By Ben Mandrell
I don’t want to let people down. I want control over my pulpit. I need their approval.
I can’t think of a pastor who hasn’t had some form of these thoughts invade his brain—whether or not he was bold enough to speak them aloud. I’ve certainly listened to those internal messages. And that was one of the topics that showed up in a recent conversation with pastor Rich Villodas: Pastors so easily forget that Jesus holds all things together, not us (Colossians 1:17).
And data even says this is a pervasive problem. Lifeway Research findings show that more than half (55%) of the 1,000 pastors surveyed said they need to address the issue of overcommitment/over-work. Two-thirds (66%) admitted they struggle to trust God.
The collision of these two issues is what I believe lead many pastors to exhaustion and sum up my biggest regret:
I preached too often. That’s the biggest regret of my pastoral ministry.
There’s a pervasive, unspoken idea among pastors that if we step away from the pulpit for more than one weekend, we’re going to somehow lose traction in our ministries or fall out of favor with our church members."There’s a pervasive, unspoken idea among pastors that if we step away from the pulpit for more than one weekend, we’re going to somehow lose traction in our ministries or fall out of favor with our church members." — @benmandrell Click To Tweet
And it’s not only the internal dialogue that perpetuates this train of thought; it’s also the church members’ affirmation. It’s not uncommon for one of them to give you a heads up that sounds something like this: “My brother is in town next week, and I’m really looking forward to him hearing you preach.”
We all want to be affirmed by the people we lead. But sometimes we allow the affirmation to become toxic to our souls. Other times we allow it (and the desire for control) to exhaust us because we are compelled to keep feeding that “approval monster.” We lose rest and forgo recreation. We become work machines. Boring work machines, actually, because hobbies and passions beyond the pulpit make us more interesting."We lose rest and forgo recreation. We become work machines. Boring work machines, actually, because hobbies and passions beyond the pulpit make us more interesting." — @benmandrell Click To Tweet
Healthy pastors are using other speakers and encouraging their congregation to be receptive and welcoming to substitutions in the pulpit. One encouraging trend I’m seeing is that more pastors seem to be taking multiple weeks off; some even take a month-long sabbatical.
And their churches are supportive of this break for their leader. A healthy congregation realizes their pastor is a human with limits—and facilitates such a time of refreshment. One of the greatest balms to the soul of a pastor is an extended time of several weeks to read, reflect, heal, and have some fun.
I wish I hadn’t preached 48 weeks a year during my pastoral ministry. Start conversations with your church now about what a short break for you could look like. I can assure you: They’ll benefit from having a refreshed pastor.