the art of staying long in one profession (or the art of not being bored)

recently a church member and friend asked how the reb manages to stay in a christian organization that long and not get tired or bored. the reb has been in the pastoral ministry since 1984, that makes it 26 years by now. in the teaching ministry in stm, that will be shorter, since 1998 full-time, making it a total of 12 years. so how does one stay in 1 place for a long time and not get tired or bored? below are some suggestions which the reb offered:


find different things to do at times to break the normal routine/rhythm. as for tiredness, one needs breaks. go for a short holiday, do something different each time, change your driving routes once in a while, eat something different etc. any change, however little, can help to break the boredom or routine that can set in easily. the key is finding something 'new' each day that brings the excitement.

if you like doing something (for the reb, it is teaching a class), then the adrenalin would sustain you no matter what or for how long. but even then, if the reb teaches the same subject for years, it can become routine. so, the reb tinkles with the syllabus and tries to improve his teaching content. that means reading new stuff and getting up-to-date with newer literature. once in a few years, he updates the bibliography, changes his class notes, revises the powerpoints etc.

you will need input (i.e. feeding yourself) as well. the reb's main input has always been through reading good books. the reb can refresh himself, add new views, enlarge his knowledge etc. the reb also tries to attend seminars/conferences relevant to his work or subjects that he teaches. in that way, the reb enriches himself constantly. the reb misses the OT seminars in UK as we don't have such events here in malaysia.

we also need people with like-mindedness so that we can scratch/encourage/discuss with each other. it is like iron sharpening iron. the more we test our ideas with similar like-minded people, the more we will grow in our own understanding of things and of others. life becomes a challenge to keep growing and not remain stunted.


one of the reb's disciples posed a further query: does it mean we have to give up some of our own personal pursuits? the answer is posted here as an update to the original entry -

there's always a price to pay to sacrifice to attain other things. e.g. the reb gave up his fishing haruans when the children came. he had not done much drawing and painting for a long time. with work, church, and family, he had less time for social interaction with friends as he wanted. even his time with his late best friend was trimmed down once they graduated from stm and each to their own work in the local churches.

yet, there will always be opportunities to 'make' time. now that his best friend is long gone, he has 2 other friends who are also colleagues in the ministry that he thoroughly enjoy conversing with (and sharpening with). they meet occasionally during pastors' schools, joint boards, and annual conferences. not enough occasions i.m.o. but that's the price to pay.

yet one doesn't have to completely give up some personal interests e.g. classical guitar playing. the reb finds playing the guitar or piano or flute or recorder once in a while to relax and break the rhythm. occasionally, he may draw something or write something like an article for a magazine e.g. asian beacon, kairos, etc. so, there's no reason why you cannot go and play some tennis once in a while. the reb has gone back to badmintion on sundays for the exercise benefit while he plays volleyball on wednesday or thursday in stm.

some things like travelling round the world may be put on hold or indefinitely or maybe forever. we may have to give up some things on a more permanent basis because of marriage or family or church commitments (that's what john wesley says in the covenant prayer that we use for watchight covenant services).

there are times ('eth) and seasons (zeman) in life. now is the time for your equipping in stm and it may demand a bit more of your personal time. that period will soon be over and another period will set in which may require a different set of commitments. you may find even less time for yourself and family once in a local church which can be demanding of the pastor's time.

here is where we must jealously guard our off-day (which is strictly for our family). the reb is strict on this - no church meetings or functions on off-days. even if the church decides to proceed, the reb won't be there. when the reb and wife were in butterwortn, they would go off to penang island on mondays which is the off-day. go to swim, play squash, makan at gurney drive etc. that is your time which the church cannot take away.


thanks for good sharing,,,,

stm is a very comfortable place for most of us........
anthony said…
maybe too comfortable? need a bit of 'shaking' once in a while too.
Alex Tang said…
the flip side is when is it time to move on. One can be too comfortable. Any thots?
Charis said…
goodness. i can not imagine staying in only one or two professions for the whole of my life, though that may just be the whole generational divide thing.
anthony said…
alex, you are right. there is a flip side to it. i think you will know it is too long if people around you has little to say to you about your work. by that time, it is better to move on. one can still be doing the same things but in a different context. hence, in the pastoral ministry, one is still a pastor but the local contexts differ. each local context will have their own variations and challenges to it that should keep us occupied.
anthony said…
my dear daughter, at least it is two and not one for some people. the late uncle ong tit hoe was a teacher when he started work till he retired!

within my first, there were variations since i was transfered around. it is the 2nd one in stm that i have been for 12 years. yet, because i changed portfolios within stm, that breaks the routine - from alumni director to publications to dean.

pa and ma's last vocation will be missionaries. that will complete our cycle of pastor, lecturer and missionary!
chils said…
Fortune magazine did a research and said that all high achievers are just as good in a sport or another interest. It balances out the pressure at work and channel 'extra' energy into another! This is how one manages to sustain a long drawn out career in one field too!
anthony said…
finding an outlet to channel one's energy to something different is important e.g. a hobby can help to sustain interest in life if one's work is totally boring. at least one can look forward to the joys that the hobby can bring which in real life one's work doesn't.
Lee Chee Keat said…
I'm not sure how you are able to manage the "personal" entertainment to relieve the boredom and juggle the tension of the great need of making disciples for the next generation in M'sia, particularly in Methodist church. For me, I found myself a great sacrifice of my "personal" entertainment to pursue of learning new languages (Hebrew, Greek), sorting out my theological positions, crafting out my philosophical of ministry biblically, seeking out of making disciples, seeking out to reach out to the lost ones, wah...there's so much work to be done. It's boring and yet it's critical. In the course, I have to give up my tennis, my classical guitar playing, travelling around the world..etc. How to finish the critical work so that I can have my "personal" entertainment???!!
P. Sakthivel said…
Thanks Anthony. These are wonderful reminders.
Paul Long said…
I like the reminder that we go through different phases of life. Vocation (calling) can remain the same but the outworking and thus details and activities can be very different.

I find it true that having a hobby or two outside "work related matters" helps a lot. Hobbies need not necessarily be different from calling and work but parallel aspects of life that helps one develop as a person - and hence in a real way related to one's "work and calling".

Do blog more on your insights on this matter Reb...
Desmond said…
Sir, thank you so much for your simple but provocative thoughts. Well, it's time for me to digest it.
anthony said…
desmond, you can share your own experiences too.