An early warning can save a life. I live and pastor in Los Angeles, California. Here in SoCal, we are no strangers to earthquakes. This past week marked the 25th anniversary of the Northridge earthquake. The 6.7 magnitude quake killed 57 people and injured more than 8,700. There was no warning. At 4:30 AM, most people were asleep.
On January 2nd of this year, an early detection app was launched to give people up to 10 seconds to prepare for an earthquake. ShakeAlertLA will work with the US Geological Survey to help people on the West Coast be ready for the worst.
I’m grateful for the early warning of an earthquake, but there is another type of shaking we can experience. It is the “quake” of burnout.
I previously wrote a post called, Resources for Pastors Struggling with Burnout, but lately, I have been thinking about the indicators, the dash lights, and the warning signs that a pastor is facing burnout. What if you could do a prayerful evaluation and detect the early warning signs that you are not taking care of yourself?
It is inevitable. When you step out in obedience to God, you will face criticism. I suppose that if Jesus was criticized in his ministry, we should expect to receive it too.
I’m now in my 25th year of pastoral ministry, and several painful conversations are seared into my mind. When I reflect I can still feel the sting of criticism and harsh words that were spoken. Critics have challenged me over my leadership, hiring and firing decisions, my sermons, and even how we have cared for the poor.
I can still hear the words of a pastor who told me when we were moving to Los Angeles for ministry, “you are making the biggest mistake of your life.” The words hurt, especially coming from a friend, but we knew we were obeying God.
There is a difference between “constructive criticism” and “attack criticism.”
I believe the old adage is true: "leaders are readers." Well, they are least learners. We all consume content differently, but books continue to my primary source of information. Reading is a part of my daily life and I consume on average 24 books per year. I enjoy reading widely and include history, business, biography, finance, and political science to my ministry reading.
As for the Bible, I read the One-Year Bible and each year I choose a different translation. I read very little fiction, but do enjoy some John Grisham and Robert Dugoni while on vacation.
Here is a list of books I plan to read this year. Some are new, some are older, and some are repeats.
65% of church volunteers haven’t heard the words “thank you” in the past 12 months. Can this be true? I’ve seen the statement on several websites, but I can’t find the study that produced this statement.
While I can’t verify it’s accuracy, it did make me think about how valuable our volunteers are, and how critical it is for pastors to show appreciation.
As we come to the end of this calendar year, it’s a great time to say thank you to our wonderful teams. These dedicated volunteers make ministry happen week in and week out. Imagine what you would do without them!
Here is a list of 21 ideas for showing much-needed appreciation to your volunteers.
Vacation was approaching. It was only two weeks away. I couldn’t wait. I also couldn’t focus. I had that vacation feeling. Do you know what I mean?
I could not wait to lay down the pressures of ministry and just rest. The plans to check-out were set. Email “out of the office” auto-responder, a voicemail message informing people to call another staff member, and deleting social media apps from my phone was all about to happen.
It was almost time, and I was getting away from it all.
The vacation was much needed. The family time was memorable. The late mornings and the naps were refreshing. I was grateful for a church that allowed me the time off and some capable leaders who could handle things in my absence.
But I came home with one question on my mind. How had I become so depleted?
“Stretch out your left arm. Make a fist. Hold still while I insert the needle.” The nurse filled two vials with my blood and said the doctor would contact me in two days and give me the test results. Just the other day I had my annual physical exam. Before the blood test I had already completed a two-page questionnaire, answered a battery of questions in the examination room, but now it was time to look deeper. The blood test revealed what could not be seen on the outside. A more in-depth look was necessary.
As pastors we look good on the outside, we sound fine, and are faithfully performing our ministry responsibilities, but I wonder if it might be time for a deeper look.
I remember growing up in church and singing the old hymn, "Count your Blessings." It's been years since I've heard this song in church, but as we gather with family and friends to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, perhaps it's time to dust of the lyrics. If you are not familiar with the song, here is the first verse:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Written in 1897, Johnson Oatman reminded us not to forget what God has already done in our lives. If you are a future-oriented person like me, it's easy to forget past blessings.
I've had my share of pain.
More than some, not as much as others, but I've had my share.
I've had seasons of discouragement and times when I wanted to quit. Like you, I have faced unrealistic expectations, unfair criticism, and unresolved conflict.
I'm grateful to be in a healthy season of life and ministry, but I've been reflecting this week on ministry pain and how pastors can navigate these difficult times.
Pastors are people too, and like most of humanity, it's hard to let go of emotional pain. We forgive and move on, but certain triggers bring the pain back up again. I've learned forgiveness is not a one-time event. It's an ongoing process.
By now most of you have heard the news of the tragic suicide of Pastor Andrew Stoecklein in California. We pray for God's comfort and peace to be upon his dear family and congregation.
I started my blog and FB group in an effort to encourage pastors to be healthy. Not just healthy in body, but also in mind, emotion, and spirit. The untimely death of this pastor reminds us all of the importance of mental and emotional health, the difficulty of our task, and the reality of spiritual warfare.
We were walking around Home Depot. It was yet another trip across town to pick up supplies for the church remodeling project. I had been there so many times over the past month, it was starting to feel like a second home. I looked at my wife and said, “I think I would be happy working here.”
Most pastors have had those moments where the stress of ministry has caused them to dream of doing something else. If you are like me, you have even written out your resignation letter a few times.
Hi! I'm Loren Hicks. I am follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a friend, and for the past