Choosing to Cheat

We’re two weeks past Leadership Summit, and I’ve enjoyed reading some of the buzz out there about Andy’s talk at the Summit.

In case you missed out, Willow Creek sponsors a huge leadership training event each August in South Barrington, IL. Hundreds of churches around the world pick it up on satellite, and something like 70,000 people watch it live. This year, Andy chose to share his ‘best leadership decision ever’, also detailed in his book, “Choosing to Cheat.”

It’s a message desperately needed in our culture today. He essentially says that we’re trading in our families for work, and that includes pastors. Some time ago he and Sandra settled on a 45-hour work week, and devotes the rest to family.

Now, I come from a really great, really healthy church. But, this was not the culture there! Our senior pastor worked 70+ hours a week, and the bar was clearly set for the rest of us. Everyone on ministry staff was expected to work 52-60 hours, and take only one day off each week. The idea there was that we never wanted to be “slackers”—our kingdom work was just as important as any business, and we would prove (by time in the office?) to be just as dedicated as anyone in the marketplace was to their job.

The problem with that mindset is that we were playing catch-up. We were always trying to “prove” that we were working hard, in fact harder than those in the marketplace. Andy’s approach is pretty much the opposite. Andy figures that as church leaders we should be setting the standard, not following someone else’s standard. As pastors, we should be spending adequate time shepherding our families, and challenging those in our church to do the same.

Besides the text messages coming from my former colleagues in Ohio, we at North Point have heard from lots of folks around the country that can’t believe this is really true. “Does Andy really live this?” they want to know. Well, I’m a newbie at North Point, but in my five weeks here I have repeatedly seen Andy head out the door at 4pm. The whole staff takes two days off each week. Astonishing.

You ought to pick up a copy of the book, especially if you’re struggling with balancing work and family. I’ll tell you perhaps the most important way it fleshes out at North Point: as a pastor, you have to decide if the success of the church is dependent upon your effort or God’s. Now, certainly God wants us to work hard, but he hasn’t called us to love the church, but to love our wives. And He hasn’t called us to build the church—that’s his job. I really think this decision is yet another of Andy’s that springs from his humility. Andy Stanley really believes that the success of North Point is because of something God has done, not because of what Andy has done.

What do you guys think? Is it okay for a pastor to work only 45 hours? Is it okay to “cheat” the congregation in order to spend more time with family?