I hate the word “busy”.

busyIt’s been a while since I blogged again. It’s been one of those “busy” times. I don’t even like the word. Yes, I have had a full schedule. I have worked with my church to plan and put on a wonderful Easter Eggstraganza that reaches out to many community people. I have been part of planning our next round of Rural Church Pastors Network events that are starting this next week. I have just attended a great Biblical Exposition Workshop. I have had a number of medical appointments in the last while again. I have had ongoing issues with my computer and finally just got it to print last week after not being able to do so for about a month or so. I have had meetings with people in the church and in the community. I have had car issues to fight with. And on and on.

We all find things to fill our life. We call it being “busy”. I would rather call it “having a full schedule”. When I hear the word busy it sounds negative. I don’t want people in my church to ever think I’m too “busy” to spend time with them. I don’t mind telling people I have a full schedule, because I do – and I should. While we were meant to have sabbath rests, we were meant to be living our lives in connection with people and the world around us. We weren’t meant to be doing nothing with our life.

A full schedule is good. The main thing is to make sure that we are in control of our schedules and are not just running at a fast pace because of the expectations of others. We need to realize that WE decide what we do with our day. As a small church pastor I have a lot of flexibility with my schedule. There are certain expectations that the church has of me, and rightly so. I need to be ready for the service on Sunday. I need to make sure my sermon is ready and well prepared. I need to make sure that I am looking after the general affairs of the church and encouraging people. Yet I have a lot of freedom in what I do when and with whom I meet where. I need to be in charge of my schedule.

My problem is that I love to be involved in many things. I like serving my church. I enjoy serving in my community. I am privileged to be part of the leadership team for the Rural Church Pastors Network. And I have access to wonderful courses and workshops that I believe will be enjoyable for me and contribute to me being a better me and doing a better job with all that is expected of me.

But I would never want people to think that I’m too busy for them or too busy to lead the church well. A full schedule that we are purposefullly and prayerfully filling is good, but let’s make sure we are never too “busy” to meet with the people we care about the most.

What a way to Start the New Year!

My wife and I had the most wonderful opportunity as we entered the New Year. My niece got married in Mexico, and someone paid for our trip to go. Wow! An all inclusive paid for Mexico photoholiday in Mexico! After a fairly hectic December, we sure appreciated this wonderful break.

For the first 3 or 4 days we did absolutely nothing besides lounge at the pool and read a book. Drinks were served right to us. Occasionally we got up to enjoy one of the great buffets. What a break! I read 5 books. Three of them were “fluff” books, but two were ones that got my ministry heart going.

It was a time of relaxing and refreshing and re-energizing.

I also had the honor of officiating at the wedding and it was great. A beach wedding with the ocean behind me. I even got in a little bartering as I wanted to buy a few things. I enjoy that.

I hope you are blessed with a vacation like this at some point. Maybe you have the funds to pay for it, or maybe God will use someone else to bless you with a vacation. What a great way to start the new year!

 

Livin’ Large at Lake Louise!

Chateau-Lake-LouiseI can’t afford to stay at the Chateau Lake Louise. Not on my small church salary.

But here’s the view from my window!! I stayed there just last week!

My denomination holds an annual DSCN7219Pastor’s Retreat for all its 600 plus pastors and spouses. Our group is large enough that we need a big hotel and meeting space. The Chateau Lake Louise provides that!

The expectation is that our church will cover the cost of our 3 days at this retreat. What a treat!!! I couldn’t afford to stay there if I was paying, and neither could many in my congregation. What an incredible privilege!

But I have to say that the sessions and the worship were probably on par with God’s beautiful creation. The Holy Spirit was definitely present. It was a great time of truly letting go everything else and focusing on our Lord Jesus!

We are a very privileged pastor couple!!Lynnette and Andy

Longevity #4: Remember the Sabbath

I just received the following in an email from Nelson Searcy at churchleaderinsights.com.

 

I recently read a New York Times article that really disturbed me…

“Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans.

In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen.

Many would change jobs if they could.”

Now, I read a lot of untruths about churches and pastors in “secular” news, but this one bothered me tremendously because, well, I KNOW it’s true!

In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to find a room large enough to seat all of the pastors I’ve talked to in the last few years who shared a similarly negative experience.

Here are a few statistics I found online at Pastor Burnout (just the fact that there’s a website about this should be a red flag):

  • 13% of active pastors are divorced.
  • 25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
  • 33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
  • 33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
  • 45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
  • 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
  • 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
  • 57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
  • 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
  • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
  • 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
  • 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
  • Doctors, lawyers and clergy have the most problems with drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide.

How can this be?

As church leaders, you and I have the unique opportunity to cooperate with God to transform people’s lives and make a difference for eternity…

So why are you so tired, stressed and unfulfilled?

Sure, God never promised that ministry would be easy, but you probably didn’t think it would be miserable either!

