Rest That Sleep Can’t Provide

November 4, 2009

Josh Patterson, Executive Pastor at The Village Church in Highland Village, Texas, wrote this great post recently on the topic of real rest …

I spent the last two weeks away from work and one of those weeks in Jamaica on vacation. I had no agenda and not a lot of responsibility. I didn’t have e-mails to return, no pressure to return calls or make meetings. My most pressing decision was which book to read. It really was a great couple of weeks.

But, there is a kind of rest that sleep cannot provide. There is a kind of rest that a vacation or time away from work doesn’t produce.

During my time away, I reflected on the nature of rest and what is necessary to quiet the soul and rejuvenate the spirit. I was reminded of three things: 1) sleep always helps, but is not the panacea. It is important for me to have adequate sleep each night in order to function optimally. That said, sleep alone doesn’t cure a tired soul; 2) time away from the normal routine allows me to disconnect, but doesn’t ensure I will connect with the Lord. I can turn off my phone and e-mails to help quiet my mind. This is necessary and beneficial. It was great for me to simply engage with my family and not consider all the responsibilities at work. That said, time away and a vacation means that you will have to face your weary soul either at your house or on vacation. Your heart goes with you; 3) the rest that revives and rejuvenates is the rest that is promised in the gospel. God has promised His children that we can cast our cares on Him because He cares for us. He has promised His children that He is greater than the world. He has promised to exchange my burdens for His easiness. He has promised His children that there is contentment and peace in His promises. So, in the gospel of Jesus Christ I am promised rest today and for all eternity.

In the end, I am reminded that most nights I can make a decision to get adequate sleep. Each day, I can do the necessary things to unplug and disconnect from work. Each week, I am afforded a day that is completely and wholly undivided for the sole purpose of rest, worship and connection with the Lord. Vacation and time away has reminded me that rest is a grace I overlook daily. And, that’s the kind of rest that I truly need.

Creating a Culture of Balance

July 5, 2009

I recently read a great paper available from Leadership Network on how Pastors in their 20’s and 30’s are dealing with the stress and strain of ministry life. It was an excellent read and encouraging to hear that these guys are thinking much differently than I was trained. It gives me hope for the future of the Pastor and the future of the Church.

If you’d like your own copy to enjoy, click here.

I’d be very interested in your thoughts and comments if you end up reading it. Post them here below.

Summer Days Got You In A Daze?

June 23, 2009

Summer brings with it all of its splendor and, hopefully, the anticipation of some down time with family and friends. How are you facing it this year? Are you excited about, ready for some time to refresh relationships, maybe see some friends or family you haven’t seen in a while? Or are you feeling like closing the door on your bedroom, ready for somebody to wake you up when it’s time to go back to work?

There are lots of great assessment tools available to help you gauge your burnout potential and current status. I want to suggest one here that can give you an idea of where you stand as you dive into Summer. This is a perfect time in ministry life to wind down, ease back, relax a little more and let the rest rejuvenate and restore. Sometimes it can be helpful to know where you’re at in your own body, mind and soul, and what your level of need is to be refreshed.

Maybe it will help you plan what kind of vacation you really need this year. Go ahead, try it out.

Good Stuff Coming From Gary Lamb’s Pain

June 20, 2009

When I speak of anything good coming from someone’s pain, it’s not news to any real leader. The best stuff of life and ministry, especially when in leadership, comes through pain. We have all felt the sting of where Gary is at in one way, shape or form. Maybe not in ways disqualifying you from ministry (though maybe so), but maybe painful in other ways we could go on and on about.

Disappointment …. discouragement …. half-heartedness from leaders (or ourselves) …. betrayal …. gossip that cuts to the core …. (you fill in this blank)

Among the so many things being said (and that will be said again at someone else’s expense and pain), I have found a few things that stand out. Ironically to me, the things standing out are being said not by those well-known, but by those who are faithfully plowing the ground God has given them and have lasted well.

One such person is Marty Duren. I haven’t met him, but I’ve perused his blog some. And this week I came across his “Thoughts Regarding Fallen Pastors”. Worth your time to read and process. Good stuff.

If you have found like material that isn’t being said by everyone else, please share it in the comments.

If You’re Getting Very Sleepy….

June 12, 2009

I’ve posted about sleep before here. Napping, in particular. Numerous studies show that most of us are NOT getting the amount or the quality of sleep that we need to be have our internal batteries restored to full usage each morning.

While none of us will have perfect sleep, we all have habits that can be utilized to improve this crucial area of our lives. The Wall Street Journal had a great column on this, including some good tips and some incredible, albeit somewhat costy, tools. One quote that encouraged use of monitoring devices that was really good, stated, “If you can measure it, you can manage it.”

Read the article here.

