Pastor, maybe this is how your schedule looks this week...
- Wednesday: Members meeting
- Tuesday and Thursday: Afternoon counseling sessions
- Friday: Son’s basketball game
- Saturday morning: Daughter's science fair
- And, oh yeah, “Sunday’s a’ comin’”
I’m sure that as you read this list your chest tightened up a little. Don't worry! That just means that you’re still human and you’ve experienced the scary jungle of being overworked and trying to meet impossible expectations.
Here’s the kicker: for most pastors, this list represents a light week. Left out is other important stuff like Wednesday bible study, dealing with disgruntled members and tackling the financial struggles of home and church. With this much pressure, it’s no wonder many pastors are burned out and depressed. It doesn't take a set of statistics to show that while pastoring can be a joy-filled experience, it can also be one of the most challenging.
However, there is a compass to get us out of this jungle. I’m talking about something that has dramatically helped me for the last year and a half: the compass of “replenishing relationships.” Pastoring can be lonely, and it’s this loneliness and lack of relief that is literally killing many. Bitterness, anger, and feelings of failure can quietly creep in our heart.
Sadly, many pastors become deceived and began to believe these feelings are simply part and parcel of the ministry. Having an experienced pastor or mature friend outside of our church circles care for us and regularly check on our hearts keeps the “spiritual plaque” from building up.
As a young pastor, my first three and a half years were frustrating because I longed for such a replenishing relationship but couldn’t consistently find it. The pastors at my church and peer friendships that I had and have proved to be life-giving. However, a pastor also needs someone outside of the church who can help him see things from a different angle and speak from his heart without fear.
Now, I regularly talk to pastors who are in the very position I was in, and it burdens me all the more that I have found freedom and so many haven't.
So, how did I find replenishing relationships that helped me go from frustrated to free?
First, it was through prayer. My wife and I began to pray intentionally that the Lord would send replenishing relationships that would loosen me up and lighten my load. Guess what happened? God did. I became a part of a group of God-fearing men who have been meeting together for a long time. The group is made up of ministers, businessmen and missionaries who support each other. This experience has been life-giving.
In addition to this group, I also reached out to a former pastor of mine and told him that I wanted to have a regular time each week where I could talk and pray with him. After explaining to him my need and the type of questions that I wanted him to ask me weekly, he stepped up. Now, we rarely miss having a regular time of encouragement. Knowing that on Wednesday and Friday of each week I’ll have replenishing conversations has helped me to see the jungle of pastoral ministry as an adventure and not a threat.
These replenishing relationships would not have happened without prayer. When we pray we admit our weakness and inability, and we say to God, “Lord I need you. You are my only hope. You are my strength.”
God didn’t send the type of relationships and help I needed until I was desperate and sought him for it.
If you're in need of replenishing relationships, pray that the Lord would send you people with these qualities:
This person has learned to control their tongue and will not gossip to our about you.
When you leave this person’s presence you are filled with hope.
They reject being passive and confront you or bring up uncomfortable truths when necessary.
They are dependable and emotionally able to adapt as appropriate
Scripturally sound -
This doesn’t mean they are Bible scholars, but they believe in the Bible and will find biblical solutions to problems.
Second, I went from frustrated to fulfilled by protecting my scheduled times with my brothers. In the world of pastoring, unexpected things come up and we can find ourselves on a constant treadmill. That’s why it’s essential for us to schedule what’s most important and protect and prioritize our time. These relationships and times of refilling are of the utmost importance to me. I do everything in my power to not skip them. I see these two times each week as my gas station. The only times that I protect more rigorously are times with my wife, kids, and the Lord.
It’s that important.
So pastor, please pray for replenishing relationships and let these relationships into your heart when they come. This will help you to grow and protect you from getting lost in the jungle of responsibilities.
Oh yeah… about that to-do list we began with: Having faithful brothers in your life will also help you discern the best use of your time.