Friday, September 25, 2009

Seven Ways to Catch Your Breath

Pastor Perry Noble often has great insights for church leaders - and one of the reasons I really respect what he has to say is that the church where he is the pastor continues to see great growth (not simply "transfer" growth where already-Christians decide that NewSpring Church is bigger and better than their current church, but conversion growth, where people are making decisions for Jesus Christ for the first time).

Today Perry posted 7 ways to catch your breath, and they really hit home. I didn't just want to post a link to his list, because I know that many of you (hehehe, I just pretended that I have more than "many" readers) won't go to his post and read it. Or maybe I just project my own busy schedule on everyone else.

Anyway, here are his ways along with my commentary.

1. Rest.

This should be obvious, but it often is not. God told us to protect a Sabbath; that should be enough. But if it isn't, check out this post on the chemistry inside a pastor's body. It's a real reminder of how we physically need rest.

Besides all of this, I am reminded of the H.A.L.T. acronym: warning signs (especially pointed toward the life of addicts, but applicable to all of us) Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. To combat the "tired" part, we need rest!

2. Find a Hobby.

This gives us a chance to focus on something else for a change. Most of us don't have an "off" button, and we could spend all day every day doing church work; that's not healthy! It's one reason I run. It gives me a chance for "down" time (though some of you might not believe that running is "down" time!) and a time to just think and pray.

It's one reason I enjoy soccer so much, too. Besides loving the game, it gives me a chance to go out and live out a Christian life in front of "the world" all the while competing as hard as I can.

3. Get a Journal.

I journal off and on - sometimes I'm really good at it and other times not so great. But I've found that when I slow down enough to write, it is extremely helpful. In this world of over-disclosure, there are (believe it or not) some things that shouldn't be written in a blog or shared on facebook. One way a journal is helpful is when you are doing other things (especially spending family time), often an idea comes up... you can just write it down and be done with it.

4. Have a date night with your spouse without the telephone.

Absolutely important. Because we as (married) church leaders are married to our spouses, not to the church... the Church is called the Bride of Christ, and when we value the church above our spouses, we are committing adultery with Jesus' Christ's Bride. That's just wrong!

And you'll never find someone who, after their divorce, gladly says, "I'm so glad I was always available to everyone else but my own family" or "I'm so glad I took that phone call and ignored my family."

5. Take a season of rest every year.

This is a hard one for me to actually get done. It's hard to plan for an extended time away from the church (and it's also rather difficult to save up the money to get away for that amount of time - trust me, it's not really a complete rest when you are still in town).

But part of it (honestly) comes down to #6; I get caught up in the fact that I am the one hired and called to do such-and-such, and I have to remember that it's really God's job, not mine, that the Holy Spirit is the one who really does the work, not me.

6. Focus on God's sovereignty and not your ability.

Here is a direct quote from Perry:
"He loves the church more than you! He said that HE would build the church…which means you don’t have to. AND…if you think you are SO essential to your church that it could not survive without you for a few weeks…then you either suck as a leader OR are struggling with pride!"
That is a real wake-up call. Truth is, if it was about me, the church would (and should) close tomorrow. Or today. But it's not about me at all. And that is a great thing.

7. Have someone you can spill your guts to... other than your spouse!

Key. Absolutely key. And I would go on to say that this ideally should be someone else who understands the demands of ministry, preferably another pastor, someone in ministry who yo can be absolutely honest with.

I have struggled in ministry where I was alone - I had friends, but nobody who I could really open up and share with totally honestly. Know also that not everyone in ministry is willing to be that open and honest. I worked with other clergy who either blew off my struggles (once, when I was feeling burned out, a fellow staffer told me to basically "suck it up" and keep (over)working - that he had been doing it that way for years. Unfortunately by that time, he was pretty much "mailing it in" and the church was suffering the consequences. Another time, a fellow pastor used things I said in confidence against me - so not every pastor is the right one to be this person).

One of the real blessings about moving to New Knoxville, where I was a solo pastor was that I wasn't alone. Our county clergy met monthly for breakfast and I was invited to a Lectionary Bibly study and soon became friends with Pastor Greg Roberts (we would often stick around after Bible study to chat about what was going on).

Soon I met Pastor Dave, the "new" pastor at the UCC (the other church in NK), and we became very good friends (I honestly still consider him one of my best friends) because we would get together often to talk about ministry and our struggles, to laugh together, and (most important) to pray together.

Then I joined an accountability covenant group with five pastors - we were brutally honest with one another, and this was absolutely important to me. So when I moved, I found a similar group to meet with. These groups aren't just for programming; they are meant to spur one another on to good deeds - to Christlikeness. I wouldn't trade this for anything.

Is there anything you would add to this list? What would that be?


Todd Porter said...

Thanks for sharing this, Brian. I am just getting back in the game and I needed this.

Chad said...

all of what you said. I am one of those friends of pastors to spill guts to. I dont know why, but I have had many of my closest friends be pastors. I love them, but i also see them as pretty messed up much of the time. I dont let the role be a factor in anything we say. I love my friends who are in this role, but i often hate the role and all it comes packaged with. These people really need times to come undone and not be perfect or ideal. To be just kids in Gods kingdom. THanks for the encouraging post.