It started with a text message but ended with me reconsidering everything I knew about life and ministry.
It was a surprising text message, but the story surrounding it is all too common. What am I talking about?
Burnout in ministry.
Pause for just a moment and consider how many pastors and leaders you know who have burned themselves out in service for Christ. Maybe you're that person.
I remember when I was a teenager considering full-time ministry. One of the pieces of advice I received was, "If you can do anything else, do that thing." At the time I didn't understand it. Ministry seemed like the only logical choice for me. Passionate for Jesus and the kingdom of God on earth, why would I want to do anything else? Everything else seemed like a waste of time.
But I can understand it now. Ministry is not a great "career move." Ministry is not lucrative. Ministry tends to be difficult on family life. While it can happen in any career choice, people in ministry have a terrible tendency to forsake all else to care for the church. That includes their health, their marriage, their kids—everything takes a back seat to the church.
If we were to stop right here, you might think I was a jaded minister, encouraging pastors to get the heck out while they can. That's not what I'm saying.
Pastors, we need you. But we need you at your best. Not just barely hanging on. Worship pastors, we need you. But we need you to thrive.
Because when you read about a notable pastor losing their health in the hustle and bustle of ministry life, you start to wonder. When you receive text messages from friends who say their pace of life and overall happiness has improved since quitting their jobs in a church, you take notice.
Is there a better way to do ministry without sacrificing your life? Because:
- You won't be effective in ministry without your health.
- You won't be effective in ministry if your spouse hates what you do.
- You won't ultimately be effective if your kids don't know who you are.
Ministry is a wonderful vocation. But don't pursue it for financial gain. Ministry is meaningful work. But don't neglect your health. Please. Ministry is a noble use of your time. But don't allow it to swallow you alive. Please. It is worth your highest attention and effort to do it the right way.
I don't assume to know all the facets of burnout. I also don't claim that pastors burn out because they don't abide by these rules. These are simply a few suggestions for making ministry more healthy and sustainable:
5 Ways to Prevent Ministry Burnout
- Start a side business. This is good on so many levels. Oftentimes, it's not healthy for the church to carry the full weight of your financial well-being. Just like successful entrepreneurs diversify their income streams, so you can develop side incomes to relieve the pressure of your work in the church. This is not only a financially smart move, it's also better for your mental health. It creates a diversion for you to utilize other parts of your brain and skills you might not use in church work. I know executive pastors who also sell real estate. Pastors who write books. Church leaders who are also carpenters who create a small income stream in their spare time. What would this make possible for you?
- Set clear boundaries. That sounds so cliche, doesn't it? But herein lies the problem. Most pastors have zero boundaries. They're always available, always "on," always working. And I get it. It's a people profession. It's challenging to leave your work at work, but I challenge you to create new boundaries for yourself. When is your weekly date night? What are your days off? (Consider taking two since your weekends are usually full). When is your family time? It's actually helpful to treat your open-ended, salary position as if you're making an hourly wage. You'll force yourself to be more productive at work and clearly disconnect when it's time.
- Focus on your physical health. Most people focus on getting healthy when they have to. A bad diagnosis. High cholesterol. The scale is breaking. Whether you're currently healthy or not, what would change if you made your health and wellness a priority? What if you treated it with the same intensity you treat your worship experiences on Sunday? Of course, you don't need to become a wellness coach, transform your Instagram account to selfie central and host webinars all over Facebook. The simple truth is this: discipline in the physical is a catalyst for discipline in every other area of life. There you have it. Willpower and focus with your health creates a ripple effect to your business, creativity, relationships and ministry. Not to mention that daily, healthy decisions create more physical energy in your life for what matters most.
- Get a coach. When you're constantly the savior of everyone else's issues, you'll eventually drown. It's not sustainable. A coach is good for your mental healthy even just for the fact that it's a safe place to vent. But a good coach will also help you discover your next steps and how to be a healthy person, not just have lead a successful ministry. You don't have to spend a ton of money on a professional coach; however, it is worth every penny. The right coach will help you achieve more ... faster, but do it in a healthy way.
- Plan your days. Most people think they have a plan for their days, but often, it's not optimized. We react instead of initiate. We drown in meaningless tasks rather than make significant progress on what is most important. For the last eight months, I have used the Full Focus Planner by Michael Hyatt. Not only has this helped me be more productive, it's helped me reflect on living a healthy life, not just career goals and success. You don't have to use this planner, but you must begin the habit of proactively planning your days. Because what you do daily is who you are becoming.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. What would you add to this list? It's time to take back our health. Maybe our most effective season of ministry is just around the corner.
More than ever, we need leaders to rise up and point us to Jesus. We need healthy leaders to lead healthy organizations that empower everyday people to step into their destiny.
Are you ready?
David Stantistevan is a worship pastor with a heart for the local church. For 11 years, he has led the worship ministry of Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, helping to develop worship leaders and teams for three campuses.
For the original article, visit davidsantistevan.com.
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