly…I hadn’t thought about mine. As the spiritual leader—a pastor of this organism called the church—am I spiritually ready for another season of teaching, leading, and preaching? Where in my prayers for the new church year does a yearning for lost souls turn up?
Paul wrote to Timothy to use “petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” for everyone so they might live godly and holy lives. God wants all people to grow closer to him and “come to a knowledge of the truth.” This needs to become my prayer too. I take in the Leadership Summit put on by Willow Creek and that is always helpful. It stirs me to greater heights as a leader. But what about my soul? Shouldn’t my most important activity and preparation be soul care? Is that something I could do with August? I think so. So I have. I’m enjoying quiet times in the morning and using the afternoon for some journaling. Reading a short book of the Bible in one sitting gives a wonderful new perspective. Things I’m doing not for preaching or teaching but just to fill my emotional and spiritual gas tanks. Proverbs says, “a generous person will prosper, whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”
What are you doing with August? Are you engaged in some soul care before a busy ministry year is upon you? I hope so. The church needs spiritually healthy leaders. Doing good soul care takes us away from “the program” or “sermon diagramming” and takes us into relationship—relationship with God and with others. It reminds me that interruptions at the office are my ministry. Listening encouraging, praying, and visiting come back into focus. I realize that this ministry year I want to spend less time at my computer answering emails and more time discipling a high schooler or walking my neighborhood.
Now I know what to do with August.