Less is More

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“So what is the schedule/agenda/program for the retreats at Barnabas House?”  I’m asked this question over and over in many different ways.  Every time I hear it I think, “You don’t really get it, do you?”

The issue of pastor burnout isn’t solved with more – more activities, more information, more 5 hour energy, more conferences, more ideas.  Today’s pastor has unprecedented access to information, ideas, and conferences via the Internet than any other time in history.  The pharmaceutical industry has insured that we can get by on less sleep than ever before thanks to prescription and over-the-counter stimulants that drive us ever forward.  Thanks to the pace of our culture, if the pastor isn’t at church (or at the job that actually pays the bills), the expectation to attend every sporting event and concert involving a congregant is enough to keep him or her busier than a one-armed paper hanger.  
 
The answer isn’t more.  Or perhaps it is the right more – more rest, more peace, more margin, more real relationship, more breathing.  At BHOK we make room for the right more.  There is time for solitude, free of expectations. We create opportunity for spontaneous conversation in a safe environment. Counseling is available, but not required.  Good reading material lines the walls, though one need never pick up a book.  In this place, our priority is to provide an atmosphere where the still, small voice of God can be heard.  
 
Pastors, make room for the right more.  Find a way to sometimes say no to things that are good, so that you can say yes to the things that are God.  
 
Church members, help your pastors make room for the right more.  Allow them to say no without criticism.  Build into the budget and the calendar the margin that is so integral to their service and spiritual development.  Take joy in seeing your pastor and his family rested. You’ll never regret having a well-loved leader.
 
How are you making room for the right more in your life or in your pastor’s life?

Burnout Prevention (part 1)

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This is the first of a two part article written by Angie Buchanan. Angie Buchanan serves with her husband as youth pastors of a local church.  When she isn’t ministering to teens, caring for her husband, or wrangling her three children, she uses all her abundant spare time to pursue a BA in Community Counseling.

 

 

By the grace of God, I have never intentionally punched a student. (There was that one time that a kid threw a ball at my chest and knocked the wind out of me, so my reflexes kind of… got his nose, but I don’t count that.) But I can’t say that times don’t creep up on me where I find myself talking through gritted teeth to keep from snapping. That’s when I know something is wrong.

Mostly, I’m really thankful to be in ministry. I love it. Working with kids and youth feeds my soul, and I believe with everything in me that it’s what we are called to do. But other times, I’m not thankful. I get frustrated, exhausted, and whiny. I have a big, slouchy pair of grumpy-pants that I pull out of the back of my spiritual closet to wear in these times.

Recently, I was experiencing a time in which I was finding myself wearing my grumpy-pants more and more. There is a particular demographic of students which are prone to bring that side out, and I had an abundance of interaction with several very difficult students in that age and gender range over a few months’ time. …and then it was time to go to youth camp.

Not a single part of me wanted to go to camp. Well, okay. The part of me that knows I always am blessed and thankful once camp is in session wanted to go. But that part was deep, deep down inside, and mostly, I just wanted to stay home with my own kiddos. But I did what a good youth pastor’s wife would do (or so they tell me) and I went to camp. Last year, I was sad that the coaches had a separate area from the students at our new camp. I felt like it left us out of the conversations that happen amongst the students, and affected the amount of bonding we are able to do at camp. This year, I was thankful for the new setup.

I found myself hiding in the bathroom whenever there was time, just to escape the chatter. I remember saying, “I’m too old for this. God, I don’t want to NOT do this…. I can’t imagine anything else, but this isn’t fair to the kids.” And then I saw Liz.

Liz is a pastor’s wife who has to be in her 50’s, and she is still active in girls’ ministries. Liz was at camp with a group of girls, and I know she has been doing this for way longer than I have, so I had to corner her. I pulled her aside in the commons area of our dorm late one night, when our girls were safe in the room, probably complaining about their grouchy coaches. (Well, mine, at least. Probably not Liz’s girls.)

I asked Liz what her secret was for being able to be successful in girls’ ministries for so many years. Liz laughed, and said she was probably the last person I should be talking to about this, because she has struggled with it as well. She listened to my frustrations, empathized, and then asked me how my hormones are. (A valid point. I’ve known they were out of whack for awhile. I have an upcoming appointment with my doctor to have it addressed.)

