The Meaning of Staff Day
The Staff Day Committee asked me to say a few words to begin Staff Day. Here are those words:
"I'd love to go to Staff Day. Really I would. But I'm just too busy."
We are busy people. In this past year we have dealt with a record 40 Hour Famine; installed a new computer system; created a new organisational group - the Donor Development Group; developed Donor Service Teams based on geographical groupings of supporters and incorporated a wide range of functions into each team. We have sent people out to the four corners of the world. They have come back with stories from bed bugs in Bali to Zulu zebras in Zimbabwe. We designed, produced, broadcast and captured the response from two national television specials. And we have done much more besides. Each one of us has played a part in the biggest and busiest year in the history of World Vision of Australia.
According to the accountants, that year finished yesterday. A new year of reckoning begins today. A new year of plans and budgets.
But you and I know that we didn't wipe the slate clean when we left the office last Friday. We didn't complete all the work on our desks, nor did we sweep it away into the waste paper basket so we could begin afresh on the 1st October.
We do not start the new World Vision year with time on our hands. We do not have the luxury of leisure. Yet here we are. The office is closed. We have asked our customers to wait for one day while we meet here, away from our regular, routine work. Are we crazy or what?
The example of Jesus
If we are crazy we are in good company.
Jesus Christ packed more productive activity into three or four years of full time work than any of us could pack into a lifetime. Jesus was a busy man. Every place he went, great crowds followed him. Jesus knew who his customers were. He spent a lot of time with them.
But by no means can we say that Jesus spent time only with his customers. Jesus understood the importance of leading a balanced life. He knew that he could only be effective if he also spent time away from the action. Jesus knew the importance of balancing action with reflection. Jesus understood that work needs to be balanced with play, and that activity must be balanced with learning.
In Luke's gospel we find many references to Jesus withdrawing from the crowds to be alone (see Luke 4:42 and 9:10).
What did a retreat mean for Jesus?
The first thing we notice is that Jesus withdrew from his ordinary work and his regular customers to pray (Luke 5:16 and 6:12).
He also took time to rest (Luke 8:22). Jesus knew, as Arch Hart reminded us during this past year that every person needs adequate rest to be a fully effective person.
Learning and Training.
The other thing Jesus takes time out to attend to is to train and motivate his disciples. He spends a lot of time alone with his staff.
In Luke 9:18 we read how Jesus interrupts his private prayers to discuss his Divinity with his disciples privately (see also 10:23, 11:1, 18:31 and Mark 4:34).
And, of course in 9:28 there is the wonderful episode called The Transfiguration which involved three of his senior people, Peter, John and James. For these three men this was one of their most powerful spiritual experiences.
I have often wondered what the other disciples thought about Jesus taking his four senior managers and going off to a mountain for a day's retreat. I wonder if they thought it was a waste of time. Did they grumble about Jesus, Peter, John and James going off to boys' camp for the day? There was so much work to do. So many people that they were knocking holes in the roof just to see Jesus. Yet Jesus took a whole day out.
The story of the Transfiguration is important for us today at Staff Day, because it reminds us that time-out is an essential part of being effective as people and as an organisation. And also that there is a balance to be struck.
Perhaps you remember that Peter really didn't want to leave the mountain top. "This is pretty good," he said. "Let's build a retreat centre and stay right here on the mountain top." (I'm translating a bit freely)
But other work awaited Jesus and his senior managers. Down in the valley a young epileptic boy waited for healing.
We are doing the right thing today. All work and no play makes World Vision a dull person. Workaholism is a sin. Make no mistake about this. We do work hard at World Vision. Most of us love what we do, and we give a lot of time and effort to our work and our customers. But a continuous, unrelenting focus on our computer terminals or desks is not only unhealthy, it is unbiblical. Jesus took time out. We must too.
The other lesson is that you cannot stay on the mountain top forever. That is just as unhealthy as being a workaholic.
From this day I hope we shall find our spiritual life better balanced. We shall pray and reflect today more than we would do on a normal working day.
I hope our social life is enhanced today. Previous staff days have always resulted in new inter-personal relationships. The result of the way staff day puts us in unfamiliar roles.
Through these out-of-role activities we discover talents in one another that we didn't know we had. We also discover deficiencies in one another that we have managed to keep secret within our normal working life. This has two important effects:
The importance of this for managers
Firstly, it brings managers and bosses down to earth. Those of us who have management responsibility often need to be reminded that management is a function not a matter of status. During events like staff day, people take positions of responsibility that don't have much to do with the day-to-day organisation chart. The result can be ego-puncturing for any manager with too much pride in their position. That's a good, and essential lesson in humility.
The importance of this for subordinates
Secondly, it is important for those of you who are burdened with the title subordinate. Although I remind you that we are all subordinate to someone in this organisation. Today is good for subordinates because it can give us the chance to lead rather than to follow.
These opportunities help us to express one of our core values. It helps us to value people. The more we know one another as multi-faceted creations of God, rather than simply as clerks, managers or technicians, the more we shall be able to love and appreciate one another.
The Rest Dimension
Today is also important because it can be a day of rest and re-creation. Even for those who will work hard today it represents such a change from our normal responsibilities. A change is as good as a holiday.
This is real work too!
All this leads me to point out that today, while it may be as good as a holiday it is not, in fact, a holiday.
The decision to have days like Staff Day is a deliberate and careful decision to do what is best for World Vision. Today is a regular working day, and my expectation has been that every person on staff has as much responsibility to attend and fully participate in the activities of today as they do to attend the matters that come across their desk.
Some people will miss Staff Day. That's unfortunate but, for the most part, inevitable.
Each person must look to their own lives with World Vision and ensure that their working life has a healthy balance of action and reflection, or activity and prayer, of doing and learning. And I expect every manager to ensure that each member of their team is involved in such a healthy balance.
Empowering People to Transform their Worlds
The activities of today, the relationships of today, and the learnings of today are an essential part of equipping us as a community committed to the task of empowering people to transform their worlds.
Let's have a great day!