On last Sunday, my husband had the privilege to celebrate 26 years as the Senior Pastor of our church, Second Baptist Church of Olathe. As we were preparing for the festivities, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever celebrate 26 years at any job? These days it is sometimes rare for individuals to stay with a company for over 10 years. As I do every year, I asked my husband what his plans are for the next year and how long he plans to continue being a pastor. He always answers the same way, “When, the Lord says it is time for me to move on.”
The 26th celebration was a success. We felt appreciated and heard others say some really nice, kind things about us, and we received some fabulous gifts and we were blessed financially. October happens to be clergy appreciation month and also the month our church celebrates my husband’s years of service to our local congregation. We are thankful for the one time a year that we really feel appreciated. We look forward to every October because it gives my husband a boost to continue to serve another year.
Being a pastor’s wife, I see many of the struggles that my husband endures week after week. There is always something going on at the church, couples are getting married, individuals get sick and are hospitalized or in the nursing home, individuals get into legal trouble, families are falling apart, individuals die, and people are struggling emotionally, financially, and spiritually. I don’t know how he does it week after week.
Several years ago I stumbled upon a book entitled: Your Pastor is an Endangered Species, written by H.B. London, Jr and Neil B. Wiseman. The authors discuss the difficulties and struggles pastor’s face, which sometimes lead them to leave the ministry. After all, a Pastor’s life can consist of 55 to 75 hours a week, and being on call 24/7 and sometimes being bi-vocational or multi-vocational. I also found the website pastorburnout.com which lists some interesting statistics regarding pastors and their families. As a pastor’s wife, many of these statistics did not surprise me, but they may be a wakeup call to the local church. Here are just a few:
· 25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
· 33% say that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
· 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
· 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they need to take a leave of absence from ministry.
· 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
Wow, I thought after reading those stats. Because our pastors are the pillars of our communities, we must do everything possible to help them to survive and thrive. Here are 4 ways to keep your pastor from experiencing burnout.
1. Pray for him daily. Regular prayer time and devotion means that you are connected to God and can pray for yourself and your family members. While you are praying for you and your family, always mention your pastor by name and pray for the pastoral family. When church members have a strong prayer life, it always makes the pastor’s job easier. The pastor is not the only one who can get a prayer through. You don’t know how much it means to a pastoral family to hear their names included in your personal and corporate prayers.
2. Make sure your pastor takes at least 6-8 weeks of vacation annually. Think about it, there are 52 Sundays in a year. I have been on my job only 15 years, and I get almost ten weeks. Pastors should be able to be out on vacation a minimum of 6 Sundays per year. Not only should he/she get vacation days, but also wellness days, sort of like sick leave. Pastors should also be allowed to bring in guest ministers or use associate minister’s to preach at least every 8 weeks. Pastor’s need to be ministered to by hearing others preach. The ultimate gift of encouragement, would be at least a 30 day sabbatical leave to refresh and renew. Note: when the pastor is out, it is also a good idea for members to show up so he/she doesn’t feel guilty about taking time off.
3. Encourage your pastor to take care of themselves physically. A few years ago we were in an installation service for a new pastor and wise, elderly pastor made the following comment. “Son, don’t dig your grave with your teeth.” That statement has stuck with me over the years. Members are quick to feed the Pastor. I now that pastor’s appreciate the cooking skills of their members, but don’t attempt to feed the Pastor and family too many things that are unhealthy for them. Purchase a gym membership for the pastor and family and encourage them to stay physically fit.
4. Respect the Pastor’s family time. Time with family is crucial for pastors to relax and rejuvenate and care for their family’s emotional needs. Pastors more than anyone understand the types of emergencies and crises that can come up on any given day. However, dinner time or Friday and Saturday nights may not be the best time to call the pastor about something that can wait until Sunday. Respect the Pastor’s home by leaving messages on his office phone rather than his cell or home phone. Buy a gift certificate for the pastor and wife to enjoy an evening on the town or go to a movie. Encourage a get-away for the pastor and spouse
These are just a few things you can do to be a blessing to your pastor. Lastly, take the time to say “thank you”, “I love you”, and “I really appreciated your sermon today”. Tell him/her in person or send a note. These statements go a long way to keep your pastor from burning out.
I recently returned from New Orleans where I had attended a software conference. I had a wonderful time. Not only did I learn a lot, but of course I enjoyed much of what New Orleans has to offer especially the rich culture surrounding the food specialties. The taste and smell of gumbo, seafood, jambalaya, creamy pralines and the spicy boiled potatoes will be in my thoughts for a couple of weeks. One night while riding the trolley car after feasting on the world famous beignets from Café De’Monde, I noticed a sign conveniently placed for all to see. The sign read, “New Orleans, You’re Different Here.” The more I thought about the slogan, the more I began to experience the essence of it.
