Did God know that we would be leading our churches through this toxic season of politics, protests, and a pandemic? He not only knew, He called and equipped us for this challenge.
While tough seasons of ministry are inevitable for every generation, never have I seen one that has sucked the life out of so many pastors, leaders, and churches. Although this pandemic has a foreseeable end in sight, some of us have been dangerously running in ministry sprint mode for months. Perhaps this is a good time to change your pace.
“Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” Gal 6:9 CSB
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal 6:9 NIV
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Gal 6:9 ESV
It is tempting to think that ministry fatigue is the inevitable cost of our call to ministry, but I can assure you that it is neither normal, admirable, or sustainable. I want to suggest some ways you can avoid ministry fatigue by setting a sane ministry pace in this season.
Say “NO” more than you say “YES”
While pastors are servants who are not too good to do anything, we should also be equippers who are not too stupid to do everything (footnote: “stupid” is a legit CSB word).
Over the years I have heard preachers implore people to put their “YES” on the table, which sounds very spiritual. I am outright begging you to also put your “NO” on the table. Pastors often have trouble saying “no” to people because we enjoy serving the Lord, and truth be told, we enjoy the approval of our people.
You are barreling down the dangerous road of ministry fatigue if you are embracing everyone’s emergencies as your own. By giving ministry away, we affirm the giftedness of the body of Christ while simultaneously stewarding our own limited time and gifts better (Eph. 4:22).
Quit blowing off boundaries
Make sure your calendar reflects your convictions, then communicate your work-life flow to your leaders and members. This season provides us with a great discipleship opportunity to demonstrate God’s perfect plan for the rhythm that even unsaved Americans are trying so hard to achieve.
Healthy churches are led by healthy pastors who have learned how to live and pastor at a sustainable pace.
We can recharge with our families if we are willing to create boundaries that protect our time with them. My simple strategy is to disconnect from my ministry when I am connecting with my family. They will take notice when you intentionally focus your attention off of ministry in order to focus on them.
Make margin instead of waiting for it
When pastors tell me how overwhelmed they are, it does not take long to diagnose the source of their dilemma…they stopped stopping.
God modeled and commanded Sabbath for us, which literally means “to stop.” We need to create margin every single day so that we can sleep well, and create margin every week so we can recharge well.
The holidays are an excellent time for pastors to recharge their souls. We typically have less meetings and correspondance, and can sometimes disconnect for a couple of weeks by combining holidays and vacation days.
Don’t forget to walk with God privately during your vacation or break. I start most days with Scripture reading, followed by a prayer walk or run – yes, even in the snow. When history’s first pastors neglected the disciplines of prayer and the ministry of the Word, they stopped growing, as did their church (Acts 6).
Go outside and play
We do not need to wait until the COVID coast is clear to go out and play because self-care is not selfish, it is strategic.
Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Tim. 4:16)
Don’t brag about working hard or apologize for resting hard because God called us to do both every week. Exactly how and when you stop is up to you and your season of life. While we all believe in the idea of Sabbath, the practice often eludes us because we think we don’t need it or have time for it. We must be consistent and intentional about it because Sabbath is a command to obey as well as a gift to receive.
The cold, hard truth is that nobody in your church will make you stop. There will never be a long line of people wanting to police their pastors about their churchaolic tendencies, so choose carefully who speaks into your life the most.
It is our choice whether to steward our time or allow it to be stolen. No pastor sets out to be a superhero, but if the cape fits … take it off anyway because constant ministry fatigue is avoidable.