I don’t remember everything Liz said, but the conversation definitely helped my perspective. The Lord continued working on my heart, and as the week went on, I found myself enjoying my girls once again. I was back in the place of wanting to love them, and shepherd them. Liz came to me after our initial conversation and said that the Lord impressed on her heart to tell me that I needed to do something fun, just for me. Take some time away and do something I could enjoy. We had an upcoming vacation scheduled, which definitely helped.

I am now several months out of that little scare, in which I actually considered whether my foul attitude would cause my husband and I to not be able to continue in ministry much longer. In retrospect, I began thinking about how to avoid that place in the future, because I definitely don’t want to end up there again.

 

See this bush?

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We have a mole in our yard. This bush has a root problem, thanks to the mole. In addition to this bush dying because the root problem was not addressed, if we allow the dead bush to remain there, it will begin to rot, and affect the bushes around it. Don’t let your burnout get to this point. Take care of your root problem.

Maybe your burnout symptoms aren’t as prominent as mine. I will readily admit that many people are much better at being meek and spiritual… it’s very possible you found yourself cringing at my admissions. Burnout, though, doesn’t look the same on everyone.

Evaluate who you are when you are passionate about ministry, fearless and doubtless in what you’re doing, and full of love for those you are ministering to. Then evaluate what you look like when you’re not at your best. Are you moody? Resentful? Whiney about things that come up that infringe on your personal life? Be honest with yourself, and get a good picture of what you look like in your “grumpy pants” so you can be aware of times that you might need to take some measures to get out of that funk!

 

Part two of today’s post will be posted Thursday, October 3.

Make Sure You Rest

ImageEncouraging words for Pastors from Charles R. Swindoll

 

Following the sixth day of creation, the Lord God deliberately stopped working.

It wasn’t that there was nothing else He could have done. It certainly wasn’t because He was exhausted. He hadn’t run out of ideas or energy. He could easily have made more worlds, created an infinite number of other forms of life, and provided multiple millions more galaxies beyond what He did.

But He didn’t. He stopped. He spent an entire day resting. He marked off this one day as special. Like none other. If I read this correctly, it seems that He made the day on which He rested a “priority” period of time.

I’m of the belief that we’re no longer bound by the Sabbath command (Romans 14:5; Colossians 2:16). But I don’t believe we can sidestep the principle to set aside a regular time of rest.

That includes us pastors. We need to stop regularly—and not because we’re done working. If we intend to “be imitators of God,” as Ephesians 5:1 commands, we, too, will need to make rest a priority. As pastors, this includes:

  • A good night’s rest on a regular basis
  • A full day’s rest at least once a week (no, I’m not kidding)
  • Moments of rest snatched here and there during the week
  • Vacation times of rest for the refreshment and repair of both body and soul

These methods of getting rest help release us from the fierce grip of intense stress brought on by the daily grind.

I had a staff member one time in a former church who rarely took a day off. I remember driving by the church on a Monday evening, and I saw his office light on. When I got there Tuesday morning the light was still on! I marched into his office and asked, “When’s the last time you took a day off?” He seemed proud of his answer, “It’s been about three weeks.” So I said, “That’s unacceptable. You keep that up, and I’ll let you go.” You know what? Amazingly, he started taking his day off!

There is no value in not taking a day off. My former mentor, the late Dr. Howard Hendricks, had one wag tell him, “The devil never takes a holiday, so why should I?” Hendricks didn’t miss a beat and replied: “Oh really? I didn’t know he was your model.” I love it! There’s an old line that goes, “I’d rather burn out than rust out.” What kind of choice is that? Either way you’re “out”!

Let me urge you to change your routine, my friend. Blow the dust of boredom off your schedule. Shake yourself loose, and get a taste of fresh life. Need several suggestions for rest and leisure?

  • Begin jogging and/or a full-on exercise program.
  • Read some fiction for a change . . . or a great biography.
  • Get some music for your MP3 player, and lie on your back, drinking in the sounds.
  • Dig and plant a small garden, and watch God cooperate with your efforts.
  • Start watching a few sunrises and sunsets each month.

I’m not just writing about resting. In fact, I’m taking the next few weeks of vacation to practice what I preach.

-Chuck

 

Excerpt from the Pastor’s Blog, August 6, 2013