I know all too well the burden and stress of ministry and the toll it can have on an individual. As a pastor that is in the process of rebuilding a church, I have faced this terrible reality. So much so, that I had once contracted shingles on my face due to stress, and was dangerously close to losing my sight from the infection. It rang out like a siren, signalling to me that something seriously needed to change.
One of the things that came to the forefront of my mind was that a huge part of the stress was either self-induced or that I had allowed it to enter into my life. And if you are anything like me, this may be the case for you.
Of course, it may not be the same for everyone, and there is definitely a genuine pressure for people and the Church to “perform.” I have seen friends and colleagues be pushed to the point of breaking. And in a lot of ways, their positions were too large to handle.
However, after some serious reflection and intentional changes, I have been able to not only continue, but thrive in a position that should be shared with at least two other people. So I have seen these principles keep me alive as I pushed through this season of rebuilding in my ministry context.
I still have a lot to figure out as I continue to grow and learn everyday. But I hope that some of the lessons I have learned can be useful for you. My hope is that you find not just a healthy balance, but also that you may return to the place of excitement and passion you once had.
Confession time: We ministers sometimes allow the burden for the ministry and people to become all consuming. If you are able to find a position and church that wishes to take care of you I would recommend a couple things to keep yourself from falling into the traps that lead to burnout.
1. Don’t expect more of yourself than what is healthy and make sure the church understands.
Again, it is very possible you are in an unhealthy situation, and what you need to do is quit before you burn out. You were not called to sacrifice yourself, your calling or your family on the altar of ministry. If you have talked with leadership about your longevity and need for help and none is given, maybe you need to eject yourself from that position. Remember, you are not indispensable, God can find someone else and there is another position for you.
This list is not about the outward pressures and stresses, but dealing with the ones that come from within. You may need to deal with both, but for this post, I am focusing on the self-induced stress.
2. Be disciplined in your time management.
Most of the time, we work 70 hour weeks because we allow our schedules get away from us. Even something as simple as having time limits on meetings and counseling sessions will make a world of difference. I know that sounds harsh, but in no other profession would they let the person needing the meeting dictate the amount of time. I was amazed in how much time I had gained back once I again became disciplined with my time and focused on what was important and prioritized my time on that.