During this challenging season of pandemic and lockdowns I’ve had conversations with hundreds of pastors.
Some of them are trying to keep churches afloat that were already in trouble before the pandemic hit. Others are seeing their congregation respond well during this season – so well that the church is actually getting stronger spiritually, financially, relationally and missionally.
But the one thing all these churches have in common is this – all the pastors and staff members have been working harder than ever before.
And this leads to an interesting paradox. In some situations, the pastors of unhealthy churches may be taking better care of their own spiritual, emotional, physical and relational health than the pastors of strong, healthy churches.
A Season Of Stress
Like everyone else, pastors are in a season of high stress.
When your stress is caused by dealing with crises in an unhealthy church, you tend to see it as the problem it is, so you’re more likely to practice the habits of healthfulness that your body, mind and spirit require.
But when you’re in a church that is responding well, maybe be even getting stronger during this season, it’s likely that you’re under as much stress as your friends in unhealthy churches, but you may not recognize it.
The Often-Unseen Challenge Of Leading A Healthy Church
This may be the biggest danger for pastors of healthy churches during a season of crisis and recovery.
It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re not stressed when your hard work is paying off. But your body doesn’t know the difference between good stress and bad stress.
This often leads to burnout, depression, sinful habits and other dangerous responses that we may not see coming.
After all, how can a pastor be stressed out if the church is responding well, getting stronger and maybe even growing?
The stress that happens with overwork, lack of sleep, bad eating habits and constantly being “on” is no different when the church is doing well than when the church is doing badly. Your body and mind feel each one in exactly the same way.
How To Respond
To a tired, overworked body, all stress is the same.
The good news is, the method of recovery is the same.
Whether your church is doing well or doing poorly, you need to slow down.
This is a marathon. Even as the pandemic lockdowns start to lift, the long-term challenges are not even close to being over yet. We have years of fallout and recovery ahead of us.
What a shame it would be for your church to survive or even thrive during this season only, for you to burn out while leading it.
Too many pastors of good churches are burning out without ever seeing it coming.
Take care of your heart, body, spirit and relationships.
- Slow down
- Eat well
- Get away
- Take sabbath rest seriously
- Talk with someone you can trust
- Let Jesus refresh you
Your health is as important as your church’s health.
Don’t neglect one for the other.