By Rob Hurtgen
A few weeks into changing almost everything I wrote down the following:
I’m exhausted from the continuous state of emergency, regularly monitoring news agencies, and staying on top of my social media to keep in contact with others,
Shepherding the range of those who are never going anywhere ever again to those who are angry that the whole world has bought into the coronavirus conspiracy isn’t easy.
Every Christian vendor has filled my inbox with “the” solution I need to navigate this current crisis. I had no idea that having the right font on my social media would propel ministry and combat the coronavirus. (Please stop). I’m tired.
The mental, physical, and emotional tolls of the new normal had worn me down. I crashed, and I’m guessing I’m not alone.
Self-care is a critical step to not only navigate a crisis well but to live well. Pastors, however, don’t seem to understand or practice self-care.
To paraphrase David Murray in Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture: Self-care isn’t about staying healthy in ministry; self-care is about staying in ministry.
From one pastor to another, I want to share with you a few realities of combating the pandemic-induced crash.
1. Busy is addictive.
Urgency elevates busy. Busy is addictive.
In a matter of weeks, many in our culture have shifted from having overloaded calendars to boredom.
Yet for many pastors and church leaders, their schedules are fuller, and the demands on them are greater than ever before.
Pausing and shifting from what ministry was, to what it is, and attempting to figure out what it’ll look like in the future has made many pastors busier than before. Being busy, needed, wanted, is addicting.
The Lord gave us Sabbath, an intentional and regular period of extended time to stop because we need to be restored (Exodus 20:10) and reminded we aren’t cogs in a machine (Deuteronomy 5:14).
When we’re busy, we’re tempted to believe we have too much to do to stop. Rest can happen in another season. Right now, this has to be done. I can’t stop.
The busy addiction reinforces our addiction to being needed. The busy addiction lures us into thinking they can’t do this without you.
But, when you stop, cut the addiction off, slowly, with some withdrawals, you’ll see that yes, you’re needed, and yes, God has a purpose to work through you, but no, the world hasn’t stopped because you did.
2. Burnout is a reality.
I don’t think this most recent crash was a full-on burnout. I’ve done that before. Twice. But I was heading that way.
Thankfully, by God’s grace, I was able to recognize some of the signs. The neglect of my self-care was going to put me in the place where I could care for no one.
And yet, we often think being physically, emotionally, and even spiritually exhausted is for other people. But burnout can affect anyone.
When Elijah fled Mt. Horeb, he was physically, emotionally, and spiritually spent (1 Kings 19:5). The Lord cared for him by sending his angels to give him a double portion of food, water, and rest (1 Kings 19:5-7).
Elijah didn’t need a conference or a new book. He needed a good meal and a nap. We don’t always recognize the signs of burnout until we’re recovering from it. Pastor, take a nap.
3. The Bible is required.
In times of crisis, it’s even more critical that you remain in the Bible—not just to prepare messages and Bible studies but to nourish your soul.
Your ministry will be an overflow of your own time with God and what He’s doing in your life.
The condition of your heart is a critical factor in the health of the ministry during times of crisis and calm.
There’s a new normal waiting to be discovered. The post-coronavirus normal won’t look like anything in ministry to which we’ve grown accustomed.
Abiding in Christ, however, and loving and leading the church well won’t change. Love from a healthy heart; lead from a soul satisfied in the Lord. Find both by spending time in God’s Word.
ROB HURTGEN (@robhurtgen) is the husband to Shawn, father of five, pastor of First Baptist Church Chillicothe, Missouri, and doctoral student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also blogs at robhurtgen.wordpress.com.