An Ordinary Pastor’s Study (redux)
Over a year ago, I wrote a post describing my office and study. Since then I have transitioned into a new local church ministry and have had to rethink how I would set up my study and how I would function at my church office ““ or whether these would be one and the same. The previous article discussed essentials for a pastor”™s study. In this one I want to think through the benefits and drawbacks of having a study primarily at the church or at home.
For some this is not an issue. Either the church does not provide a place for a study (especially for church planters), or someone does not have the space at home for a study. I have served four churches in my almost 23 years of pastoral ministry. In two of the churches I kept the totality of my study at the office the church provided me. I did not have any place in the homes I lived in for a separate study. In the last two churches, I have maintained both a home and a church-based office and study. Even with very young children (and at times, a lot of them), I”™ve found it most helpful for me to do the bulk of my serious Bible study, thinking work, and sermon preparation at home. For meetings, planning, administrative work, etc., I love using my church office. Here”™s a look at the benefits and drawbacks of keeping the bulk of my study at home.
- Concentration. Years ago, I heard John Piper in a Q & A session indicate that he kept his study at the church for a few months, but found out that it didn”™t work for him to concentrate and so he moved it to his home. I have found it easier to have uninterrupted concentration at home as opposed to the church office. At my office, I want to be accessible. I rarely close my door and want to be available to staff and others. I don”™t say “˜no”™ well when someone wants my input or help on something. So, if I kept my entire library at the office and did the majority of my study there, I would be less productive in terms of sermon preparation, critical thinking, and Bible study.
Yes, I have three little kids and a very productive wife at home. In California, we had four children 3 years and under in the home and I still found it easier to concentrate at home than at the office. In my current home, I have an unfinished basement (one of the blessings of living in the Midwest). We threw some cheap carpet on the floor and I built shelves for my books. While I can hear the walking and talking of the natives above me (my children) ““ and though my youngest likes to get into the pots and pans directly above my desk ““ I can still turn on some classical music to compete and find it easier to concentrate.
- Space for my library. I have a growing personal library and find it easier to house it in my basement than at the office. In my previous ministry, I did not have a place to put up extensive book shelves so my library was at the church. At times this was problematic because I still studied at home but the bulk of my library was elsewhere.
- Easier to help with Family. I commute upstairs to have lunch or dinner with the family. Kel can run a quick errand while the kids are napping and I am in the study ““ though this is rare. I also take about a half day each Saturday to prepare my Sunday sermon(s). The commute is great. When I”™m finished with the sermon, I simply go upstairs to spend the rest of the day with the family.
- My family is a precious temptation. I love my wife and kids and when they”™re playing upstairs, my heart wants to go play too. When they are upset, I want to know why.
- My work can be a distraction. When I”™ve blocked out time to spend with the family, knowing that my work is just below creates a mental wrestling match. It can be difficult to disengage my mind from my study when I have not physically relocated myself to a different place.
- Accessibility. Maintaining 2 separate locations always creates the problem of forgetting something at one when you need it at another. I also have to be quite proactive in planning my time and what I want to accomplish at each office.
- Mindset. If you don”™t have the proper mindset and set-up, keeping a home office may make you feel too much like you are at home and not work. I don”™t do “entertainment” in my office. I have a TV, but rarely use it except to review a DVD or catch a quick glance at the news. My home office is a place set up for work and that”™s what I do there. I don”™t go into my home office on my day off. It”™s not a place I play with the kids (generally). It is a place I try to keep an atmosphere of study and concentration. Mixing much else into the use of the space becomes a distraction.
So, for now I am very blessed to have a great place to meet with people and engage with ministry at our church”™s facility. And I”™m blessed to have a spot at home that allows me to study with concentration.
On Friday, I”™ll post a video tour of both my church and home offices and give some of the rationale behind the set-up of each.