“My husband and I could really use prayer for strength. We are just running on empty and with one thing after another it’s hard to find a second to catch our breath and rest. I’m not sure how pastors manage to get sabbaticals but boy could we sure use one!”
“We are running on empty.”
“To catch our breath and rest.”
These statements are sure a load-full.
Ah, the pastoral ministry. It sure can be a hurricane in our life at times.
Just when you think you can finally lay your head down to rest for the night, your phone rings.
Just when you thought you could cuddle with your wife and kids on the couch for the night, your messenger notification goes off like crazy.
Just when you want to enjoy that sumptuous dinner lovingly prepared by your wife, there’s an incessant knock on your door.
So you put your phone on silent mode, just until morning.
So you cuddle the kids for a minute and make another promise.
So you gulp on that tablespoonful of food with a quick nod of approval to your wife and head out to the living room to face your visitor.
Someone has got to remind you that you are no superhuman. You are a man with very human limits to strength and stamina. And you have to take a break!
Me? Take a break?
What is it about pastors and ministers not wanting to take a break? If you don’t think it’s important. Take a look at these statistics.
“60% of Pastors feel they don’t have anyone in their lives that they can talk honestly about their job. Another 70% do not have close friends and mentors.”[i] Tony Stoltzfuz
Here is another study[ii].
In mission-speak this is called attrition – when strength or effectiveness of a worker is reduced because of external attack or pressure. [iii]
In my 45+ years around pastors, wives and their children, it can be quite easy to spot a worn-down pastor. While he would often put on a brave face, his body will betray him and cry out for rescue…to the rescue that may never come. At least not from others. So there you have it. It’s all in your hands.
The rescue, you’d be surprised, is fairly easy. It’s within your reach. It’s at your fingertips. You just don’t use it.
How do you get there?
PAUSE AND BREATHE
And I literally mean “pause and breathe.” Stop, drop what you are doing and breath in-breath out. Come on now. Do it. You can do this.
It may sound silly, the simple pause and breathe will do wonders to your body and soul. Perhaps for the longest time, speed and busyness have been your buddies and so you are not familiar with pause and breathe. You and I are in the business of people – serving, ministering to people who at many times are hurting or lost in themselves. You can’t be a robot to minister to people. You have to be a person too!!!
I also know that you advise people a lot to “pause and reflect.” Practice what you preach.
TAKE YOUR SABBATH SERIOUSLY
And because of all the busyness, we forget the Sabbath. Oh maybe we don’t forget the Sabbath, we just ignore it!
“Sabbath is that day in which all other days have no claim…This is the one day that we can hold aloof from all the other days.”[iv]
We are given six days to do what needs to be done. We can even immerse in all the “urgent and necessary”, but Sabbath is the one day to “cease from that which is necessary…and to embrace that which gives life.”[v]
I’m sure you are familiar with the app Waze or Google maps. I use this often to find the fastest route with the least traffic congestion. Once a route is established, I will scroll away from my location, to see and anticipate the roads I am directed to take. Whenever I do this, a “re-center” button will appear. I can just press it and it will take me back to my current location on the map. We will indeed go many ways away from our current point. It may not necessarily be straying away, it may even be the right direction but the problem is we are going ahead of God.
Sabbath is re-centering, getting back to where we should actually be at the moment because that is where God wants us to be.
GET INTO A SUPPORT GROUP
As ministers, we are probably the number one advocates of small groups, support groups and even counseling for members of the church we serve in. We encourage them to get into a community of support. We know how important it is for every growing Christian to belong to a smaller community to journey with, to be held accountable to and to serve in.
We teach it.
We preach it.
We push for it.
This is something that everyone in the church will benefit from. Everyone, except the pastor?
As much as we preach it and teach it and push it, how come we don’t apply it to ourselves? It is very seldom that the pastor will also plug himself into a small group, much less a support group, right? We have all the excuses – we are busy, we need to prepare for next week’s sermon, we need to attend to the prayer meeting, we need to visit a sick member, we need to attend a conference, we need to attend the elder’s meeting, we need to finish the reports… and the list could go on and on and on.
Because the same thing you push your members to have is the same thing you also need.
Why does a pastor need a support group?
No man is an island. And pastors are no exception.
We are all made for relationship and for community.
Life in itself is already hard to go through all by oneself, let alone the pastoral ministry. Sure, you have your wife and God bless her, she has heard all your cries and frustrations. But there are things only other men can truly relate to and understand.
I realize that one of the reasons why pastors shy away from the idea of being in a support group may be because of some unpleasant memories. Maybe he tried it in the past, and it backfired. He ended up being ostracized, left-out, gossiped about or maybe he simply didn’t fit in.
Maybe you just need to
While we may want to forge friendships within the church, and that is well and good, it is never advisable to have your deep friendships come from there.
My husband, Jason recently published a book called MAN UP: 21 Lessons on Manhood. The response we are seeing and hearing confirms that men, whether they are in a secular career or in the pastorate, are crying for a pause from the busyness of life, desire that rest only God can give and yearn for accountability and support.
Go ahead. Take a break.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donna Tan, from the Philippines, is a pastor’s wife, a pastor’s kid, a counselor, professional editor (for both academic and popular writing), resource speaker, writer, and blogger. Her passion is to minister to women (pastor’s wives in particular), couples and families. Donna’s ministry experiences span ages and cultures; having led youth and women ministries in the Philippines, as well as women ministries in the US (as a leader with Trinity Wives Fellowship from 2010-2012, in Deerfield, IL).
Donna is married to Dr. Jason Richard Tan (Ph.D.), and they have two children – Joshua (16) and Elisha (11). They have been married for 18 years. Jason and Donna are missionaries under GlobalGrace Fellowship (based in Pasadena, CA) serving the Philippines and Asia. She is the Admin Director of Great Commission Missionary Training Center. You can connect with Donna through her blog TonesOfHope.blogspot.com.