Pastors Knute Larson, Jeff Bogue, and Jim Brown talk about how pastors can keep from discouragement.
Being a pastor is not all fun and games, for any of us. And for many, there are too many pains, if you ask me.
While a few may be self-inflicted, many are caused by the selfishness or meanness of church members. Others are the result of unfulfilled expectations or dreams that died.
Some are peculiar to the ministry, but many are felt by the managers of the local McDonald’s restaurants also.
What shall we do, for prevention and cure? And where is Jesus in all this?
The question Why? Has the largest question mark in the world next to it.
Often there is no answer. The earth groans, for sure. We all await The Day when everything will be different. When our Lord returns to this Place.
In the meantime, what can we do for ourselves and our friends who are pastors? What brings preventative spiritual and mental health?
The three of us can say what has helped us, and also offer more thoughts one-on-one if you please.
We write with a sense of camaraderie and strong feelings.
Knute, with Jeff and Jim
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What should we do when we feel discouragement?
- We should reach out to others.
- Sometimes it’s important that we break out of our shells and find a safe friendship, in a safe environment where we can share our hearts, our feelings, and even let our hair down.
Probably one of the safest places to do this is with fellow pastors.
Taking the time to invest in building relationships with fellow ministry professionals is huge!
Make it to pastor gatherings and invest in the cup of coffee. This puts us in environments where we are truly interacting with our peers, those who understand the pressures we are under. This can help alleviate our aloneness.
- We must move toward community. The absolute worst thing to do is to remain isolated. The Enemy does his best work when we are all alone. Lions attack their pray when that prey is all alone.
- Feat on God’s Word and His promises. Speak Bible verses to yourself. Talk to yourself instead of listening to yourself! The words you speak to yourself are the most powerful words you will speak every day.
- Plug in worship music in some form or fashion and let it wash all over you. The truths in the lyrics and the sound of worship music invite you into the presence of God.
- Go serve someone else. One of the best ways to lift loneliness is to give your life away. We are more blessed to give than to receive.
- Seek out help if it continues to linger and morphs into depression.
- Talk to God and commune with Him in prayer.
Knute Larson (What gets a pastor down? What should?)
- Statistics that are spiraling, bad sermons, mean Christians, unattended anger or pride or lust, and the devil.
- Hard and even smart work that seems to go nowhere. We often put our joy on the line of ministry and church growth, instead of finding a lot of it in our connection with our Lord.
- Mediocre marriage moments.
- No touch with the Lord, no joy from His Spirit, no spiritual exercise.
What are some safeguards for discouragement in pastoring?
- I love the Billy Graham quote, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
- Step away and get some “fresh air.”
It is amazing what 48 hours can do to clear our hearts and heads.
Have a day alone with God in your normal rhythm of ministry.
Huge: Once a month, even if it’s just for the morning, be still and quiet and reconnect with our Savior, whom we love and serve.
- If you’re bored and your church is open to a sabbatical, these are wonderful opportunities to reconnect with God and to rest!
We actually mandate that our full-time staff go on a one-month sabbatical every seven years.
Save your encouraging notes.
I save all my encouraging emails and personal notes.
From time to time I look through them and enjoy them.
It reminds me that the investment is worth it.
- Remember it is not about you! It’s all about Jesus!
- Get familiar with the high and low cycle. After a big move of God, know that the potential for a low is around the corner. I have noticed that Mondays are my biggest battle day.
- Stay physically fit and have a regular workout routine. A healthy body allows you to be at your best when assaults begin.
- Watch what you eat. A balanced nutritional diet keeps the body and mind sharp and battle ready.
- Check your pace and make sure it is manageable. Yes, there will be weeks when you go harder, but plan “refresh and renewal retreats!”
- Set realistic yet God-birthed goals and dreams.
- Never ever compare yourself or even try to pattern yourself after another person or church. You will set yourself up for failure. Be yourself.
- Sometimes, medicine. I write that first because I have coached pastors who did most things just right, but experienced moods related to a physical or chemical problem that only a doctor could find.
- The old standbys: Scripture and prayer, good exercise, eating, and sleep habits, strong marriage and family times, and a good and clean conscience. Basics are still basics.
- Using a true “master schedule,” a standard for most weeks that you stick to, with help from whoever schedules your time. This schedule includes God, family, exercise, sleep, discipleship, evangelism, discipleship group, study time, staff meetings. It helps you attack your week with strategy, as opposed to just seeing what comes next.
- The same things that used to help you be strong! This seems too obvious, but sometimes pastors leave a good groove and balance and schedule as they get older, or as more good opportunities are available; and they forget the disciplines and joy and basics that got them there. Or they decide they do not need accountability or people around them who will tag them out.
What is true joy, and what are the best lifts for our spirits?
- What is joy is a very broad question.
- Joy, for me usually feels a lot like fulfillment.
When I feel fulfilled, it feels like I have done a good job in my investment, and the sacrifices have been worth it.
What makes me feel fulfilled are things like life change—that is, hearing and knowing that God has used me to help someone.
- Relationships: The enjoyment of especially long-term friendships is a real blessing to me, people who have gone the distance with us.
- Have some fun: Sit down at an open house with a graduate or laugh with people at a wedding reception.
- Taking time to savor the joys of ministry is a big deal.
- A job well done: This is where goals and timelines become encouragements, because you can work toward them and then enjoy the completion.
- It is a choice and not an emotion. Joy is the fruit of the Spirit that is not bound to an achievement or accomplishment only.
- My joy often stems from a deep satisfaction that I followed after God after listening to the sweet whispers of the Holy Spirit.
- Joy is not a body, bucks or building—it is the work of the Lord in people’s lives.
- Joy is available and can be chosen in some of the darkest and most difficult times of my life, because I know that God is with me and is teaching me something good in the journey.
- Joy allows me to keep at it, knowing that God is fully in control even when it appears to be just the opposite from my personal perspective.
- Joy is
…knowing God is in charge and feeling good about it.
…in our spirits, and often tied to our faith rather than what is happening around us.
- God’s Spirit, and living in connection with Him, as helped by our commitment and the disciplines mentioned above.
- Good friends where we live, and on staff, and among other pastors or neighbors.
- Laughter and exercise, to get more mundane. Both are true needs.
- Cessation of comparing (okay contrasting) ourselves with others who seem to be more successful. Give thanks and make the most of where you are planted.
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Ed Short, CE National church consultant, is available to help you launch your ministry into a more thriving atmosphere. Visit cenational.org/candc to find out more.