Although we all are hopeful that COVID’s grip will soon loosen, our next season of ministry will be full of new challenges and opportunities. Will you have enough gas left in your tank when God answers your prayers for people to return on campus and on mission? If you are still running in a ministry sprint mode that started last spring, NOW is a great time to change your pace before you hit the wall.
It is tempting to think 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 four ways you can fight fatigue.
1. Put your “no” on the table.
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.
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.
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 (Ephesians 4:22). Pastors and ministry leaders would do well to remember that self-care is not selfish; it is strategic.
2. Don’t blow off boundaries.
Make sure your calendar reflects your convictions, then communicate your work-life flow to your family, leaders, and members.
When history’s first pastors neglected the priorities of prayer and the ministry of the Word, they stopped growing, as did their church (Acts 6). This experience helped them become the equippers they were called to be.
Healthy churches are led by healthy pastors who have learned how to live with clear boundaries, and at a sustainable pace.
3. Make margin; don’t wait for it.
When pastors tell me how overwhelmed they are, it does not take long to diagnose their dilemma: they stopped stopping.
God modeled and commanded Sabbath for us, which simply means “to stop.” We need to create margin every single day so we can sleep well and create margin every week so we can recharge well.
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 and ministry context. While all pastors believe in the idea of Sabbath, the practice often eludes us because we think we don’t need it or have time. 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 churchaholic tendencies, so choose carefully who speaks into your life the most.
4. Take a vacation with your family.
We recharge with our families as we are willing to create boundaries that protect our time with them. Some of you may be waiting for a more convenient time to connect with your family and disconnect with your ministry, but waiting for perfect conditions will only lead to imperfect excuses.
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 and go be a hero at home.
Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. - Galatians 6:9