In my new role with Leadership Network, encouraging pastors is one of the best parts of my job. In 16 years of pastoring I learned the job can be an emotional roller coaster at times.
You have a great Sunday and then the critics seem to come out on Monday morning. Or Sunday walking out of church. Or, and you have to be a pastor to understand this one, but it could happen just before you walk behind the podium to preach.
You have your week planned and numerous crises happen in the same week – and your “day off” is now going to be spent preparing for Sunday. (And, don’t Sundays seem to come around often.)
It seems you can never get ahead and you’re always playing catch-up with your “to do” list.
It’s life. It’s ministry. It’s normal. And, I understand it’s not just for pastors, but I’ve been in business, government and now non-profit and pastoring is unique in it’s demands.
Some days are always better than others, but learning how to deal with the highs and lows is a major key in sustaining yourself for ministry long-term.
How do you do that, pastor?
Here are four suggestions, which helped me:
Find your rhythm
And, the “your” is important. You’ll be healthier and happier when you find the balance to your life. When you know the right amount of sleep. When you get an exercise and healthy eating plan. When you learn how to say no to things you simply can’t do or someone else can do better than you. I also found checklists kept me on task. I tried to make my week as routine as possible. Mondays and Tuesdays were meeting days. Wednesday and Thursdays were study days. Friday was a catch up day to use as needed. Saturday I tried to do nothing – except what Cheryl and I wanted to do.
You have to figure out what works for you, but if you do you’ll be in a better rhythm when the harder seasons of life and ministry come. Jesus was continually slipping away to pray and He seemed very intentional with His time. Yet, He was always prepared for the sudden interruption. By the way, interruptions aren’t as big an interruption when you plan as if they are normal.
Lean into others
You are not alone. Let me say that again. You are not alone. You may feel that way sometimes, but you really aren’t.
Think of the story of Elijah (1 Kings 19) and remember others are praying for you, God has a plan, and He cares for you! I was intentional here also. I always had a personal prayer team. They were a rock for me. But, I also had a number of good, personal pastor friends. And, I had one guy from the community I met with once a month. Gold!
Be willing to humble yourself, be vulnerable, and ask for help when needed. Even see a counselor periodically if it will help. There’s no shame in that. But, you must surround yourself with people who have access into the deepest parts of your life and the freedom to say the hard words you need to hear.
Become a better delegator
Drop the right to control everything. If I could I would say that to every pastor. AND, I WOULD SAY IT IN ALL CAPS!
The body is well-defined in Scripture. There’s a hand, a foot, a tongue – many parts. Don’t try to do them all. In fact, you can’t be and weren’t designed to be. It’s not Biblical. And, you want to be Biblical, right?
Be intentional about allowing others to share the burden. That’s good advice not just for Moses from his father-in-law – it’s good for you. And, it builds leadership in others, which could be the discipleship encouragement they need.
Keep the vision ever before you
Our mission as my most recent church was “Leading people to Jesus and equipping disciples in their faith.” We tweaked the words just a bit, but I inherited it when I arrived. It meshed well with my passion for ministry. It’s what got me out of bed in the morning.
If ever I was having a bad day, I could go back to what I love doing. I intentionally lead. I nurture, love, equip and help build disciples. It always fired me up to see someone get more excited about Jesus!
It’s true for all of us, but maybe especially in ministry. We seldom know all the good we are doing. It keeps us dependent on God. My guess is you’re doing better than you think you are and I’m sure of this – your faithfulness will one day be rewarded.
(One bonus tip – I also keep an encouragement file. It includes encouraging letters, notes, and emails I have received from people over the years. On bad days, go back and read through them.)
Ministry is hard. It’s even harder when you aren’t prepared. Take some time now and consider how you are responding to the demands of ministry, how you can improve, and developing a plan to address any concerns you uncover.