Pastoral ministry can be busy and rewarding. It can also be a place to lose your sanity.
It is truly a joy to serve the Lord and the church as a pastor. We know many things we’re supposed to do—study, pray, read, show compassion, love others, and lead well. But there are some things I’ve learned we just shouldn’t do; not because they are sinful, but because they aren’t helpful.
These seven rules for keeping pastoral sanity are not intended to be legalistic. Rather, I hope they will assist us in our leadership interactions with others. I’ve listed them in the negative for effect and hope they will stick out to you as they have to me.
- Don’t believe everything everyone says about you. Some people will compliment you. Some will criticize you. If you believe all the compliments, you may become prideful. If you believe all the criticisms, you may despair. Believe what God says about you in the gospel and serve him. Find your identity in Jesus, not the commentary of others.
- Don’t take everything personally. It’s true, some people won’t like you, some will leave the church, and some will become disgruntled. Others will stay, support you, and follow you. But it is likely you are not the reason for either group. Even if you are the “excuse,” there’s almost always a deeper issue at hand. It’s usually not about you.
- Don’t chase people. This refers to number two. Certainly, we should pursue reconciliation. We should own mistakes if we’ve made them. But we can’t focus our ministry on chasing people who have left. The truth is, even if we were able to sit down and address the concerns in detail, many of the concerns of those who leave are beyond our ability to remedy.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. Ministry is serious business—the gospel, life and death ministry situations, leadership expectations, and all the rest. But the seriousness of our ministry should not lead to become coldly sober or overtly austere. Pastors should be accessible and authentic. Laughing at yourself and even sharing your faults with your congregation gives a healthy dose of reality and even levity to your ministry.
- Don’t neglect your family. Pastor, your first ministry is your family. Your church will have more than one pastor, but you are the only husband and father your children have. While the minister’s family will make sacrifices, you must set an example for loving and leading your family. If you don’t set that example in your church, then who will?
- Don’t think you’re indispensable. Your church existed before you and will exist after you. You are important, but not irreplaceable. Accept your leadership responsibility with humility and prayer. Remember, it’s not about you.
- Don’t try to do everything on your own. It is our job to equip others for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). Buying into the lie that you’re the only one who can do ministry reveals you could be breaking the previous six rules. Equip, make disciples, train, delegate, and trust others to do ministry. You and your church will be better for it.
These seven are not exhaustive. What rules or principles do you have that help maintain your sanity?