What if your obedience in one specific Biblical command holds the key to reduced stress, increased efficiency and renewed enjoyment of your life and ministry?

Over the years, working with thousands of pastors, I’ve uncovered one recurring sin issue in those who are on the brink of depression, burnout and/or ministry failure:

They are disobedient to God’s command to honor the Sabbath!

Whether it’s a prideful choice or by simple misunderstanding, the sin of breaking the Sabbath has painful consequences to you, your family, your church and your contribution to God’s Kingdom.

I don’t know what you think about honoring the Sabbath. Maybe like me you are convinced that the Sabbath is Saturday and as evangelicals, we don’t set a day to worship on Saturday anymore, it is Sunday that we worship.

But this is more about taking a time to “break” from everything else and to focus on slowing down, resting, and allowing time to recuperate. God set aside the seventh day of the week for a rest. “On the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2: 2) And if you are a pastor like me, you know that Sunday isn’t often much of a time to rest. It can be a very busy day. Saturday is often a day to finalize all preparations for Sunday.

I don’t know that taking a Sabbath will make it so that you will be able to continue long term as a pastor, or even long term in the same church. What I do know is that the less time you take to rest and slow down, the less chance there is that you will be able to serve long term. You will burn out and you will get depressed and you will get into trouble.

For me, I have done my best to have a day off most weeks. I try to limit my evening commitment to 2-3 evenings most weeks. I even often take a Tuesday off if Monday was a holiday. I do my best to get away for holidays for the number of weeks I’m allowed. And I try to make at least some of this time just my family doing something special together. I know it’s cheaper to go visit family, but that isn’t always restful either.

I want to be clear – I work hard. But I also protect my time. We need to learn to pace ourselves. Taking a Sabbath for rest, for a break, and for a time to refocus is not only valuable to you but to the church you serve as you come back refreshed and ready to go.

Remember to remember the Sabbath.

Burnout Doesn’t Have to be Your Reality

Just recently I received a question from a young person in ministry asking me how I prevent myself burning out and how I keep on going.

What a great question!

Burnout is a real possibility for anyone who doesn’t watch out. Small church pastors are at great risk in this for a number of reasons. Small and rural church pastors have many demands from them. They rarely have a second staff person to share the load with and yet are asked to do a wide variety of things. Some of the days just don’t have enough hours to accomplish all that is expected.

So why might someone face burnout? Sometimes it’s as simple as not having enough sleep or taking time for a sabbath rest. Sometimes it may be because you are not sure you are serving where God wants you. Or maybe you are doing things out of your gifting abilities or just doing way too much.

Are their solutions? Can we prevent burnout? Here are some things I have learned that have helped me.

One, get enough sleep. For me, I need 8 hours of sleep. That means I sometimes have to go to be earlier than I would like when I know I have early appointments.

Two, take a sabbath. Take a regular day off. Don’t plan anything else on that day. Take time to relax. Enjoy some recreation. Go on a date. Read a book just for fun.

Three, take time to reaffirm for yourself that you are serving as pastor where you should be serving. It’s good to occasionally take time with God on this question so you are serving with confidence that you are where you should be.

Four, know your gifts and abilities and evaluate if you are doing too many things that are not in your “sweet spot” of serving out of your best. Sometimes we have to do things that are not easy of comfortable for us. We just have to. And sometimes we can learn new skills. Other times we have to be honest and say “no” to certain expectations because these only drain us and tire us out. Say no where you can, delegate where you can.

We are not good at everything. And there are things we just don’t enjoy. In another church I was expected to do services at the Seniors Lodge. I always had to force myself to do it and it always turned out alright, but I am so glad that is not an expectation of me in my present church.

Just a caution: If you are getting close to burnout, ask for help. Ask for a break. Talk to an authority or to a pastor friend to find your way through.

May you find your way through, not burning out, but enjoying the journey!

Taking A Break is Not a Sign of Weakness

Being a pastor is a full time job. Sometimes it is more than a full time job. And we need to know when we need to slow down and take time for a break and to re-energize.

It’s very important to take a day off. You need one day each week at least. And you should try to be consistent about that day. Make it a day that’s away from all the activities of the church. I don’t even answer the phone on Mondays, my day off, unless absolute necessary. The answering machine can screen the calls. Take time to slow down. Read a book -that has nothing to do with work. Watch a movie. Take your wife on a date.

Sometimes it doesn’t work though. This next Monday I have to do a funeral. It’s Valentines day and I’m doing a funeral. I think my wife and I will be able to fit in an early Valentines lunch, but then it’s off to work. That happens, but then look for a way to make up that time somewhere else.

I’ve had just about every night busy along with two full Saturdays this last while. I’m hoping to find a bit of time somewhere but its hard. It’s okay if you don’t go into the office every day. Sometimes you need to take the time to care for yourself because no one else will.

So my encouragement is to respect your own needs for a little time to care for your own health and take a break when necessary.