This past week I took a vacation for only the second time in 52 weeks. It was a much-needed break for me from the duties of ministry. My wife was able to join me for two days, but the rest was just me away from the Church. I never want to glorify the paid role of a pastor over the volunteers who compose the Church, but I do want you to know a few things about my chosen profession.
1. Caring for Souls is Emotionally Demanding. As a pastor, I believe that my work involves things of eternal significance. Heaven and hell hang in the balance. I desperately want people to know Jesus as both their Savior and Lord. I want them to start strong in their faith and continue to grow in it. I want people to spend their lives in the will of God until we are welcomed in the arms of Jesus. Every person who walks away or drifts aimlessly tears a pastor’s soul apart.
2. Decision Making is Emotionally Draining. I once read an article saying the most draining mental activity to a person is decision-making. Anyone in a leadership position understands this concept. All decisions come with an amount of stress, especially in Church. The songs I choose will be scrutinized. The sermon will be dissected. Every decision will be analyzed in detail and I know I frequently make the final choice that will help bring the Church together or divide it.
3. Creative Thinking is Mentally Tiring. Every week I try to create the best sermon possible. Ultimately it is a work of the Holy Spirit, but I still desire to put together my best effort. On top of the sermon, I teach a Youth group lesson at least three times a month, and I blog five days a week. I am always working to create, and it gets exhausting.
4. The Forces of Evil Hate Christian Leaders. I just finished a series on the devil and his attacks on the heart and minds of believers. I often think the work is much more intense on the leaders of the people of God. Destroy the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter has been a theme repeated throughout the Bible, even into the life of Jesus. As a leader, I battle pride, temptation, anger, depression, loneliness and every kind of emotional high and low. There are days I want to quit and days I desire for people to sing my praises. I know that my life affects more than my own faith, and so does evil, and the struggles are hard.
5. Ministry Has No Boundaries. Every pastor dreams of a 9-5 job. In my week of vacation, I had emails and text from people needing and wanting help. There was even a guy who showed up on my doorstep asking for assistance. It can be very draining to be on call every day and all the time.
These are some of the reasons I needed a break. In fact, I am planning a break every other month for the next year. I feel myself slipping into the cynicism that comes with burnout. I love my Lord Jesus, my job and the people I lead. I pray that an occasional break will keep me fresh and help me to minister long into the future.