Probably one of the finest lessons taught to me about time came from a wise and learned friend from Tanzania.
As a part of our growing congregational partnership, we were able to spend time together as ordinary people learning from one another and listening deeply to what the other had to share.
"You see, Pastor Tim" he would say, "in America you have watches, but in Tanzania we have time!"
Implicit in his message was a critique of what he was seeing here in America -- busy people with busy looking calendars, living very busy lives. Also found in his words was a call for a new look at life and the measuring of our days -- time to live, laugh, mourn, dream, slow down and time to be.
In that very moment, as I was basking in the glory of time standing still, I was equally convicted and blessed by my friend's words.
The Bible offers us a helpful distinction when considering the gift of time. In Greek, "chronos" time is quantitative, and has to do with framing the world in terms of minutes and seconds (a very American notion, I would say). "Kairos" time, however, is more qualitative in nature, framing the world in terms of events, special experiences and relationships -- a much different way of keeping time.
After thinking on such things, I could not help but see how time is truly a gift from God. How will I, and other Christian parents, steward this gift with our children and teens?
Mark Matlock, executive director of Youth Specialties recently offered a workshop at a Recharge training event in the Twin Cities, in which he highlighted the term "timenomics" as the pressing issue for teens and family today.
In short, time is the scarcest of teenagers' resources today, and so helping them understand time as a gift to be understood (e.g., chronos time vs. kairos time), valued and stewarded well, might be the best place for us to start as their mentors in communities of faith.
The late Herb Brokering once spoke of the family calendar as the "paper cross" that families are laying themselves down on every night. Although this expression may seem extreme, one look at the average family's calendar will have even the brightest mathematicians scratching their heads.
As families today, in an avalanche of constant demands and a sea of endless information, how might we begin to steward God's gift of time well?
In our video, Timeonomics - Part 1: Quitting Church, accompanying this article, Roland Martinson, academic dean of Luther Seminary, and long-time expert in children, youth and family ministry will invite you into a story of encountering a man who has decided -- with his family -- to quit church!
In the process of sharing this encounter, Martinson helps to tease out valuable lessons of understanding how the stewardship of time demands our greatest efforts as stewardship leaders in today's church.
[This article first appeared in Luther Seminary's Center for Stewardship Leaders e-newsletter, Stewardship for the 21st Century.]