by Aaron Buer
Last week was one of the most unexpected weeks I’ve experienced as a pastor. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, our governor banned gatherings over 250 people. That means none of our campuses can gather in person. If your church isn’t yet in the same situation, you likely will be soon.
This post isn’t about whether churches should be closed or what I think about the virus. This post is about how to build a church community if and when you have to shut down weekend services.
Here are three strategies that we are pursuing as a church.
Connect Through Social Media
In Michigan, we are shut down. Public schools are closed for four weeks and restaurants are closed except for takeout and drive-through. Basically, the only places open are essential manufacturing and grocery stores. We are being directed to stay home.
In the midst of this, people are hungry for connection. Someone I recently talked with told me he was out driving around just to see other people in cars and feel a bit of connection.
People are lonely!
In light of this, one of the strategies we are pursuing is connecting through social media. As a staff, we have committed to posting one video per day, sharing a short message of encouragement, praying, and highlighting a specific need in our community.
Here’s what we are trying to accomplish through our social media presence:
Live Stream Your Sermon.
If you don’t usually live stream your church service or record it, you may find this idea to be intimidating. It isn’t as hard as you think and in this season, you need to do it!
If you’ve already canceled weekend services, your people need to stay connected, be encouraged, and hear the Scriptures taught. If your weekend services aren’t already canceled, it’s likely they will be soon.
If you’ve never live streamed before, here’s a few things to help you get started:
To help you get started, here are step-by-step directions on how to live stream to Facebook Live from a smartphone. It’s truly not as hard as you think and if you feel intimidated by the process, ask someone from your church who is tech-savvy or another local church that is already live streaming to help you. Trust me, you’ll learn fast and it will help keep your people connected as a church.
Digital Small Groups
The last strategy that we are pursuing is encouraging our small groups to continue meeting. Our church community is built on small groups and it’s important for people to stay connected, encouraged, and accountable during this season. Meeting together digitally is not difficult.
An excellent tool for this is Zoom. All you need is a free Zoom account and the Zoom app on your mobile device or computer. With a free Zoom account, you can meet together in groups of up to 100 people for up to 40 minutes. The Breeze staff, which is scattered all over the country, uses Zoom every week. It’s incredibly easy to set up and works great!
Consider experimenting with Zoom as a staff and then sending out an email to your congregation with instructions on how to download, set up, and use Zoom. Also, if your church is smaller, Zoom could be a great way to broadcast your service or sermon. Helping people stay connected could be a tremendous gift in this season.
While we can’t meet in person, these three strategies are helping our church continue to build community and stay connected. It’s important for us to remember the Church isn’t a building. It’s people.
by Nora Ross
Since the early church, people have had disagreements, which caused them to separate. Paul and Barnabas worked together to bring the message of the Gospel to many. They decided to return to areas that had been very successful. Barnabas wanted Mark to accompany them and Paul disagreed. There was such disagreement Paul and Barnabas separated. Paul took Silas and Barnabas took John Mark. As a result of this separation, the Gospel was spread to a greater area and number of people.
This passage may sound familiar to you. You may know it from the personal experience of people leaving your church or ministry. People you have worked with for years have left. Maybe, they were there to move you into your home or parsonage when you arrived. Your families have grown together. You are there for them during their triumphs and losses. They are there for you in the good and the bad. You consider them your best friends. You wonder if Barnabas and Paul had this type of relationship. When your friends and partners in ministry leave, it hurts. There have been some who have left without even saying goodbye. There are others you wish would have only said, “Goodbye.” It seems Paul and Barnabas parted on terms that helped them both to succeed in ministry. Paul even seems to have forgiven Mark and speaks favorably of both in his later writings.
There was a time when a family member did something that made the local news. As my husband tried to read the prepared statement, the church wept with us. They followed the request not to discuss the situation. Many of them asked how they could help. When they asked to bring meals and we refused, they delivered them anyway. The newspaper printed our address and people attacked our home. It was only pellet guns; but it was frightening. People from our church offered to come and sit on our porch and protect us. No one left the church as a result of that situation. However, we have had people leave over misunderstood statements and gossip. It seems gossip leads to feelings of entitlement. Everything we know as a Christian is thrown out with the hurt feelings and the need to confide in others. We spiral into a frenzy that becomes difficult to overcome. As pastors and leaders, we need to be careful not to partake in the “prayer request” mentality that says I can talk about this to this person and this person and that person whether they are a part of the problem, or a part of the solution. We are the leaders and should lead by example. We need to question our motives as we share information and listen to information. As we receive and give information, we need to think about whether we would want a member of our congregation hearing or saying this. If it is not appropriate for them, it is not appropriate for us.
