There is a moment that every pastor knows well, but many Christians might find surprising.
It is Sunday morning and you will preach or lead worship in less than hour. You feel into your pocket and feel your keys and think, “What if I left right now?”
The same thing happens to men and women at work everyday. It isn’t that you are unprepared or don’t love your job, it is just that you don’t feel like you have anything left to give.
For pastors, they are prepped, ready to preach, they are just running on fumes and don’t have the stamina for what lays ahead.
I recently talked with a student pastor who told me, “I’m just not sure I have anything left to give. I love my church and my students, but I’m beat.”
If it hasn’t happened to you yet as a pastor, that only means you are new to ministry.
When it does, here are 6 things to get out of this funk, but also to protect yourself from it:
- Get a good night sleep. The stats on how poorly Americans sleep and how many sleeping pills they take are staggering. It seems like no one gets a good night sleep anymore. Get to bed early on a Saturday night and strive to get into bed by 10pm every night. Yes, it is hard to get a good night sleep when you have kids, but you can try. Don’t drink caffeine late in the day. For me, I stop drinking caffeine at 2pm. It keeps me up. Same with sugar from chocolate or ice cream. Your body may not react like mine, but if it does, cut back.
- Eat better. Most pastors do not eat well and are paying the price for it in ministry. They fill up on fast food, energy drinks, carbs and then lack the motivation and energy. On Sunday morning, eat tons of protein. By the time I preach, I have consumed over 50g of protein. If I don’t, I will be too tired to do anything else the rest of the day.
- Let go of hurts. One of the main reasons pastors burn out is not the physical strain of working, but the emotional side of ministry. Walking with people through their hurts, counseling, being stabbed in the back by a friend, church discipline situations. All of these stack up and unless a pastor lets go of them, they will pile up and he will eventually explode. You must have a system for how you give those things up to God and let him carry those burdens.
- Have some friends. Pastors seem to be bad at friendships. We don’t know what to talk about if we aren’t talking about church. We struggle to have hobbies outside of church and our only friends go to our church. Get some friends that are other pastors, people in your neighborhood who don’t expect you to be perfect. There are times that I have dinner with someone from church and tell them, “When you come over, we aren’t talking about church or ministry. If you can’t do that, we can’t hang out tonight.” If you aren’t careful, ministry can become all encompassing and take over your life. You have to turn it off and let your day end at some point.
- Preach less. Decide how many weeks in a row you can preach without feeling too tired and preach that. For me, I get crispy after 10 weeks in a row. You may be able to go longer and that’s great. For longevity, I strive to never preach more than 10 weeks in a row. I take 3-4 weeks off in a row each summer to rest.
- Have a recovery plan. Sunday after preaching, you might take a nap, have dinner with friend, workout, do yoga, take a hike, read a novel or play with your kids. Whatever will fill you back up after preaching, do that. Preaching is hard work, it is a war for the souls of people. It will take everything out of you.