The most common complaint I hear from pastors is that they are overwhelmed. A panelist at a recent Pastor Date Night I hosted reluctantly stated,
I’m there right now. Not on the other side of it, I’m in the middle of it trying to figure out how to get out. Last week my wife and some church leaders met to help me change my schedule. Then my doctor told me to come in and see him.
The seventy ministry couples present were witnessing this prominent pastor experience the loving intervention of his spiritual and nuclear family. They were courageously standing as a fence between the pastor and the cliff of ministry suicide he was straddling.
I have a better idea. Initiate your own intervention. Here are four ways that have proven helpful to me.
1. Find your security in Jesus instead of your job.
Don’t just take control of your life; surrender control completely to Christ. Every single day, root your identity and security in Jesus instead of his bride.
Pastors are notorious people pleasers, which too often leads to a performance based ministry. Insecure pastors not only neglect themselves, but they also neglect their families in a vain attempt to save the world. Jesus has that position covered, so take off your cape, step off the throne, and serve the Lord with gladness.
2. Surround yourself with “NO” people.
The “yes” pastor on my panel was experiencing the kind of fatigue that sets in when our commitments catch up with us. I have been there many times, and, to be honest, I am too close right now. Although pastors sometimes must choose between good and bad options, most of the time we are choosing between good and better options.
The overwhelmed pastor on my panel not only had the guts to share his pain, but also the courage to share his burden with those who could help him say “no.”
Carry one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
3. Take control of your calendar.
I recently read that 9.2% of us keep our News Year’s resolutions and only 58% make it thru January! How many of us set time management goals that have made it through March?
In that same magazine, I read about Jason Fried, co-founder and CEO of Basecamp, a software management company that has been profitable every year since since he founded it in 1999. Basecamp enforces a strict 40 hour workweek and 8 hour work day. They don’t want their employees’ workweeks to seep into their nights and weekends.
In the February 2018 edition of Delta Sky Magazine, Fried said:
Throw out shared calendars. When someone else can claim your time, you don’t have any control of your own day anymore.
Basecamp is counter-cultural as Americans are working longer and later, hoping that they will get caught up—perhaps even get ahead. Smart people learn to work more efficiently by taking control of their calendars like NASA, which enforces 40 hour workweeks. So does most of Germany, for that matter.
4. Stop enabling people and start equipping them.
As you well know, pastors are called to equip our members for ministry (Ephesians 4:12). I have to remind myself all of the time that if I am not equipping people, I am enabling them. I am either giving ministry away to members or robbing them of it.
Let’s own it—we want stuff done right. Sometimes it is easier to do it ourselves, but that is not the ministry assignment we have been given. Disciplemakers only win when others win.
5. Get a life outside of church.
Dr. Jay Wolf has been pastoring his church in Montgomery, Alabama, for thirty years. He loves his wife, kids, grandkids, church, and the lost. He also loves to hunt, like I do. After a recent Pastor Date Night at his church, Jay showed me a picture of the big buck he shot this year. Of course I reciprocated.
Sometimes we need to intentionally disconnect from our ministries and recharge. Think about what recharges you the most, and make time for it. Stop whining about being overwhelmed and make a change by initiating your own intervention.
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.” For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. (Mark 6:30-31 CSB)