At some point in life, ministry and leadership you will be hurt. Someone will do something to you, say something to you, about you and it will hurt. While many leaders burn out because they don’t handle physical boundaries well and rest, many more burn out because they don’t let go of ministry hurts.
Here are some hurts pastors deal with:
- Being stabbed in the back by someone.
- Being talked about by someone.
- Angry emails about preaching or ministries.
- An associate pastor leaving to plant a church without the blessing of the church.
- Counseling sessions that end with people fighting, not taking advice.
- Too many funerals or tragedies in the church.
When we started Revolution, I took everything personally. I still feel very personally invested in Revolution Church, but I don’t take things as personally as I did before. I’ve heard everything about our church: “we don’t use enough Bible, we use too much Bible, I love that you don’t have a women’s ministry, I hate that you don’t have a women’s ministry, why won’t you fund my personal pet project, my last church did __________, I’m going to leave and plant my own church as this doesn’t look that hard, God doesn’t want Revolution Church to exist.”
I remember a season where it seemed like I had a conversation each week that sent me over the edge. I was stressed out, not sleeping well, we were losing leaders, and the church wasn’t growing at the rate I had hoped. I was miserable. I took it out on those closest to me, I didn’t serve Revolution well and in the end, wore myself out.
Through that, here are a couple of ways to separate yourself from that hurtful email, conversation, leader leaving or counseling session not going well:
- Exercise. One of the best ways to deal with stress is exercise. After a long day or meeting, an hour of Crossfit is just what I need. My headphones blasting, just me and some weights. Perfect. Maybe you like to run or bike or take a walk. Do it.
- Take a nap. Go to sleep. You will make a better decision after sleeping any way. If you are tired and try to make a decision, it will more than likely be the wrong one.
- Write an email and delete it. If you are really angry, respond to that person who hurt you and then delete the email. Then, repent to Jesus for what you said as there was some truth in it and some sin. Sometimes it helps to write out what you are thinking and then let it go.
- Have times when you are unreachable. Turn your phone off, don’t read your email or look at social media. I do this on the weekend’s, vacations, etc. You have to have times that you are unreachable. As a caveat, have one person on your staff that can reach you if there is an emergency.
- Signal the end of the day or season. For me, turning my computer off, going to the gym signal the end of thinking about church and ministry. It is how I let go. I avoid evening commitments outside of my MC at all costs for this reason. I do pre-marital counseling during the day now. It is hard for me to relax if I have something in the evening going on. Is this harder for some people? Yes. In the end though, it serves my church and my family better than having evening commitments.
- Have a breaker that is not your wife. When we started Revolution, I would unload onto Katie every stressful meeting or conversation or email. That wasn’t fair at all. After I unloaded it onto her, I would feel great. The problem was she had nowhere to go with it. I moved on and she still felt the affects. Now, I have some other guys who are my breakers. When I’m angry, need some truth spoken to me, I talk with them. Katie is often my 2nd or 3rd conversation and by that time, my anger has waned, my crazy notions of retribution are gone and I can talk in a more civilized manner.
- Don’t share everything with your wife. I used to do this but now see the wisdom in keeping some things about the church from her. This doesn’t mean I hide things from Katie but she doesn’t get paid by the church and she doesn’t need to know everything that is going on there or everyone that is mad at me or creating frustrations for me or the staff. I want her to be able to show up at church and talk to people without thinking, “This person just sent a mean email to my husband.”
- Have people you have fun with. If you don’t fun, you live a sad life. Many pastors I know live a sad life. They have no hobbies and no friends they have fun with. Have people you watch sports with, play games with, go to concerts, movies or art shows with.
- Read something that isn’t ministry or sermon focused. I’ve talked about this before, but one of the best ways I let go of a stressful season in ministry is a read book about spies or assassins. Something totally unrelated to ministry, that takes my brain off church mode and allows me to rest it. Try it some time.
What would you add? How do you let go of stress and hard seasons in ministry?