How I Do Ministry: Robert

I’ve always been curious of how other pastors and church leaders work. So I shamelessly ripped of’s How I Work series and began to ask other church leaders questions about their work. 


Location: Santa Monica, California
Your Ministry: First United Methodist Church of Santa Monica, Pastor of New and Emerging Ministries
One word that describes how you work relationally
Current mobile device: iPhone
Current computer/laptop: mac book pro

Connect with Robert:

Describe a recent work day:

I got to the office at 6:30am while it was still dark and, surprisingly, it was raining.  I collected my things and opened up for our Men’s Breakfast Bible Study.  I led 15 men through the first chapter of Lamentations where the conversation moved from mass grieving post 9/11, to questions of theodicy, to living as a spiritual person in the midst of this impatient and frantic world.  We prayed together, giving thanks for the rain which was still falling and for the gift of a space to just be fully human for a little while.  After our study I connected with a lay leader about an upcoming work trip and with two men who are walking through a difficult time. I collected my things and then went outside to greet our preschool kids and parents at drop off.

I then entered into a series of pastoral and administrative meetings.  I met with my fellow clergy to evaluate Advent/Christmas, to coordinate our extensive pastoral care load (somehow January always seems to be one of the hardest months for people in our community), and to vision and plan for Lent.  I emerged around 12pm and had lunch with a colleague.  We reconnected after extensive travel and discussed what it is like to experience new cultures and peoples.

We returned to our full staff meeting where we organized ourselves for the next few weeks.  After an hour of organizing in staff, I was finally able to sit down and respond to ~25 emails which had been lingering.  Most of them were related to upcoming events that I am responsible for, however a few of them were about challenging family dynamics.  After catching up on emails, I went for a long walk and listened to a podcast in preparation for my sermon on Sunday.  It was still raining so I brought my umbrella and thought a lot about the power of water in our world and our lives through the waters of baptism.  I finally made it home and started to prep dinner when I got a text from a church member who needed to talk.  So I called her and we talked about God, abandonment and being in a dry season spiritually, all while I stirred spaghetti sauce for our family dinner.

Gadgets/apps/tools that you cannot live without:
Podcasts/ COZI Family Calendar & Grocery Lists/ Common Prayer App/ Amazon Echo with Alexa

What’s your workspace set up like?

I work from my office.  The only work I do remotely is sermon prep, one on one meetings or visits around town.  My office is usually messy, but I have a succulent I’ve managed to keep alive which provides me with a little bit of green and fresh air.  I have some really cool mid-century modern chairs (I call them my Mad Men Chairs) which are surprisingly comfortable and easy to move around so I can chat intimately with people without having to sit behind my desk.  I try to get up and move regularly throughout the day.  I got for a short walk, I head down into the chapel for prayer, or I walk down to the kitchen and make tea.  I make time to connect with the staff throughout the day to check in, share a laugh or a meal.  I like to do this to keep moral high, to coordinate face to face about projects or work that needs to be done, and also I’m just an extrovert who loves people.

Best short-cut; life hack you use:
I think I pretty much always take the long way round.

How do you keep track of what you have to do:
So, I have this really old white board that a church member gave me years ago which sits off to my left, eye level, while I’m sitting at my desk.  I scribble my to-do list on the white board.  I sometimes have to use code language for my notes to make sure I’m not breaking any confidentially.  Sometimes I’ll just have a series of nonsense letters which remind me to call so and so from our congregation who is having surgery this week.  Or to follow up from Sunday when someone shared in passing that their marriage is in trouble.

The other tool I use is the iPhone reminders which pop up throughout the day reminding me to accomplish certain tasks or to just stop and take a breath.

What’s one of the least favorite aspects of what you have to do:
The least favorite part of my job is trying to quantify it in order to justify why it matters or why it makes a difference in the world.  I’m not a fan of all the people counting I have to do.

Passion/Side project of yours?
Raising little humans.

What gives you joy about your work:
For me the great joy of being a pastor is the mandate to love the people I am sent to serve.  I am welcomed into the most intimate and sacred moments in people’s lives.  I get to pray with and for my people in the midst of their joy and agony.  I get to talk about God, grace, following Jesus and the inner work we are called to every single day.  It’s a great gig.  I feel honored and blessed to do it.

Currently reading/ or anything you’d recommend one to read:
The book I recommend over and over again to folks is Slow Church: Cultivating the Patient Way of Jesus.  

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