Dangers of Compartmentalized Leadership – Yes! David Fitch

I finally got around to building out another aspect of the blog here at www.toddlittleton.net. Today marks the regular addition of an article on leadership. I have maintained the theme of my original site by designating this section, “Leading from the Edge.”

Sometimes the pieces may sound much like they came from the center. Good practices are found al over the place. But, there will be particular instances where I want to reflect on the ways we need to take stock of our normal patterns that fail living out of the prophetic position, the edge of the inside. If you have suggestions or a contribution to this theme, contact me.

A place for everything and everything in its place. Some date this phrase to the 17th century. David Fitch points up the dangers of viewing life as a series of places, he refers to them as compartments.

Leaders, any leader, learns to solve problems by breaking the situation down to its component parts or layers. Fitch contends it is a mistake to split life into compartments – family, church, leisure, job (where the minister is bi-vocational),

I think ‘compartmentalizing’ is the default mechanism. When we get too busy, and we are juggling a new job, family, personal time and church leadership, we set about to organize and balance. We allot hours to job, to church, self-care time and to family.

This is a mistake for many reasons. One of these reasons is it cordons off church as a separate compartment from other areas in your life. Church now is a “job,” a task. And now anything that is organized with people of God becomes a task, a job, something to allot hours for. But I reject this. I believe church is a way of life. Everything you are living is church, including your family and your work. Once church becomes a task, you will start becoming resentful if it takes too much of your private self-care time, or too much of your family time.

I wonder if this is in some way connected to the way we traditionally divide life into those things that are sacred and those things that are secular. For too long we have held up this distinction creating a split sense of reality. We sift through our experiences, desires, and commitments and then pitch them into one category or another. The insidious nature of such a divide shows up in the way we attempt to address how busy we are, according to Fitch.

“Yes,” I say.

What makes Fitch’s observations important, at least to me, is that they apply not only to the way ministers order their lives, but the way Christians specifically, and human beings in general, do the same. It is not uncommon to hear others describe how busy they are and how it is they so want to carve out time for something other than work. See how that language works? It is not just that minister send an errant signal to their family, everyone who employs that strategy does the same. Fitch writes,

The strategy of compartmentalizing allows you to center your life in three or four centers instead of one. It will always make life more busy. It’s always harder to juggle three or four balls than one.  You actually are now spending more time on the actual “juggling balancing” act. You inevitably will default into the one place you are feeling more loved or getting more self affirmation from. You will be spending hours at work if you’re loving that, and avoiding family or church. Or defaulting to your family and avoiding church. Or perhaps you will spend all your time at church and work or family or self are ignored. You will become angry when the church is not paying you more. All of this is recipe for disaster if you ask me.

Substitute church in the last two sentences with your vocation and see if it does not sound the same.

Fitch suggests,

Instead I propose you stop all that. Stop compartmentalizing. Seek instead a regular rhythm. A way of living under one Lord for all of life. Where work, family, “alone time,” and church life becomes part of one life in His Mission.

Again, substitute church for your vocation in the last sentence. Consider this notion on a broader scale and you might call this a “Theology of Vocation.” That is, this could be a guiding pattern no matter what your day job might be.

There is little doubt that Dave’s call to be aware of the disaster awaits the minister who continues to play the compartmentalizing game. So, if you are a pastor, full-time or bi-vocational, click over and read the entire piece. You will be glad you did.

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.