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Busy Pastor, Pace Yourself

Are you a busy pastor? Are you in a rush? Stressed? Over-stretched? Hurry has a dramatically negative impact on your ministry. So how do you pace yourself?

Our Time Pressures

I hardly dare pose the question as we stand on the cusp of another Christmas! But throughout the year there are demands on the busy pastor all the time. Meetings squeeze out time for deep work, sermon preparation gets done on the fly, emergency visits to the sick and dying and those in crisis pile up and the demands of administration seem only to increase. That’s before we think about our family commitments, trying to find time to eat, and get a decent night’s sleep.

We’re expected to be mobile and always connected. And all this busyness stresses us out and that has a detrimental effect on being the mouths, hands and feet of Christ.

Here are three changes I am trying to make to slow down to ensure a sustainable pace of life:

Learn to say “No”

I blogged on this last week, albeit it from the other angle. If you’re a busy pastor, then you cannot keep adding things to your calendar without saying no to other things. When you add a new activity to your calendar, then you should remove something else. When you’re asked to do something new, ask yourself whether the time, energy and effort is worth it or not. If not, then say no.

Observe the Sabbath

What do you think about a pastor who routinely breaks the Ten Commandments? Do you think they’re fit to be a leader of God’s people? Well, every time you and I fail to take one day off every week to rest in the presence of God, we are doing just that. I was challenged by the following quote by Eugene Peterson, that a colleague posted last week:

It is diagnostically significant that of all the commandments not one is treated with such contemptuous disregard by pastors as this one. We are capable of preaching good sermons on it to our parishioners, and take care to provide them with a sabbath of good worship and holy leisure. But we exempt ourselves. Curious. Not many of us preach vigorously on the seventh commandment and then pursue lives of active adultery. Not many of us preach eloquently on the second commandment and then moonlight by selling plastic fertility goddesses in the narthex. But we conscientiously catechise our people on the fifth commandment and without a blush flaunt our workaholic sabbath-breaking as evidence of an extraordinary piety (Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles).

There are times when I think I am too busy to take time off (Christmas is definitely one of those times). But my ministry suffers. I become more tired. I become more and more irritable with people, both in the church, and those contacting the church, and especially with my family. And I become less efficient. God made us to rest one day of every week. We cannot allow our pride to tell us otherwise if we want to pace ourselves.

Trust God’s Plan

When busy pastors become busy and impatient, we betray a lack of trust in God. Our stress shows us that we don’t really believe that God has a timetable for us and for our church. God is almost never in a hurry. And he doesn’t always explain his timing. But the curious thing is that when I take the time to slow down and trust God, I find I have the time to do all that he asks me to do. God knows just the right time to do everything. And he knows the right way to do it all.

Slow Down

God doesn’t want you to burn out this Christmas, or indeed, at any other time of the year. He has a plan for the busy pastor, and he has the timings in hand. Perhaps the most important thing you can do in this season, is to slow down and pace yourself. Your ministry, and those you minister to will thank you.

Photo by Andy Beales on Unsplash

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