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Recovering from Multi-Hat Syndrome

Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed with all you have to do? If your job is like mine, you wear a variety of hats, and sometimes it all feels out of control.

In his book The 360-Degree Leader John Maxwell describes Stan, the first assistant pastor he hired. Maxwell writes:

I hired Stan as my assistant pastor. That probably sounds simple enough, but if you were to talk to Stan, his side of the story would be a little different. I’ve heard him describe that job as choir director, youth pastor, senior-adult pastor, custodian, and general gofer (including picking up my dry cleaning and gassing up my Ford Pinto). If ever there was a leader in the middle who had to deal with the Multi-Hat Challenge, it was Stan (Maxwell 43).

I’m guessing you know what Stan was feeling. I have never had a lead pastor ask me to pick up dry cleaning or gas up his or her car – that’s out-of-bounds – but I have lots of experience with the “Multi-Hat Challenge” he describes.

Some of my hats are official – pastor of youth ministry, leader of worship arts, devotion writer, and a leader of our new discipleship group ministry. Other hats I wear are far less official. I too have worn the custodian hat, opener/closer hat, and sound-guy hat. I have been a buyer, plunged my share of toilets, and planned several parties. I like these roles, most of the time, but other times they take away from things I ought to be doing.

Those who wear a variety of hats must be careful not to get caught up in what I call “Caulk Ministry” (I wrote about this previously here). Caulk is the stuff we use to fill gaps, to keep things from falling through cracks. We serving in staff-ministry can sometimes feel like the caulk of the church. Warning: caulk needs to be replaced often, as it dries up and wears out.

When I begin to feel overwhelmed, I revisit my priorities. I praying, write, blog (like now), and get back to my to-do list to help me refocus. I make a conscious effort to put my time and energy toward the things that are most important – the hats I am supposed to wear. I leave the extra stuff for the extra time, which for me is late afternoon when I am less creative. I draw boundaries around my time, and pass to others tasks I don’t need to do. I will often pour myself into a project that has been on the back-burner, to recapture my love for what I do.

I’m not advocating becoming like the waiter who won’t help because you are not in his station. We staff-ministry professionals need to work outside our job descriptions quite often, using our giftedness to joyfully serve our congregations. But we must never neglect our first love.

If you are feeling pulled in too many directions, if you are wearing too many hats, take a look at how you are spending your time and make the necessary changes.


Maxwell, John C. The 360-Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization. Nashville: Nelson Business, 2005. Print.

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