Thursday, January 12, 2017

Exhaustion in the life of the minister

When a person writes a book he or she always believes that it is something that readers will find helpful, interesting, or entertaining. Otherwise, why write it?

I certainly believed that The Healthy Pastor: Easing the Pressures of Ministry would be one that many pastors would find helpful. As a pastor for 20 years and serving as a judicatory minister when I wrote the book I had known many pastors who struggled with the stresses often associated with ministry. I knew some who had allowed the pressures of ministry to cause them to become depressed or have physical illnesses often associated with stress. Some had dropped out of ministry because of the toll it was taking on them and/or their families.

Surprisingly, the book really hasn't sold very well. I would have loved to have had that book when I was in pastoral ministry. It might have helped me avoid a twelve-month battle with clinical depression. It certainly would have helped me better balance my life and ministry. But, for whatever reason, it hasn't found an audience.

Ministers have a difficult task. Most of us are expected to prepare and present one to three messages each week. In smaller churches we often have the primary responsibility to handle the administrative tasks of the church. Most of us are expected to attend the various leadership meetings that occur in our churches and provide input to each of them. In many churches the pastor is the primary person to visit members when they are in the hospital and guests when they visit the church. Funerals, weddings, and other events in people's lives will often include the pastor.

It's little wonder that our lives can get out of balance with the expectations placed upon ministers. Most ministers, including bivocational ministers, find that they are putting in a lot of hours trying to meet the various demands placed upon us. We often do not get proper rest, eat healthy, and spend enough time with family and on our own self-care.

We are called to serve a congregation that is made up of people who have a variety of needs in their lives that many expect the minister to help them solve. In addition, there are the new people who may begin to attend worship services and those who come to the church each month seeking financial assistance. Much of our time is spent around people with needs, some of them serious, and they expect us to be able to help them. Some get very angry if we are unable to do so, and we usually don't feel very good about it when we can't help as we would like.

Some of the people we serve can become very demanding and consume too much of our time if we allow it. I'm currently reading
The Power of the Other: The startling effect other people have on you, from the boardroom to the bedroom and beyond-and what to do about it by Dr. Henry Cloud. In the chapter on The Fuel for High Performance he cautions readers about properly managing their workload but goes on to remind us that "it's just as important to manage the energy sources around you. This is intensely interpersonal. People give energy, and they take it away. Know the difference and plan accordingly."

A workload that is out of balance will lead to exhaustion but so will spending too much time with "energy suckers." These are the people who do not respect boundaries and will try to monopolize your time. They are often people will serious needs who wants someone else to be responsible for addressing them. While we cannot ignore these folks nor their needs, we must also not allow them to control our lives. To be healthy we must spend time with others who are healthy who can energize and encourage us as we do the same for them.

The ministry pressures I discuss in my book are common to many of us in ministry. Each of them I have experienced in my own life or I've seen them at work in the lives of others. While these pressures often cannot be eliminated, they can be controlled and lessened so that your life and ministry is much more enjoyable and effective. Amazon has discounted this book from its original price so it might be a good time to buy a copy. I truly believe you will find it to be helpful to you.

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