Let me continue….
I realize all of the situations listed in my last blog are easy to fix from the side-lines. “A bit of compartmentalized thinking and good time and emotion management and you’d be sorted” you might say. But if a leader genuinely cares deeply for people, and truly wants to fulfil a divine call before God, rather than just keep the pay cheque rolling in; If a leader deeply wants to hear God’s “well done good and faithful servant” at the end of his/her days, and believes God is watching, judging, assessing his work as the bible teaches, then that too can load the role of church Pastor with a level of inescapable pressure. A Pastor is not selling “widgets” – this is not a factory producing a commodity, but a calling regarding the grandest theme in history! And if we actually “Care” – which we MUST dear leader – then that makes this emotionally complex.
Pastoring is a role seeking to change the very soul of society by a move of God’s gospel and grace! This is the single greatest cause the universe can embrace! That all makes this loaded with emotional and eternal weight.
But let’s remember Jesus said “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matt 11:28-20.
Surely this means there are some betters ways to do ministry than to be caught in the tiresome emotional complexity of Pastoring? And let’s be honest, the complexity can be self inflicted – it is often how we approach the unusual pressures of Pastoring that adds to our load.
Here’s a few quick tips on beating the emotional complexity of Pastoral Leadership:
Manage Yourself. Self awareness, time management and energy management all become paramount in a job where you are usually given no specific job description, exact hours or shape of a working week. In all honesty, no-one is usually checking your working practices or work load and you have no human resources department caring for you! You must take control, understand yourself, plan replenishment and refreshing. As I plan my year I look for things that I know are tiring, and balance them out with times of refreshing before and after. I have also learned not to compare my energy levels to others, as we are all wired differently. Take control of your diary and plan well. This has taken me years, burnouts and depression to learn! Please learn quicker than me!
Lean on team. Especially if your church is beginning to exceed 100 members, others must carry the Pastoral weight with you, otherwise you become the meeting point of everyone’s angst, pain and problems, which is never good (Exodus 18:17+). This is very emotionally discouraging and probably the exact same dynamic that leads to Doctors being the highest of any career suicide rate. Make your home group leaders function as pastors too, or appoint some experienced retired former ministers to help you pastor. Share it or it will wear you out!
Be yourself! If you’re an introvert, be an outstanding introverted leader. Replenish privately, and be aware you may not have the energy of an extrovert for large groups. Don’t try to become what you are not. You have to be emotionally available as a Pastor, but not all the time, and not to everyone. And you also have to believe that you are exactly what God wants in the situation He has placed you.
Work Hard, Play Hard. Take holidays. Turn off your mobile phone regularly. Guard family time by putting it in your diary and counting it as “busy” when someone asks you if you’re free. Drop the guilt over caring for your family first. If your family is not “in order” you cannot be an effective minister (1 Tim 3:5).
Give Time to Pray. One of the great aspects of Pastoral leadership, is that you are paid to pray! Yet I find many feel guilty over this and never book it in! I give two days a week to prayer and preparation and I have to say, it is the one thing that keeps me sane! I guard these days passionately, because if I do not get time with God, time to study, time to prepare my messages, time to listen and time to reflect, strategize, pray and plan, I become weak. Pastor, you are privileged to be paid to pray – do it!
Have a Sabbatical policy. All great churches have a sabbatical policy. Every 7 years of leading a congregation of 100 or more, you need 1-3 months off to pray, replenish, travel or just rest. This makes up for the fact that many churches expect you to work the long hours of a businessman, but pay a lot less, giving you a lot less funding for replenishment and recreation. Life is like a see-saw, if the pressure of work is heavy, then you need to take replenishment and refreshing seriously too. So make sure you have a sabbatical policy at your church.
While Pastoring a church is complex emotionally, it is also the greatest role on the planet. The Church carries the only message that can heal humanity, forgive sins, lift others from sorrow and propel people into divine purpose. So Pastor, look after yourself! Your church carries the hopes of transformation for your village, town, city, region and perhaps nation. So learn to lead yourself well. To overcome the emotional complexities of church leadership. To replenish, renew, disentangle and refresh your soul so you can bravely lead God’s people, by a work of His grace in you, to new adventures and new horizons in Him!