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3 Critical Questions for Church Leaders

1. How is your emotional health?

Ministry is draining–it always has been and always will be. You know you are beginning to be drained emotionally when:

  • You find yourself in a constant state of anger with the people who work with you for petty reasons or no reason at all.
  • You continually have imaginary arguments with people in your mind over things that really do not matter but seem to set you off for some reason.
  • You begin to not like the people you are actually called to minister to.
  • Your marriage is strained and you can’t quite figure out why.
  • You have zero time and energy to give to your kids at the end of the day and you see them as more of a burden and not a blessing.
  • You often have thoughts of quitting ministry altogether.
  • Your thoughts about/struggles with immoral/unethical issues begin to become more frequent.
  • You can’t sleep at night and have a hard time staying awake during the day.

I could go on but I am sure by now you get the point.

So, if you are struggling emotionally how do you snap out of it? Let me share three ways.

First, you have got to tell someone. You cannot go on pretending that everything is great with you while you are actually dying inside. Get your leadership team together, your elders, your board–someoneS–but do not buy into the lie that you must bear that burden alone.

Second, you’ve got to begin to have some fun in your life. Pastors often struggle with this because they think that going out and doing something “fun” while there is so much to be done is sin, but I know from personal experience that when I allow myself to disconnect and do something that I enjoy I get my batteries recharged…AND…it is during those times that I usually come up with some really great ministry ideas.

Third, you may need to seek professional help! I’ve heard it said that there are two types of people in the world–those that go to counseling and then everyone else that needs to go to counseling.

For a really long time I thought I could battle burnout with prayer and minor changes and that mentality nearly killed me. Finally Jud Wilhite, a great friend of mine told me about John Walker and the Blessing Ranch and so this past October I spent a week out there. I cannot describe how God used that experience to rock my world and pull me out of a pretty insane cycle. 

Some of you reading this need to take that step. 

Pastor, no one is going to take charge of your emotional health. You are responsible and if you flame out then you have no one to blame but yourself.

So, do what it takes. Take charge. You are way too important to be another ministry casualty!  

2. How is Your Physical Health?

A lot of pastors are fat—period.

Which is sad because a pastor that refuses to address his weight is hypocritical in that he will often tell people to have “self control” when it comes to sex before marriage…or have “self control” when it comes to smoking…but he cannot seem to practice “self control” in a buffet line.

In Baptist world, the one I am most familiar with, many of the pastors have a problem with people drinking alcohol…but they would NEVER speak against someone eating too many biscuits. They often say, “My lips have never touched alcohol,” when it is very obvious that their feet have never touched a pair of running shoes either! Statistics prove that way more people die every year due to obesity than alcohol.

Here’s the deal, I used to weigh over 300 pounds. I wore a size 50 in the waist. I was fat, huge, enormous–you get the point. And, no matter how hard I prayed the fat would not go away and then one day I realized my weight was a spiritual issue and I had to do something about it, so I did the following:

  • I began to exercise every single day. I quickly understood that buying a gym membership didn’t mean that I would lose weight–I actually needed to go there and use the machines instead of “enjoying fellowship.” In fact, I usually will not speak in the gym unless I am finished. I am there to work out, not work my mouth!
  • I cut out all soft drinks and sweet tea–which killed me–but I did a little research and finally understood that those things alone were responsible for hundreds of extra calories a day that I did not need.
  • I quit all snacking after 6:00 at night.
  • I began eating healthier. Yes, I know I tweet a lot about food and dessert because I love food and dessert. But, I have learned that if I “eat clean” most of the time then I can eat whatever I want some of the time. So, I eat a lot of salads and veggies and I cut way back on the carbs. (Notice, I did not say I cut them out completely!)
  • I took responsibility for the way I looked. I didn’t blame it on being busy or any other external circumstance.

Now, if you are overweight/obese then I would say see a doctor before trying any of the things I listed above. And, I would also say that the journey to losing weight is a long and often times frustrating one.

However, our bodies are a temple and some of us have too much temple and need to downsize.

If you think I am being tough on this one it is because I am. I know how hard it is to take control back of this area. I know how if feels to struggle with this and I know what it is like to overcome.

So, pastor, how’s your physical health? You’ve Got to deal with this. You can’t preach self control and model a lifestyle that is out of control.

3. How is Your Spiritual Health?

We’re pastors, right? And so most people expect that when we get up out of our beds that the Angel of the Lord has already poured us a cup of coffee and is sitting in our kitchen just waiting on us to commune with him. After doing so we slip into our glorified bodies and quote Scripture all the way to the office, where, when we arrive God has emailed us the next six months of sermons we should preach.

And then we wake up!

Walking with God isn’t easy; in fact, I would argue that for a pastor/church leader it is actually more of a challenge. We face critics, spiritual warfare and the realities of life on an enormous scale and those things take a toll on us if we do not do whatever it takes to make sure we have a solid connection with Jesus.

Pastors, we have to do all that we can do to make sure the spiritual temperature in our lives stays hot! A few suggestions:

  • Read your Bible and not just for sermon preparation but to hear God’s voice on a personal level.
  • Take a technology break–get away from email, the cell phone, twitter and facebook for an extended period of time. It’s amazing how clearly we can hear God’s voice when we do not have distractions.
  • By the way, if you can’t do the bullet point I just suggested then you are addicted and it’s not something to be laughed about–it’s serious. You are filling your life up with distractions because you are probably wanting to avoid something and the silence would allow God’s voice to solidly address the issue.
  • Answer the following question, “I feel the closest to God when I BLANK.” And when you find that answer do it a lot!
  • Practice, don’t just preach, confession and repentance.
  • Take some time to get out of your normal routine to fast, pray and have some solitude.
  • Take two Sunday’s in a row off from preaching. Your church will survive without you and if it can’t then you have way more trouble than you would want to admit. Trust me, taking two Sunday’s off really refreshes you.
  • Visit other churches and attend conferences and do not apologize for wanting to do this because “it fires you up!” We all need that!
  • Get together with other pastors and DO NOT let those meetings turn into “let’s bash the guy who isn’t here” meetings but rather times where you can mutually challenge and encourage one another.

I could go on and on but the reality is that if you are a pastor/church leader then you probably already know what you need to do to grow and develop spiritually. Don’t let your walk with God be replaced by a run with the church! Do whatever it takes to make your walk a priority.