A lead pastor once told us that people are as loyal as the last thing you did for them. If we had lived by that choice nugget of pastoral wisdom, we would no longer be in ministry. We would have burned out trying to keep everyone loyal; or, we would have become bitter because we felt we had to give to keep people loyal to us. We minister as God leads us, not with the thoughts of who will leave next, or wondering how long someone will stay. As we live righteously with servants’ hearts, God will provide for us and for those who leave, just as He did for Paul and Barnabas.
by Anna Maschmeyer
A ministry family seems to either exist in the assurance of their mission and longevity of their position or in a state of uncertainty and desire for transition. My ministry family recently took a leap and moved to a new church and city across the state. Transition means many things in the ministry, but for me it meant an opportunity to move in faith into untried territory.
For years I served the church as pastor and volunteer and taught full-time in a public high school. It was the most rewarding and exhausting life. The students are apathetic, curriculum is challenging to implement, assessments are labor intensive, actual learning is complex to assess, and federal and administrative regulation is exhausting. I loved teaching, but the all-encompassing nature of my pastor life and my teacher life took everything out of me.
Roughly three years ago, I began to pray for a better way to do life. I wanted to devote more time to our family and serve the church in a healthier capacity. Our family deserved more of me than it was getting. I intensely wanted to reserve the best of me for my girls, husband, and church. As I sought the Lord for a way to accomplish this, two things became clear. First, God spoke deeply into my heart that my calling was not about my career, but about being more like Him. I had preached this for years. Yet suddenly, it wasn’t just something to say. Jesus did not need my effort at school, my worries over the job, my time preparing lessons and grading; He needed my heart. My job was distracting me from giving Him my full attention. I was in essence serving two masters.
A year ago, we began thinking about transition to a new position. One of the things I wrote in my journal as we began to pray over the transition was, “Lord, I want to be free of the classroom.” I was not trying to be a stay-at-home-mom. As a driven, independent woman, I champion college and career ambition for my female students. So I looked for a position in a school, but out of the classroom. I thought just being out of the classroom would be enough.
When we relocated, the timing of the move meant teaching jobs were not available. As I’ve sought the Lord and explored options, more and more I was called to walk away from my career to be more like Jesus. Since August, I have started teaching our oldest to cook and do laundry. We finally have a regular chore schedule (something I never had time to put together before) for all three girls. My husband and I have been on a date every week since we’ve moved. I've written a 5-week Sunday School curriculum and taught it. The girls and I have had deep conversations about real things like politics, Jesus, and how to make friends. A couple of times my husband has asked, “Who are you?” because I am not falling asleep on the couch at 7 PM or cranky for no reason.
Don’t get me wrong, many of those things I listed above happened in small doses while I was teaching. My girls had chores; we did homework together; we read at night sometimes. My husband and I did date. Our family was not falling apart, but there wasn’t the structure or purpose in our home that I wanted. It was good, but not great. I had two masters constantly pulling me in different directions. The message is that there are good things we can do in our lives and there are God things. Our family was doing good things, but the God things were being squeezed out by exhaustion, stress, time, and mess. Although the budget is tight, I have not been this happy, nor this at peace, in a long time.
The lesson I am learning is that discerning His will is seldom about finding a place or a career, but it is always about becoming more like Him. Peace is there for us when we finally submit every area of ourselves, including our careers, to His Lordship. Our obedience even in the anxiety of transition makes us more like Jesus.
QUESTIONS: What have you learned in a ministry transition? About your faith? About yourself?
Have you ever had a secret that took everything within you to keep from spilling the beans? Of course you have. I love being the bearer of good news: an engagement, a pregnancy, a birth, or a new job—to name a few. Something wonderful is happening at Refresh and I’m about to explode with anticipation!
First, a little background information. For about four years, now, Refresh Ministry Women has maintained our own website at FreshenItUp.org. While some of the writing has come from within our district, most of it has been borrowed from other sites. It’s been our desire to utilize the writing skills and talents of women within the Southern Missouri District to create our own team of writers.
