ALTON – It’s hard to catch time to interview Pastor Joby Steele. He is a high school principal and a bivocational pastor in the southern Missouri community of Alton. He says the Google Calendar app makes it possible for him to stay on track and his wife, Brenda, can check in on his schedule as well.
They are a busy family with ball games, family vacations and a lot of school and church activities each week.
A typical week in September looked like this:
• Alton High School during the daytime, Monday through Friday.
• Monday to Wednesday evenings, revival services in a nearby church.
• Thursday evening , Alton school board meeting
• Friday evening Alton school ball game
•Saturday, Eleven Points River Association annual meeting
• Sunday, Macedonia Baptist Church
Does that make you tired?
The pastor says in addition to all of these kind of activities he has to take time for family and for rest and relaxation.
“Back in the summertime I got stretched a little too thin. I had to ‘pull the emergency brake,” he said.
“I was weary. When I got up to preach, I said some things in anger. A lady commented on that and said, ‘I thought your head was going to explode.’” Steele said he realized he needed to take a break. “We went down to the mountains in Arkansas and took a week off.”
He believes he is doing good work among his two mission fields of church and public school.
The Alton school he serves (grades 7-12) has 230 kids for whom he is responsible for along with a staff of teachers, cooks, bus drivers and janitors. He also is a substitute school bus driver and of course he goes to most of the ball games and other extracurricular activities.
And then there is a congregation of about a hundred, maybe 130 on a good Sunday, at Macedonia Baptist to shepherd.
“I have tried a few times to tell the Lord I need to be full-time at the church, but He keeps saying to me, ‘No Joby, I have you just where I need you,’” Steele said.
He said he felt a calling to the ministry from God as a young person but he didn’t follow through immediately. He went on to college and got an education degree.
He married Brenda and her father was a pastor. One day his father-in-law wasn’t feeling well, and he asked Joby to preach for him.
“You know how it is in small towns,” he laughed. “Pretty soon I had three other churches call and ask me to preach and in less than a month all three of them wanted to call me as their pastor.”
So in 1996 he went to Macedonia Baptist, and for 22 years he’s been serving there along with his public school responsibilities.
He was asked if he had any tips for managing his time well.
First, prioritize things. The Bible and prayer are keys to his spiritual survival as a busy pastor and principal. “As busy as you are, you have to stay with it (spiritual disciplines),” he remarked. “You can get stretched, but you need to balance the spiritual side.”
Second, take some time to “pull that emergency brake,” he added. Take time for family and for vacations.
Third, see your school (or your bivocational job) as a mission field. Steele says, “The Lord wants me here”
He was getting ready to go drive a bus as a relief driver and then head off to a ball game, and he had already been to Poplar Bluff that day for a seminar on educational laws.
He had every reason to be tired, but this young pastor seems to have a good handle on managing his time well. That is a key to bivocational ministry.
Google Calendar was calling him to his next activity. He was ready to go.