How Plumbing Made Me a Smarter Pastor

In college, I joined the “work study” program where essentially, I provided unskilled labor to the school in  return for cheap wages.  (“Minimum wage” – there’s a term I’d never heard of until moving to USA.)   Some work study students joined the kitchen crew, the library and some did landscaping.  I was assigned to the plumbing crew.  Excellent.

Over the years, I’ve managed to parlay my mad plumbing skills in various places.  I once plumbed an upflush toilet in my basement, I’ve replaced more wax rings than I care to remember (really?  We invented the internet and the iphone and we’re still using wax rings?)  And my piece de resistance was rough plumbing three new construction houses in a Mexican Desert. To this day, I have night terrors that somewhere in rural Mexico, I’m being cursed in Spanish because of blocked toilets and putrid sewage smells.

But I digress.

John Linsenbigler and Rick Bondy, my two plumbing “professors” taught me that plumbing is all about knowing the little secrets that make the big difference.  Any fool (they meant me) can learn about pvc vs cpvc and how many inches to drop a trench for gravity to do its job.  The real masters know the little unpublished tricks that make all the difference between everyday “plumbing for dummies” and the true craftmanship of quality plumbing.

It turns out, every craft has its little secrets and ministry is no different.

Like when Jack Holland taught me how to deal with a strongly opinionated person in a meeting.  You know the type that always has a strong opinion about everything?  Meanwhile, the person who never speaks their mind might actually have something to contribute, but will never speak up.  Reframe the conversation by asking the whole group, “Could you all rate how strongly you feel about this issue?”  The opinionated one has a chance to evaluate his or her aggressive stance, the sales person recognizes that she is selling an idea she doesn’t care much about,  and the quiet mouse gets to say that he feels very strongly about the issue even though he communicates quietly.

Its a game changer and a team equalizer.

Or when Fred Craddock taught me the importance of always ending sermon preparation excited, rather than bogged down.  If I leave excited, I return to it the next day mentally fired up.  If I leave it bogged down, I’ll dred coming back and struggle to drive out of the bog.

Or Peter Keese’s lessons on family dynamics and how to read not only the content of what is going on, but also the dynamic of how people are relating to each other. 

Or the constant lesson of black holes and bright lights and the importance of celebrating wins with your team.

I could go on with other little secrets that make a big difference, but I also hope to hear some of yours.  Care to share any?

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