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The Preacher’s Adrenaline Meltdown

For those of you who often speak and teach in front of large audiences, have you ever experienced that ‘adrenaline meltdown’ a day or two after speaking? Maybe some of you have and could never pinpoint exactly what was going on with your body.  Each week you ask, Was it something I ate?…No, maybe I just didn’t sleep well last night… But then again, it happens on the same day each week, time and again.  What’s going on?

Clayton King, a fellow pastor-teacher and one of my best friends, wrote a couple blog postings over two years ago that will shed some light on why our bodies tend to crash a day or so after we preach. He says that when we preach our body is so full of adrenaline that, when we finish, we continue on that high hours after the end of the sermon (in Clayton’s case, his rush lasts throughout the entire following day).

Some of you may already know how and when this meltdown usually takes place and therefore have made the necessary alterations to your schedule in order to cope with the crash. For those of you who are still wondering how to manage, Clayton provides some practical suggestions that will bring you through until your body again attains some sense of normalcy. He makes mention of  a book written by Dr. Archibald Hart, a South African native who teaches at Fuller theological seminary, called Adrenaline and Stress. Hart brings clarity to what we all experience as what he calls ‘adrenaline surge and depletion.’

Here are Clayton’s words and what he suggests:

1. SEE IT COMING – There is no excuse for me to be surprised by the way my body feels 2 days after a big event or an all-day preaching marathon. It’s coming, and I know it, so preparing myself for the let-down is the first step. In the words of G.I. Joe, “Knowing is half the battle.”

2. DO NOTHING – If possible, the best case scenario on the 2nd day after a big event is to plan to be as purposeless as possible. I cannot accomplish anything meaningful on that day, so I shouldn’t try to or get disappointed if I don’t. And why should I? I need to build in days of margin and rest where I don’t feel like I must make a difference in the world. This is God’s world, not mine, and nobody will miss me in ministry if I take a day and stay home.

3. NO MEETINGS – My brain is too fried to accomplish anything meaningful in a meeting so I steer clear of them if possible. Note to pastors: Monday is probably the worst day for a staff meeting, regardless of wanting to do it early in the week to critique your service while it is still fresh. The staff needs to ask the pastor when he feels it is best to meet. I suggest waiting til mid-week when your mind can comprehend and remember what is discussed and decided.

4. NO BIG DECISIONS – Because I often just feel grumpy on the 2nd day, I would naturally be prone to make unwise decisions and act in foolish ways. This pertains more to my family than my ministry, since at Crossroads we go through a more lengthy and thorough process before any really big decisions are made. So I try to limit my decision-making to where we will go for lunch or who will take the boys to school. Everyone is better for it.

5. TALK IT OUT – I need to improve on this, but there are only a handful of guys who understand how frustrated  an confused I feel emotionally and physically after a big event, and those are the guys who feel it too. So it is important that we get each other’s back and support one another through prayer and genuine friendships in conversations.

6. COFFEE – I have read all the studies from both sides and have concluded, after discussion with a science professor and a Chinese microbiologist (really) that coffee in moderation is extremely healthy. It lowers the risk of both liver and kidney cancer and is good for, well, regularity. It also helps take the edge off before the Tuesday crash and burn.

7. SLEEP – The earlier I go to bed, the better. It is that simple. This applies to all days and should be practiced more often by more of us, myself first.

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J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.