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4 Ways to Escape the Availability Trap

Nothing traps you in the urgency of the moment like availability.

A leader that is always available never has the time to lead. He or she simply becomes an order taker for the next person who happens to stop by. Required office hours create a cage, a punch clock prison.

Or the other extreme—when all your followers are your gatekeepers, there are no fences. Your life becomes a field of chaos.

I recognize the above hyperbole. But perhaps you have felt the teeth of this trap from time to time. For introverts, constant availability is exhausting. For extroverts, it is enlivening but entirely distracting. How do leaders—especially pastors—balance a desire to be there for people without falling into the trap of endless availability?

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First, most people know pastors are not always available (some might believe their pastors sit in their offices, just waiting, just hoping someone will call, but I believe this group is a small minority).

Most congregants sympathize with a pastor’s busy schedule. They are also busy. They understand pastors are not always available, but they do want to feel connected to their church leaders. Congregants want to feel that their leaders are accessible to them.

Allow me to make a distinction between leadership availability and leadership accessibility.

  • Leadership availability: Always on hand in one place. Nearby, in person.
  • Leadership accessibility: Easily reachable with several lines of communication.

I could spout plenty of time management principles here—steps to building better boundaries. Many leadership experts give sound advice in this area. But I want to focus on how to manage the perceptions of your followers. After all, if they feel you are there, then perception becomes reality.