Some people are surprised to learn that I am an introvert, but it’s true: I recharge my emotional energy by spending time alone. Still, I love people and there are times when work and ministry demand large blocks of non-stop social interaction.
I am currently in the middle of one of these periods. Last weekend, I directed our church’s Family Camp. I spent 48 hours living with 175 other folks. Not only did I spend time with them, but as Director I needed to be “on” all weekend: friendly to everyone, responsible to oversee the leadership team, aware of every detail in the program, and available to answer questions, problem-solve, and assist wherever needed. In a few days, I will travel to Virginia to teach a two-day on-campus intensive for Capital Seminary. That means noisy and crowded airports, a classroom full of unfamiliar faces, and two eight-hour days of teaching. (They don’t call it “intensive” for nothing.)
One part of me enjoys every minute of this kind of ministry, even while it drains my emotional and social reserves. While most people only see the energy, there’s no way I could ever make it through those sustained situations without some serious “down time” before and after. Here’s how I managed my energy around Family Camp, which is typical of how I prepare for and recharge from similarly intense social activities.
Before Family Camp: I spent the early part of the week going through dozens of final details. But after a final meeting with my Associate Director on Thursday morning, I was done. I blocked out that afternoon and evening to empty my mind and to rest. I did some laundry, packed, read a bit for pleasure, went to bed early, was asleep shortly after 10:30 p.m., and slept until 9:45 the next morning. Friday is Dave’s day off and we usually go out for a lunch date, but he graciously brought home a carry-out meal so I could avoid any extra stimulation. (Believe it or not, my emotional energy can be drained by excess noise, physical clutter, bad traffic, even bright light.)
At 2 p.m., I packed the church van and left for camp. I drove alone, kept the radio off, and resisted the urge to make a bunch of phone calls during my hour on the road. I left early enough that I could get settled at camp before everyone else got there and things got crazy. As a result, I started the weekend with energy in reserve.
During Family Camp: I snatched a few minutes of solitude here and there, but for the most part I was off and running. I did enjoy a leisurely, peaceful shower each day along with about seven hours of sleep, which kept me from going into too much of an energy deficit. And interaction with familiar groups is the most energizing type of social interaction for me, so the late-night card games and laughter actually added to my energy store.
After Family Camp: I drove home by myself on Sunday afternoon, unpacked immediately and put dirty laundry in the washer and everything else back in its place so my energy was not taken by clutter. Our family blocked out our schedule the rest of the day, and everyone retreated to various corners of the house to recharge. I caught up on blogs and some other relaxing reading. We ordered pizza so I didn’t have to cook or clean, and I went to bed early.
On Monday I was back to work, but I had scheduled my day in advance to not require many social activities such as lunch meetings or phone calls. I was able to catch up on emails received and work submitted by students over the weekend. I then turned my attention to my next trip, and in the next few days will repeat a very similar cycle to what I described above. This type of quick turnaround and too many of these events can take a toll over several months but this is a short season of busyness, typical only for a brief season each Fall and not the rest of the year. I am also blessed with close family and friends who understand this about me, and who give support and encouragement in private so I can do what I do in public.