Here it is--drumroll, please! I’m excited to announce to you our own writing team, led by Lisa Harris. Lisa joined me in the office of Refresh Ministry Women prior to its inception. Following a dream and seeking the heart of Jesus, Refresh Ministry Women was created to be a touchpoint for our women in ministry (credentialed women and wives of credential holders). Lisa brings to the table a lifetime of administrative skills, experience as a pastor’s wife, an appreciation for quality resources, and a shared love for our ministry women.
In the next blog, Lisa will introduce each of the members of the Writing Team. Be sure to catch that post (which will arrive in your email box on January 21) to see who has joined the team. Their pictures and bios will be featured. We couldn’t be any more excited for you to meet them!
So, share the secret—it’s lots of fun to share—and join us twice a month for the latest blog at FreshenItUp.org. Their writing is a free resource to you.
May you know His purpose and serve with anticipation!
My husband, Don, and I have been in ministry, together, for more than 35 years. We have four daughters, four sons-in-law, and four grandsons who keep our lives full of joy and laughter. Having pastored the same congregation for more than 25 years, we now minister in a place where we enjoy serving our district ministers and their spouses. Traveling is a shared interest between us, especially as we connect with various churches and church leaders across our state and around the world. Encouraging ministry wives in their unique role and their walk with Jesus is one of my passions. After serving Jesus most of my life, I am still amazed at the grace and goodness of God and I pray that I never get over it. For fun, I love to read and sleuth décor ideas on Pinterest. I enjoy drinking iced tea (no coffee for me), especially with a friend, and taking car rides in the country.
Every day, I get to do what I love. Create, teach, equip, resource, and encourage.
I could live by the motto: Eat, breath, sleep, repeat, when it comes to my vocation. Events, training, collaborative meetings, serving, new ideas, emails and social media messages seem to come as if I am playing a rapid fire game of Minute-to-Win-It.
It has never been my desire to create an on-demand life, but some days, I find myself fighting an uphill battle of firefighting instead of purpose making.
Looking back, an on-purpose fixed schedule is the only way I have ever accomplished big dreams, like graduating from college, writing books or running a marathon. When I finished my masters program a few years ago and had more space in my schedule I decided I would try an on-demand schedule (say yes to every invitation). I do not regret that choice. Saying yes to every opportunity or need is how I discovered what was next. It has led me here.
Over the last six months as God started putting bigger dreams of what was next on my soul, I knew it was time to put down the fire hose and have a calendar makeover.
That means this leader needs to quit playing whack-a-mole (thank you Carey Nieuhwof for the analogy), responding immediately to every need or dust bunny that appears and go back to an on-purpose fixed schedule like the one that led me to success in school, writing and running. If you are not already doing this and have a dream, I hope you will join the adventure.
Here are five ways to live a life on-purpose:
Living on purpose is how we offer our best selves to the world.
When our focus is intentional and single focused, people will know we care.
Angelia Craig is a wife, a mom, a daughter, a friend, a writer, a minister, a coach, and a social justice and non-profit junkie. Angelia says, "Not necessarily always in that order. In my role as director of the Women’s Department at the Northwest Ministry Network, I get to do what I like to do best: create, teach, write, and learn through others. I am also passionate about helping people discover and live out a passion—and purpose-filled life in my role as a certified Gallup Strength Coach and president of the Give Good Awards Foundation. My favorite quote by author Paulo Coelho: “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation” encapsulates my mission in life." This blog was posted on June 19, 2017 at hergreenroom.com.
Recently, a church planter’s wife asked me for advice on her situation. I didn’t really premeditate my answer; it just came barreling out.
“Be flexible or die … those are your options.”
Her eyes got big, and so did mine. The advice was a strong blow to me, too.
But, if anyone is looking for a more thought-out word from a pastor’s wife today, this might be it.
If we are going to survive the tumultuous waters of ministry, we will have to be flexible.
According to Google, the definition of flexibility is, “the quality of bending easily without breaking.” To be honest, this word hurts my stomach right now. Growing up, I took pride in the range of motion in my joints. I stretched constantly and could bend in any direction. But recently, I tore the cartilage in my hip joint which has robbed me of all flexibility. I’m in pain just watching my daughters during their gymnastics classes.
