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?
Volumes have been written about work/life balance. At this point in my life and ministry, I’m not sure if such a balance is achievable. It seems to me that life comes at us in seasons. There are busy seasons filled with intentional projects and obligations. Then there are seasons with less responsibility. We’ve got to find a rhythm of life that enables us to be both effective and healthy.
As I look at my journey as a pastor, there have been seasons I didn’t manage well. The results of being overwhelmed and burned out are not pretty. Along the way, I’ve tried to learn. I’ve sought out the weathered advice of men and women I respect, those who are finishing well.
If you are in a season of feeling overwhelmed, there could be many reasons, but here are a few things to consider.
1. You are not taking sleep seriously enough.
I believe sleep is vital, not only to your physical health but also to your mental and emotional well-being. Begin to track your sleep to make sure you are getting 7-9 hours each night. If your work environment allows you, might also consider the benefits of a short power nap. Credible research demonstrates the benefits of a short nap. If you are feeling discouraged, burned-out, less creative, or irritable, it simply might be the lack of consistent sleep.
2. Your prayer life has become non-existent.
Prayer is our lifeline. It is our connection to everything our Heavenly Father provides. Without prayer, our reservoir of strength, peace, comfort, and encouragement runs dry. Maybe it’s time to go back to the basics of daily quiet time with God.
3. You haven’t learned to say no.
The most common characteristic of people-pleasing pastors is their inability to say no. You can’t be at every event, lead every meeting, or always be on call. Be prayerful and considerate, but be decisive. Have a conversation with your spouse and your key leaders about areas in which you need to say no.
4. You have no interests outside of ministry.
Ministry is consuming. It dominates our minds day and night. It feels impossible to turn off the inner dialogue about what we need to do. Here is something worth considering. What do you do outside of ministry? What are your hobbies and interests? What have you always wanted to do, but haven’t found the time? An interest apart from ministry could provide the diversion you need to be healthier and less obsessive.
5. You overestimated what you could accomplish in this season.
We’ve all done this, haven’t we? Let’s learn from our mistakes. Let’s evaluate carefully and plan more effectively.
6. You are not intentional recruiting and developing leaders.
I’ve never met a pastor who didn’t need more leaders. In fact, according to Ephesians 4:11-13 leadership development seems to be a primary part of our calling as pastors. If we aren’t intentional about recruiting, developing, and releasing leaders, we are probably taking on too many other ministry responsibilities, which leads to burnout. The challenge is that we often don’t know where to start. You might consider this leadership development process every pastor can use.
7. You need new skills.
Feeling overwhelmed might simply come down to the lack of necessary skills. Is there a process or system you need to learn? Be intentional about finding it. Let’s never stop learning from mentors, coaches, workshops, and books.
Being overwhelmed is a feeling every pastor has experienced. Take some time to evaluate and determine how you got to where you are. And I hope you get to take that well-deserved vacation.
Hi! I'm Loren Hicks. I am follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a friend, and for the past