Recently, I experienced a time of internal and ministerial pressure. I was dwelling on church finances, an imminent church renovation project, on-going ministry and study requirements, along with trying to work through some important family decisions. The stress and frustration that I experienced revealed several pressure points—attitude, energy, and family. The pressure affected my attitude. I tended to be short and snappy, easily irritated. The pressure affected my energy. I didn’t sleep as well because my mind rarely slowed down. The pressure affected my family. I wasn’t at my best at home because I was constantly focused these pressures.
Dr. Chuck Lawless recently wrote an article, “Six Tough Things that Might be on Your Pastor’s Mind Today.” He is exactly right. Pastors think about ministry, people going through difficulties, preaching, and leadership issues all the time. His observations mirrored my experience of internal pressures.
Now, my church does not put undue stress on me. They give me flexibility, and our church is full of gifted members who do a great many things that alleviate pressure on me and our staff. Nevertheless, I felt weighted and burdened, and I allowed it to affect my relationships with my family.
So I called a friend, told him what was going on, and asked his advice. He suggested things I already knew to do, but hearing them from someone objective and outside the situation really helped. Let me offer these suggestions that helped me.
Be attentive to your devotional life.
My friend asked me first of all how my prayer life was. While I had been praying, it was too often focused on me and my stuff and not on what was most important to the Father. Devotional attentiveness can help us reset our focus on what we are responsible for—our relationship with God—and lead us to depend on the Father for what he’s responsible for—everything else.
Have an outlet.
Outlets for relieving stress can include exercise, playing with your children, or a hobby. When I intentionally engage in an outlet, I find it easier to think clearly and act patiently.
Delegate and depend on others.
Part of a leader’s nature and calling is to be in charge and to carry burdens and challenges. Unhealthy pressure is created when a leader tries to control everything. It is necessary to delegate tasks and learn to depend on others. Others can help relieve much of the ministry pressure we carry.
Confide in a few and be authentic to all.
It is unwise to share every struggle with everyone under your ministry. But we do need to have a few friends we can confide our struggles to. My friend’s advice was comforting and encouraging. We also should be authentic and real to those in our churches. When we honestly share that we are struggling (not necessarily details, but honesty) we empower people to offer help and pray.
One of my mentors used to say “Divert daily, withdraw weekly, abandon annually.” It is necessary and healthy to create breaks and holidays from the consistent pressures of ministry. Maybe for you it’s a walk in the woods or it might need to be a vacation. Getting away for a spiritual, personal, or family retreat can be of great benefit.
Remember: pressure will always be there. Mine hasn’t gone away, but I’m glad for these suggestions that I can reflect back on and apply more regularly. I’m also deeply grateful for friends who can speak godly advice into my life.
What has helped you deal with the pressures of ministry?