What do you do when you have reached the end of yourself?
Your to-do list has more unchecked boxes than you know what to do with, conversions are low, you’re lacking funds and the pressures of starting a church are bearing down on you.
Your plant is not where you’d like it to be, and you’ve reached the end of your own strength. When you walk into your office (if you have one) you look to your right and left for a listening ear, but all you have are more unanswered voicemails and text messages from people wanting something from you.
Pastors—and anyone serving in caregiving vocations—are the most susceptible to burnout. You often pour out your time, talents and treasures to people, without pause. It’s easy to forget that while you’re meeting the needs of everyone else, you’re included in that, too.
It’s easy to get lost in the crowd of our busyness. Here are three ways church planters can tend to their emotional and spiritual health.
1. Prioritize your walk with the Lord.
We can subconsciously fill our schedules with doing things for God, and we forget to simply enjoy being with Him. After all, outreach events, sermon prep and counseling your members won’t happen through osmosis. These take time and intentionality. But church planting is spiritual work, and how are we to advance God’s kingdom when our spirit is lacking nourishment?
If these tasks take up our time at the expense of our intimacy with Jesus, we are setting ourselves up to be a dry well attempting to offer people living water. We give to others to the degree we have received from the Lord, but it’s hard to give to others what we don’t possess ourselves.
When we neglect our own spiritual health, we can slip into a performance-based mentality that assumes it’s all up to us. We bear the weight of things we were never meant to take on, and we easily attach our acceptance from God to our performance for Him.
God does not love you for what you are doing for Him. He does not love you only when you’ve reached a certain number of members or finally have a consistent Sunday service. He loves you for who you are—His child.
Don’t neglect the rhythms and habits of grace that draw you near to the Father.
2. Incorporate regular rhythms of rest.
Jesus worked very hard. He spent His three years of personal ministry generously pouring out His life for the sake of others, and He and His disciples felt the physical, emotional and spiritual demands of life and ministry.
In His humanity, He got tired and rested (Luke 8:23). After sending out the 72 disciples, He told them to “come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while,” (Mark 6:31). Jesus was inviting them into his rhythms of ministry: working hard and resting well in the Father’s presence (Mark 1:35, 6:46; Luke 6:12-13).
Take time to regularly slow down and check your emotional and spiritual gauges. We live in a fast-paced culture that whispers to us to keep running at an unsustainable pace, and sometimes, the church is no different. Establish weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual times of rest where you can gauge how you’re doing. What’s going on in your heart? What’s a consistent emotion you’ve been feeling? What’s a sin you find yourself repenting of often? What has the Lord been teach you or impressing on your heart? Make time to slow down, pray and sleep.
One of the greatest—and most humbling— gifts God gives to us is rest (Psalm 127:2). It is here that we are most trusting of the provision and work of the Lord.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
As you gauge how you’re doing, process your thoughts with a trusted friend or counselor.
Many leaders burn out because they do not have the courage to ask for help. The stigma of weakness and discounting of our feelings keeps us from the emotional health and stunts our effectiveness in ministry.
If we lose touch with our own emotions and what it means to be human, we fail to give people what they need—a relational touch with a relational God who enters into our struggles.
Church planters may themselves using their brain to figure out how to impact the world for Christ but are ineffective in using their brains to know what is going on inside of them. Make time to feel your feelings and tell the truth to the right people.
We can’t give what we don’t have. As you are working to advance God’s kingdom and you’re taking care of everyone, remember to take care of yourself.
Listen to this podcast episode with Chip Dodd, the Founder of Sage Hill Counseling Center, as he talks about the importance of emotional health.
Published November 14, 2019