Each group of joints in our body have different levels of extensibility. We may be flexible in our hamstrings allowing us to touch our toes but not in our quadriceps which affects our posture. See, you might think of yourself as flexible, but this isn’t really an all-or-nothing issue.
Let’s think about the different areas where we, as ministry wives, need to stretch in order to develop flexibility:
1. We must be flexible about scheduling. When something comes up that is unplanned (and it will), are we willing to let our preferences go? Or will we hold on with white knuckles or learn to trust God with every moment?
2. We must be flexible about family time. Yes, we schedule Thursday night as “family night.” But if “X-Y-Z” comes up, couldn’t we as easily protect a Sunday night?
3. We must be flexible in our expectations of others. We have both legitimate and illegitimate expectations of the people around us. While we may argue about which category it falls into, we can all agree that people will sometimes fail us. So, how will we respond? We’ve got to stretch far enough to reach grace.
4. We must be flexible in our expectations of ourselves. Even as I’m typing this, I’m frustrated because I was supposed to finish this blog post before picking up my daughter from class. I guess I need to adjust what I think I can accomplish in an hour. Anyone else with me?
5. We must be flexible in our patience. Not every season is equal. When my husband first started at Pillar church, he needed more space to figure things out. If we want our churches to flourish, we’ve got to stretch ourselves to develop patience ... especially when our husbands are stressed and fatigued under heavy loads.
6. We must be flexible in our ability to take criticism (real or perceived). Maybe criticism is coming from someone in the church or from someone in your home. We’ve got to stretch in our ability to not be so easily offended. After all, “It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11).
7. We must be flexible in our desires. We want too many things. Some of our desires are good, but some are bad. Many times these desires conflict (I really want to finish writing this blog post, but I also really want to exercise this morning). Everything becomes hard when we don’t bridle our desires, and we allow them to sneak in and compare our lives with those around us. We can’t have it all, so we’ve got to learn to "be content with what is in our hand" (I Tim. 6:6).
8. We must be flexible in our moral commitments. (Just kidding … just checking to see if anyone is still reading this.) We know there are things we can’t be flexible about. Knowing the difference is key!
Our husband’s job (and therefore our lives as pastors' wives) can be so unpredictable. This is not something we can control. The only thing we can control is how we respond to it. There is great freedom in this. But, we have to get our workout clothes on and do the hard work of training in righteousness.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Prov. 19:21).
Let’s trust our God, and put all our confidence in Him instead of our perfectly constructed plans.
It's not what you say, it's how you say it.
It's a cliché, but it's true. Body language is a crucial part of communicating. The way you act can warp the entire meaning of what you're saying.
That being said, bad body language habits are the often hardest habits to break. We become so accustomed to slouching, averting our eyes, or folding our arms that we barely even notice what we're doing.
Here are several body language mistakes that are going to be tough to ditch. Still, if you're able to quit them, you'll definitely thank yourself later.
If you've gotten into the habit of fidgeting, it can be difficult to snap out of it. But it's important to take steps to reigning in this nervous habit.
Fidgeting demonstrates nervousness and a lack of power, as body-language expert and The Power of Body Language author Tonya Reiman previously told Business Insider.
Leave your hair alone. Constantly running your hands across your scalp and twirling your locks is pretty distracting. Plus, as ABC reported, it can damage your hair overtime. It can be hard to quit, so try playing around a stress ball instead of your hair.
Adopting a defensive pose
Many people naturally cross their arms or hunch over a bit just because they don't know what to do with their hands.
However, this posture can make you look uncomfortable, defensive, or untrustworthy.
“You should always keep your hands in view when you are talking,” Patti Wood, a body- language expert and author of “ SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions Body Language and Charisma,” previously told Business Insider. When a listener can't see your hands, they wonder what you are hiding.“
Doing weird things with your hands
To gesture or not to gesture? That is the question. Some people keep too still while speaking, while others flail all over the place.
As The Washington Post reported, behavioural consultant Vanessa Van Edwards notes that using hand gestures while speaking is actually an effective way to engage your audience.
The trick is, avoiding the hand gestures that will trip you up. Don't point, don't pretend to conduct an imaginary orchestra (seriously), and don't get too choreographed.
