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3 Ways to Stop Being an Emotional Gas Station


Everyone in ministry knows what it feels like to be an “emotional service station” and few would be willing to admit that there’s anything wrong with that role, but there are dangers, real dangers. 

Here are some ways to avoid a “tapped out” tank and still act as the responsible leader you sincerely wish to be: 

1. Be clear about the time you have available. 

Yes, your job is ministry … available, ready, steadfast and sincere. No, your job is not about fixing every problem in your church and you shouldn’t spend your last breath trying.

I have never believed that anyone profits from your burnout. Think about it … you go up in flames, someone else lives to fight another day. Is that really a win win? 

Let people know up front that you want to serve them, and also let them know that you have to establish some boundaries to protect your family and yourself.  

Don’t hide behind a “gatekeeper.” People can actually learn to respect boundaries, but you have to be explicit in setting them and do it often and lovingly. Use social media to address large groups, but make it sound like you’re talking to just one person. Pastor Adam Hamilton is the master of this! His 17,000 person congregation feels that they are in constant contact with him. 

Every leadership training in the world says, “Learn to delegate.” There’s a reason! You are not the only one in the world who has answers to all of life’s questions. “Answer” the big ones and let others help with the little ones. 

2. Be clear about what topics are off the table. 

Don’t let people trick you into having an inappropriate conversation about stuff that is truly none of their business.

Like persistent paparazzi, there are people who want to see you, the church or other people at their worst. It is NOT your responsibility to give them a supply of unattractive “tidbits.” This is insidious at best.

Mrs. Jones says, “How are you liking our new worship leader?” This could be as innocent as it sounds or taser-like in its ability to sting you later.

One pastor went so far as to have little, business-sized cards printed up that gave contact information to six key people on his leadership team (lay and staff) who could give better answers about budget, buildings and grounds, nursery care, etc. 

Whatever your role in the church, it can’t and shouldn’t be the Grand Poobah! That job is futile in any institution, and taking it on will lead to an early demise, figuratively and perhaps even literally! 

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Doug Lawrence is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and advisor, who helps churches assess and improve their skillfulness in creating engaging worship experiences. In 2007 he founded and continues to serve as CEO of Speaking as a Performing Art, a firm which coaches leading executives and their teams and includes pastors from across the country. Doug co-authored GPS for Success, published in 2011, with Stephen Covey and others. You may reach him at dlawrenceconsult@mac.com.