Our first three and a half years in church planting centered around the insanity of setting-up and tearing-down in a YMCA.
For the first 18 months, my wife and I lived forty-five minutes away (thirty minutes if you drive like me), and every Sunday was physically draining. Set-up at 7am meant leaving at 6:15am which meant waking up around 5:30am. After stumbling into the building, we would roll out the cases of gear and methodically transform a gym into a worship center. Exercise rooms would become children’s spaces where they would hear and experience the truth of Jesus. It was incredible.
The first couple of years, when I was leading worship weekly, the band would start to sound check at 7:45am and work out the kinks. A final team prayer came at 8:30am. Then at 9am, it was go time.
Two identical services back-to-back. All of our spiritual, emotional, and physical efforts poured into each 75-minute service.
Then the services were over. The YMCA opened at 1pm, and so… it was time to load everything back into cases. So the team hustled through the stretch and rolled the last case back into the closet just as we heard people stepping onto elliptical machines and the faint whir of a treadmill.
Drive 45-minutes back home, eat some food, and it would be 2pm or later, and time for a nap.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this. The Sunday morning experience for pastors and leaders is far more exhilarating-yet-draining than any church-goer could possibly know. Yet, my experience tells me that it’s not Sunday morning itself that’s the hardest part. It’s Monday morning.
On Monday morning the stark realization crashes over you: Sunday is coming again very soon.
You’ve just poured out your entire soul. Yet somehow, in the midst of the work-week ministry insanity, your soul is supposed to be renewed enough to pour it out all over again next weekend. This is the birthplace for burnout.
There is hope.The Sunday to Sunday grind is the birthplace of burnout. Click To Tweet
Here are four ways you can make time for God in the grind, and renew your soul:
- Remember God’s promises.
This will look different for every leader. Depending on your personality, you can choose different ways to keep these promises in front of you. If you’re a visual person, perhaps having post-it notes in visible places with simple truths from Scripture will provide the bread crumb trail you need back to God’s promises. For me, God-honoring and truth-filled music is something that always reminds me of God’s promises. In the middle of my grind, I enjoyed putting in the headphones and allowing truth through music to wash over me and enrich my soul. The means don’t matter, but the promises do. When we remember God’s promises, we remember that He is faithful to fulfill His calling through us.
- Reflect on who God says you are.
Ministry positions are riddled by other people’s opinions of you. Good or bad. Positive or negative, everyone has an opinion. I remember when we first started our church plant and I was leading worship weekly for the first time in my whole life, my mood could be massively swayed by people’s opinions. If someone didn’t like a song or if I knew I hadn’t hit a note right or if I bombed a lyric, I’d be off. Later, when I preached, I wanted to be engaging and respected. Over time, I started to care less and less about these things as I leaned more and more into who God says I am. Even now, as I am working full-time equipping churches and leaders to be healthier through writing, speaking, and consulting, it’s easy to get stuck in the trap of performance. Remember what God says about you: that you are His righteous, royal priesthood, called according to His purpose to be a living sacrifice. Let everything else slip away.
Remember what God says about you; let everything else slip away. Click To Tweet
- Re-center on Scripture.
This is really obvious, right? If we want to rejuvenate our souls, we need to find time to be in Scripture. I don’t want to repeat something you’ve heard a million times, so I won’t. You already know how important it is to spend time in the Word. However, I do want to point to one more way to recenter on Scripture that we talk less about: Listen to others teach the Bible. We believe in the value of hearing the Word taught in our churches; we spend hours and hours each week preparing for this. Yet often times we don’t allow ourselves to be instructed on a regular basis by someone else. This is to our detriment as leaders. For me, I love to listen to sermons when I mow. I used to get ridiculed about this by friends, but it was the perfect avenue for sermon-listening. I have a sermon-length size lawn. I have nowhere else to be and no distractions. I hate to mow, and it gets my brain somewhere else. Best of all, it re-centers me on Scripture in a way that merely reading it cannot; it invites me into the broader community of faith–the Church and not just my church.
- Rebuke pride.
The first sin wasn’t eating a piece of fruit. The original sin was pride–a pride that stated that we could be like God and be our own god. Pastors are often plagued by pride. People come to church leaders with their problems believing that a pastor can help. They ask us to pray for them, for their families, for their illnesses, believing that our prayers somehow carry more weight with Jesus. Pastors don’t always pursue pride, but pride knocks on the door. I’ve already written about how you can know if your leadership is becoming narcissistic. Yet there’s a sure-fire way of keeping pride at bay. Rebuke it. Name it in your own life, and rebuke it. Rebuking pride often means apologizing to people whom we may have hurt. Rebuking pride means saying, “I don’t know,” rather than wanting to look smart in front of a crowd. Rebuking pride means surrounding ourselves with truth-tellers who will remind us when we’re being jerks. If we want our souls to be rejuvenated between Sundays, we cannot leave room for pride, which hardens hearts.
Rebuking pride means surrounding ourselves with truth-tellers who remind us when we're jerks. Click To Tweet
The weekly grind from Sunday to Sunday is hard. It’s far harder than most people will ever know. Yet take hope in the fact that God wants to renew your soul. He is the One who will do the work. Lean into Him, and allow the Spirit to work through you.
Remember God’s promises.
Reflect on who God says you are.
Re-center on Scripture.
Pastor, these four habits–if integrated into your weekly grind–will make the space needed for God to renew your soul.