Shuffling instead of walking
Humans are pretty judgmental creatures. We think we can tell a lot about someone based on snap judgments over something as simple as their manner of walking.
BBC reported that how we walk can actually determine our risk of being mugged. Criminals are less likely to target people walking with an air of confidence.
It can be hard to change up your walk once you've fallen into bad habits, but it's important to walk with confidence and coordination. Don't shuffle through life.
Forgetting to smile
Reiman previously told Business Insider that smiling demonstrates confidence, openness, warmth, and energy.
“It also sets off the mirror neurons in your listener, instructing them to smile back. Without the smile, an individual is often seen as grim or aloof,” she explained.
There's nothing more irritating than talking to someone who's clearly not paying attention to you.
Some people are just naturally distracted or busy, so it can be tempting to check your phone or watch at every available moment. Still, you've got to keep this impulse in check when you're around others. Otherwise, you'll just come across as a rude and uncaring person.
Stand up straight. Terrible posture is easy to develop, especially if you're slouched over a desk for the majority of the day.
Slouching doesn't just make you look un-confident, writes Catherine New for Psychology Today, it's also bad for your back. Improve your health and the image you present to the world by standing up straight.
Nonexistent or aggressive eye contact
Here's another body language pitfall where moderation is key.
What Your Body Says (And How to Master the Message) author Sharon Sayler previously told Business Insider that the ideal amount of eye contact should be “a series of long glances instead of intense stares.”
Overly long stares can make whoever you're talking to pretty uncomfortable. On the other hand, averting your eyes indicates disgust or a lack of confidence.
Being too still
It's definitely good not to be jumping all over the place, constantly. However, you don't want to be too eerily calm during conversations. This may make people feel uneasy, or that you're not interested in what they're saying.
Instead, try to mirror the person you're speaking with. Don't mimic them - they'll probably get offended by that - but subtly copy some of their gestures and expressions. Writing for Psychology Today, Dr Jeff Thompson notes that mirroring will leave people perceiving you as positive and persuasive.
It can be tough to break out of your poker face, especially if you're just naturally not that expressive - but it's worth trying, since it can improve how you're perceived.
Mismatching verbal and non-verbal communication
You might be saying all the right things - but if your body language doesn't match up with your words, you might end up rubbing people the wrong way.
In fact, researchers at Sacred Heart University devoted an entire study to this phenomenon. Their subjects were married couples, but their finding was pretty universal — when verbal and non-verbal messages do not align, “nonverbal signals carry the brunt of the emotional message.”
Our small daily habits add up to our success or failure in areas of life. Understanding and mastering our habits (the big ones and the small ones) is a key secret of success.
There are truths I’ve come to realize about habits, whether they are considered good or bad habits, and whether people are trying to start new habits or shed undesirable ones.
If you’re looking to make change in your life, these six truths are sure to help.
1. BABY STEPS ADD UP When trying to change a habit, the cold turkey approach is most often a recipe for frustration. I find that little itty-bitty incremental shifts in behaviors is usually a far better way to ensure long-term change.
For example, if you want to incorporate more exercise into your life, you don’t need to say, “I’m going to join a gym and go for an hour every morning before work.” Instead start easily, such as resolving to walk around the block every evening and doing 5 sit-ups. Baby steps!
2. BUILDING ON ACHIEVEMENTS CREATES MOMENTUM Once you start changing a habit with baby steps, you can build on that success. That walk around the block becomes too short, so you extend it to the next block. You find you don’t stop at 5 sit-ups, you keep going and add a couple more.
It’s all about momentum; an object in motion tends to stay in motion, both literally and figuratively. Once change is kicked into gear, more change happens!
3. AVOIDING TRIGGERS IS CRITICAL
Actions often happen as reactions to an event, situation, or other stimuli; habits are often prompted by an outside trigger. Recognizing what these triggers are can go a long way towards changing your behavior.
For example, want to stop gossiping? Maybe skip that coffee date that seems to revolve around who’s doing what in the neighborhood.
Want to stop snacking at night while you watch TV? Maybe read a book in a different room instead of turning on that sitcom. (I know, I know, easier said than done!)
4. BE MINDFUL AND AWARE Do you reach for the sugar packets every time you have a latte, without even considering going without? Be aware of your actions and realize that you do have the choice to skip the sugar.
