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A Guide For Pastors: 3 Reasons You Might Be Bad-Busy

A Guide For Pastors: 3 Reasons You Might Be Bad-Busy July 3, 20232 Comments
busy pastor guide

John Maxwell says “the greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness.” This is especially true for a busy pastor, who seek to guide others whilst facing multiple competing demands and responsibilities.

Most of us are busy on some level but some of us might not be busy for good reasons – we might be bad-busy! Bad-busy is the busyness that comes from unhealthy thinking or emotions. We do things to avoid other, more important things. Normal busy living might involve activity, schedules, tasks or messages, and bad-busy will look the same on the outside to everyone else. But underneath, it’s a different story. Bad-busy might have the same fruits as normal busy, but there are very different roots existing. I can think of three reasons for our busyness that show it’s a form of bad-busy. My aim here is to provide a guide for the busy pastor – or anyone, in fact – so that all of us can take a moment to reflect and even perform self-surgery in order that we can embrace the right healthy kind of busy!

You can listen to this article, and others, on my podcast:

1. We are bad-busy because we’re covering up dysfunctions.

Busyness can be a manifestation of pride – we feel important because we are busy. We are too proud to damage our reputation of being capable and available and ironically say yes to everything, diminishing our capability and availability! Busyness can exist because we are seeking pats on the back – the approval of others. Or it can be a lifestyle because of our performance issues – we feel we have to function at a certain level because of how we want others to perceive us. The desire for possessions or drive to prove ourselves are another two roots. Other potential factors are a drive for power that comes from the need to control; perfectionism; and the hunger for prestige. A good question to ask ourselves is ‘are we trying to do good or make ourselves look good?’

2. We are bad-busy because we’re not clear on our mission.

Busyness can exist because of poor planning; we are trying to do what God hasn’t expected or asked us to do. Whether because we don’t know, we forget, or we become distracted, we take on obligations and roles that are not His yoke for us and wonder why it isn’t easy and the burden isn’t light. In a real sense, we’ve failed to establish our priorities. Even Jesus, who could do many good things, knew that they were not necessarily the things he ought to do. An awareness of His mission, which He used as both a map and compass, kept him on track and on task. I’ve previously written before about the importance of knowing our mission and of identifying our priorities for these same reasons. We can’t do everything, and priorities help us focus on the what and who that is most important. Discovering the unique things God has placed inside us is the first step in rectifying this root cause of bad-busyness.

3. We are bad-busy because we’re not managing ourselves well.

Busyness can be caused because we don’t manage ourselves well. Technology means we are now available 24/7 through any number of communication methods – calls, messages, emails and a myriad of social networks. We can continually access news, blogs, games, and apps anytime for any myriad of reasons. Simply put, our sleep, relaxation time and work time are all impacted and we never truly ‘shut off’ because of the constant influx of desired but nonessential information. Perhaps we don’t live in rhythm, or Sabbath, or have vacations, or carve out time alone, or have firm boundaries between work and not-work. Sleep is often the first thing that goes when we are bad-busy, but we always pay for that stolen time in the end – whether that means affected focus, heightened distraction, bad decision-making, stress, erratic emotions or impacted ability to think clearly and manage our life.

Overall, busyness isn’t wrong – but we need to examine the reasons for our busyness, and consider what our busyness not only results from, but results in. We should expect to be busy, but busy for the right reasons and in the right things. If we are seeking to guide others in life, the busy pastor must be able to practice what he or she is preaching.

What other reasons for bad-busyness could be added to this list? What is your experience in discovering and addressing bad-busyness in your life?

I’ve developed some resources that can help busy leaders work smartly instead of just working hard. Starting with some self-discovery and focus, we can adapt our approach to play to our strengths. You can find out more about those resources by clicking HERE.


  1. Busyness is a confusing matter. I grew up in a country where busyness is a good thing, because the more you work, the more successful you can become.
    However, the truth is that being busy may make us successful or not. But, when we surrender our everything to God, He brings direction and clarity. It is then that busyness can also incorporate spending time listening to Him, after all, He is the reason for everything ?

  2. Absolutely. Busyness with focus on something greater than ourselves is essential; but if busyness is self-serving then it can quickly become toxic and poison any good fruit we have. It’s challenging when our busyness is connected to activities that have become idols, too central to our identities. Great points, thanks Angelica!

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