In the spirit of things I’ve learned over the last ten years of ministry, I had a pastor friend today ask me a tough question. His timing was impecable. I will paraphrase his question. It was something like, “Do you feel called or is it simply a job?” Honestly it caught me off guard and at the same time it felt as if I received a good ol’ fashion well needed thumping on the head. I think every pastor at one time or another in their ministry has wavered between feeling called and feeling like they’re in a job collecting a check. Honesty? I’ve felt those feelings from time to time. As we talked one of the words that jumped out at me was the word barrier. After we finished our conversation I left wondering what the barriers to my call were as a pastor. The temptation is to allow these barriers to interfere with ones calling.
What are those barriers? The number one barrier I know that always seems to pounce on me when I’m feeling like I’ve lost sight of the call is the way I manage stress. Why do pastors leave the ministry? It’s because they don’t know how to manage stress. When someone is unable to manage stress especially in the midst of balancing the world of church life, the result is a pastor that is exhausted and who has forgotten why it is that God called them in the first place.
One of the ways I cope and I can’t imagine I’m alone is when it comes to how I use food as a means to relieve stress. I love eating. There was a day I could eat anything and now I just can’t eat what I want to eat anymore. When I leave from a long day at church or if I’ve come out of a situation where I needed to manage a conflictual situation my first thought is “Where’s the nearest candy bar or bag of Cheetos?” One of the ways I’ve been able to manage the exhaustion and stress is by unplugging. I’m an extrovert and when my extrovert is exhausted the introvert in me needs a nap. Sleeping is the best stress reliever. I also have a couple of confidants that I talk to and look to when I need to vent or have someone help me process what’s going on in the moment. These friends know my jobs better than I do sometimes. They know the players, they’ve heard the issues, and they are the ones that usually help me figure out loud, a game plan for confronting whatever it is that I’m going through. Finally, I’ve had to face head on those moments in my schedule where exercise and eating right have to be a must in order to maintain my sanity. Again, I must admit scheduling these moments in my day are hard to do, but when I’m exercising it’s when I’m doing my best and it’s where I’m seeing God work in my life. The best solution in dealing with stress as a pastor?
Is to pray and to rest.
The Message (MSG)
28-30 “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.”
More to come.