As you go through your day cognizant of what you are doing and the choices you have, you’ll likely be surprised at how much you do on a daily basis goes unnoticed because it’s second nature.
5. BELIEVE IN YOUR CALLING Know that as you are living out your calling, through the power of Jesus, you are capable of achieving whatever it is you are called to do. You can conquer those bad habits, and you can adopt those good ones. But the entire house of cards can fall down if you don’t start with a solid foundation of confidence in your God-given ability to do so.
6. EMBRACE (LITTLE) FAILURES What? Failure? Include it? Yes. If you aren’t failing now and again, then you aren’t challenging yourself. The person who never risks anything obviously isn’t going to fail, because they are playing it safe. Failure is just a stepping stone on the way to success!
Real change can’t happen if you don’t push yourself, and pushing yourself means potential failure on occasion. Fight the urge to be a perfectionist and allow the road to be a little bumpy on the way to your destination.
Alli Worthington is the author of Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy, speaker, blogger, and the Executive Director of Propel Women. Alli has helped individuals, small business owners and Fortune 500 companies be more successful. She lives outside Nashville with her husband, Mark, and their five sons. You can connect with Alli at AlliWorthington.com. This blog was posted on Propel Women in June, 2017.
“I was just trying to be encouraging.” I told my husband (with a pout) after he pulled me aside during a dinner party to tell me I had interrupted a friend before they’d barely had a chance to tell their story. Somehow, my husband and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on my conversation style. He thought I was being rude, and I thought I was rescuing the person from the isolation one can feel sharing personal details.
After a good amount of reflection, and some more pouting (ineffective, might I say), I realized my husband was right. I realized during my time of reflection and observation that not only do I interrupt people to encourage, I also interrupt to:
Interruption is also common in workplace teams. I have been on teams where people didn’t hear or reflect on anything the speaker was saying. They were simply waiting for the speaker to breathe so they could give their own opinion or ideas.
Do you see yourself in these reflections? If you do, don’t worry—this is human nature. We have experiences and opinions to share. This isn’t all bad.
The question to answer is: When to speak and when to be silent?
Throughout history people have been trying to answer this question.
I learned a lot about listening on a recent trip to Ireland. We visited several monasteries that were established around the 4th century (maybe earlier). From the beginning, monks have had the highest regard for silence. After reading the monks’ guidelines for speaking, my 16-year-old said: “If you did all these things, you would rarely speak.” He might be onto something.
Here are the five standard guidelines for speech (summarized):
The Bible is also filled with teaching about speaking. I found at least sixty Scriptures on the benefits of listening and silence. As we close today’s blog, here are a few Scriptures to consider and meditate on:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20 ESV)
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Proverbs 17:18 ESV)
Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 29:20 ESV)
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2 ESV)
The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. (Proverbs 16:21 ESV)
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4 ESV)
Have you entered to win Refresh Breakaway 2018 Drawing? Hurry! Drawing ends January 31.
Comment on this blog post. That's it! You're now entered to win a Refresh Breakaway 2018 package valued at $99 (includes registration, lodging and three meals).
Each time you comment on a weekly blog post, your name will be entered into the drawing. Please give your full name when commenting. Drawing ends January 31, 2018. A winner will be announced February 1, 2018 and notified by email by February 5, 2018.
So, come on! We'd love to hear from you and see you at Refresh Breakaway 2018!
I didn't know how tired until I face planted in my lunch the next day. I dragged myself to the car, having to concentrate lifting my foot as high as the curb. I kept my eyes open long enough to crawl in my car, and I slept for two hours in a crowded parking lot. I realized jet lag was more than tired. This was beyond my control!
Burnout is much the same. I think of burnout this way…there's a dark recess of your mind that is the end of you. The bottom of the rope, the last step before the cliff, that moment just before you fall asleep...the end. That place is a different spot for different people. Some people have a deeper reserve and can take much more of what life can throw at them. Others have a shorter fuse and reach their spot of depletion sooner. Either way, burnout takes you to a tired that sleep doesn't fix.
I found that dark recess in my mind I didn't know existed until now. Burnout. I feel stupid and weak admitting I was there. The lack of admission was part of the reason I got there. Because I feel stupid and weak admitting I have this breaking point, and I let my actions and the actions of others break me.
Being in ministry means being about people.