The following night, our sponsors arranged for us to participate in a down home, New Orleans parade. As a young child in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I loved watching the annual Christmas parade as my sisters and I waited for Santa Claus to appear at the very end. During the Thanksgiving season, I still find myself being drawn to the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while preparing dinner. The last time I participated in a parade, was during my college homecoming many years ago.
Once I realized we were actually going to be in a parade, my energy soared. Our sponsors had brought in a local high school band to lead us. The entire experience brought back wonderful memories for me. Soon I found myself wanting to march with the flag girls and the majorettes and step high like I did in high school. Well, they didn’t let me go to the front of the parade with the majorettes, but that didn’t stop me. I decided to fall in line behind the tuba players and lead the pack until the end of the parade. There was something about the sound of the drums and the brass instruments that made me feel different. As we were walking by, the onlookers were waving and taking pictures as though we were celebrities. I can imagine if I was just walking down the street and saw a parade, I would also stop and take notice as well.
Well, my celebrity status did not end there. When we arrived at our destination, they had also hired the services of a ragtime band to play jazz while we enjoyed our dinner. These guys were awesome and they received a huge round of applause after every selection. As we ate dinner, they played with heart and soul. Everything was so wonderful, I wanted a memory. Before I knew it, I was up talking to the band and asked if I could take a picture with them. The saxophone player allowed me to join the band and pretend to be a saxophone player. I even convinced the drummer and the trombone player to let me pretend play with their instruments. I enjoyed hearing many of their stories as many of them began playing instruments as early as 6 years old. Wow. I was different after hearing about their passion to play music.
What makes New Orleans so special is that they celebrate everything. They celebrate life, death, holidays, food and most of all people. I saw people from all walks of life as we paraded down the street. What I saw on the faces of most everyone we passes were smiles as they waved frantically at people they didn’t even know. Everyone in the parade was smiling. Everyone along the route was smiling. There was the rich and the poor, people of all types of nationalities, tourists and home folks, all smiling and dancing along because they figured we had something to celebrate.
The Bible has many examples of celebrations. 2 Chronicles 30:23 NIV indicates "The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully." There were celebrations for deliverance, for the harvesting of crops, special days of the month, the moon, and various events. When we celebrate, we often commemorate some type of event. We have baby showers, bridal showers, graduation celebrations, wedding and anniversary celebrations and birthday celebrations. There is always something to celebrate. Why not be cheerful and celebrate the gift of life daily and the other miracles that happen in the course of the day? The Bible says in Proverbs 17:22 (NIV), "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
They were right, in New Orleans I was different. I was thankful for having a nice, safe, room with a comfortable bed, in a fabulous hotel. I appreciated the few days away from my super busy routine. I love to learn new things so having an opportunity to learn from others was fabulous. I got the chance to meet some great people, ate some outrageously delicious food, and had some great stories to share with my husband who I wished could have accompanied me there. Lastly, I will always remember my trip to the Big Easy because I got to be part of the Band!
Last Sunday evening as my hubby and I were getting our exercise walking around the lake, we noticed the moon to the west appearing as bright as the sun. There was something special about the way it was shining. The most amazing thing about it was that it appeared at though you could reach out and touch it. I couldn’t resist the opportunity for my husband to use his photography skills to take a picture of me in such a way that it looked like I was holding the moon.
After playing around with the camera phone, we discovered that it was a very special moon, because an eclipse was scheduled to happen on that very night. We learned It was not only going to be an eclipse, but it was going to be a “super blood moon.” What in the world is a super blood moon you ask? I soon learned that it was a rare astronomical event in which a total lunar eclipse happened during the same night as a super moon.
After we searched the internet and discovered what a rare event it was, we hurried home and finished up our project, then we grabbed our lawn chairs and went outside. We soon discovered that our neighbors had the same idea and we parking across the street in the school parking lot. It began looking like a block party in our neighborhood. I even popped popcorn to enjoy the event even more. Once we were settled and began enjoying the view, I texted my sisters and children because I didn’t want them to miss out.
Our time was well worth the wait. We watched the moon slowly eclipse, then the end result was a particularly large and shiny full moon that turned dark red for over an hour. If you missed out on the show, it's going to be a while before you can see it again. The last time a super moon coincided with a total lunar eclipse was in 1982, and the next one won't happen until 2033.
As I traveled here and there the rest of the week, the moon consistently caught my attention. I couldn’t help but think about Psalms 8:4 Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV) “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Then I thought to myself how God has created this beautiful world for us to live in and sometimes we get so busy we won’t stop to take in its beauty. I am thankful we got the chance to enjoy the moon on last week. There are so many other breath taking views that God gives us daily. Just look around you. Be deliberate about appreciating nature in all its splendor.
What have you been missing?
Janice R Love, Author
First Lady, Mom, Stepmom and Divorce Ministry Coach