Honestly, I like helping people. I don't say that to make myself seem all humble and servant-like. If you know me, you know servanthood does not come naturally to me. Being bossy on the other hand does come naturally to me. I like helping people realize stuff. I am addicted to that moment when a girl sitting in front of me has the realization she can walk in total freedom from the past bad choices she has made. Or that moment when my husband and I are working through marriage problems with another couple, and they realize sticking it out is far more rewarding than being a quitter. There's no drug or alcoholic beverage that tops the exhilaration of seeing someone turn around and change their behavior for the better. I'm addicted. I admit it. I love seeing people be happy and work out their problems and I LOVE that I get to lead people to God's Word and watch their lives unfold.
There is this turning point, though, when you are in the business of helping people, that often times you start taking in information only to pass it back out. You hear a great sermon, a wonderful song, a cool quote, and you think "I could use that in a blog post. I need to tell my pastor wife friend about this podcast. I need to share this book with my friend who needs to hear this. I need to livestream the sermon so this other person can hear it who is at home with a sick child." And before you know it, everything you take in is getting passed right through you to other people. Even your morning devotions become note-taking sessions for others. Nothing is sticking, nothing is getting snagged for YOU!
...before you know it, everything you take in is getting passed right through you to other people.
During this season of burnout and comeback, we took a sabbatical for three weeks. My husband Jack and I went to a different church one weekend. We wanted to go some place we could just go in and sit down and go to church. We haven't done that in something like 14 years. It was an amazing feeling. I had forgotten how much I love God's Church and His people. Now keep in mind, I was reading the book, "Leadership Pain" by Sam Chand while I was on sabbatical. Guess what the whole sermon was about that morning? You guessed it. Leadership pain.
God definitely had something for me that morning, but instantly I started the pass through. I thought of my friend who needed to hear a certain quote. I thought of all the people I knew who I wanted to hear this sermon. It was an incredible message. But I was in the middle of the pass-through, thinking of all the people I could minister to from this sermon when God so sweetly showed me...maybe it's just you who needs the ministry right now. He showed me how it was alright to let these words from Bishop Walker at Mt. Zion resonate with me, and only me, for that moment. Tears filled my eyes and I allowed myself for the next hour to just sit and soak it all in. I did not want to miss one moment God had for me. I stopped the pass-through and I snagged every morsel taking notes as quickly as my thumbs could type.
It truly was a wonderful feeling. So many of us in ministry want to see our church family succeed. We deeply want the best for them, so we get in this state of pass-through, not retaining any of the wisdom and knowledge we hear from others to teach us, lead us, and help us grow. We eventually become empty; nothing more than a slot machine. Put in a quarter, pull the lever, out comes the advice.
It's okay to keep the pass-throughs going. But take time to snag some for yourself. Or better yet, snag the whole thing for yourself; let it steep for a while; then continue the pass-through. I challenge all my pastor friends, counselor friends, pastor's wife friends to notice how often you go into pass-through mode. The next time you realize it, stop and think about what you're hearing or reading and how it can apply to YOUR life first, and you will take a step in guarding yourself against burnout.
This blog by Sheila Harper was posted on Dec 11, 2017 at Sanctuaryministrywives.com. Sheila and her husband, Jack, have been in full-time ministry at SaveOne since 2000. The couple planted a church in 2007, so Sheila has been a pastor’s wife for 10 years. Sheila and Jack have two sons, ages 27 & 29. "Neither are married, but I am looking for wives for them so I will be one step closer to having grandchildren," quips Sheila. When asked what shaped her ministry philosophy, Sheila answered, "Pain. Plain and simple. I started SaveOne from a place of wanting to make sure others didn’t experience the same pain I did after an abortion. I wanted everyone to know the truth of what abortion really does to you." As far as the church, "what shaped my ministry philosophy was realizing, if I’m not healthy I could derail my husband’s ministry. As a pastor’s wife I am possibly the most vulnerable in the whole church. I have to take time for soul care, and the whole church remains healthier because of it." Sheila enjoys "hiking, drinking coffee, hiking, reading, hiking, hanging in my hammock in the woods, and hiking" when she comes across some free time. Sheila's greatest passion in ministry comes from seeing people be transformed from the inside out. "When a person walks in and doesn’t know Jesus, gives his/her heart to Him, lets themselves be discipled, and their life start to come together….I don’t know of a greater joy than that."