Another Pastor Down

June 9, 2009

The news has sadly been circulating the internet over the last couple days regarding the confession of Pastor Gary Lamb at his blog of an affair with his assistant. There’s already enough opinion flying around about who is for who, who hasn’t said what and what ought to have been said, and more. I don’t have anything to add to that. Don’t really want to even be a part of all that.

I will only mention that probably the healthiest two places I have read response to Gary’s situation have been from Geoff Surratt and Ron Edmonson. They are certainly not the only two who are speaking painfully well of the circumstance, but they’re at the top.

Since the launch of Pastor For Life last Summer, I have endeavored to keep any commentary or review of stories like Gary’s to a minimum, just trying to bring about anything factual and pointing out what we can learn to keep such stories from becoming mine or yours. Frankly, sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t.

I’ll never forget being at Mountain Learning Center in June Lake, CA in May of 2001. I was 3-1/2 years into a Senior Pastorate at a church I had served for 12 years before being appointed as the Sernior Pastor. In those first 12 years, I had worked with the three previous Senior Pastors. All three pastoral transitions were painful for the previous Pastor’s family and the congregation. The last two had pains of immorality and both Pastor’s marriages ended in divorce.

When I became the Senior Pastor, I was sure of two things:

  1. I was nothing like my predecessors (watch out for that pride, folks!)
  2. The one thing that would never happen to me was “burnout”.

Yet there I was, deep in burnout, wondering how in the world I got there. My wife was with me, there had been no immorality or “sinful” mess that had been made of my marriage or ministry. But my foundation of inner life was in shambles and I was depressed and spent.

What I will never forget is my counselor at MLC, Dr. Russ Veenker, having no idea of my two certainties above, hearing my story and saying to me:

“Paul, you are just like your predecessors. I can guarantee you that before they messed up their marriage and ministry, they were in burnout. The only difference between you and them is that you sought help before doing something stupid.”

The advice to Pastors that I’ve scanned today on all the blogs in response to Gary’s situation has been good stuff for the most part.

  • “Don’t counsel alone with the opposite sex.”
  • “Have an accountability structure in place.”
  • “Don’t spend time at the church office with staff of the opposite sex.”

All of it is good advice. It’s good stuff to have in place. Bottom line, however, is that most people close to me were able to see my slow descent into burnout way before I ever saw it coming. And they were saying things. And I was giving blank stares. And before I knew it, when the pressure became too much, my inner life crumbled.

Thing is, at some point, we ALL crumble. Um, yes, ALL of us. I’ve seen it happen time after time, and so have you. If you can’t say that, you haven’t been around ministry long enough. Just wait.

So, what does it take to last? My belief …. do whatever it takes to monitor your heart regularly and keep it at Jesus’ feet. This requires that you adjust your pace to your current life and ministry circumstance, and “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” (from John Ortberg’s “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”).

Most of us Pastors, I find, are unwilling to do that. I was. That’s how I ended up where I was. I am convinced I was headed for a major life adjustment no matter what, even because of age. But it could have been experienced much differently had I been less “Superman” and more hu-man.

I realize, too, that for many Pastors, you serve in a system (church body) that doesn’t allow for much adjustment in these areas for you. That’s a whole other story of change and transformation that must take place for real health to occur, both for you and your congregation.

How about you? Your thoughts?

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Conference is THIS week!

April 28, 2009

I just arrived in New York City, Queens as a matter of fact. I am excited for this year’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Conference. I plan on live blogging and Twittering highlights, so follow along!

On the blog, I’m using CoverItLive and as for Twitter, follow me at here.

You have to set up a Twitter account and them “follow” me, but it’s worth it. Give it a try!

Study & Planning Break

February 4, 2009

One of the practices I learned about through my burnout experience several years ago is the importance of getting away regularly for the purpose of clearing my head and heart, being with God, and hearing His voice. It’s not as intense as it may sound by the title I give it, but I call it a Study & Planning Break.

I try to do at least two of them each year, though the one I write from now is long overdue. It’s been about a year and a half since my last one. Sometimes, the personal pace of life, family, both spouses working, kids school schedules, let alone church life and schedules, just get in the way.

Matter of fact, doing these is like leaving home for vacation ONLY in the sense that trying to get out of town and away from home can be a big hassle. All kids of things to arrange, tasks you want completed before you leave so your mind can be free, and the like. This one was certainly that way when I left on Monday (today is Wednesday).

You can do these almost anywhere that they work for you. This one happens to be at a friends place in at Lake Tahoe, about 400 miles north of my home. Since I love to drive,and that’s one way that really helps me clear my head, the drive is part of what I need and enjoy very much. It may not be that way for you, so maybe that wouldn’t work.

I try to schedule them so that I can have AT LEAST 3-4 days of time. So, for this one, I drove on Monday and will drive home on Saturday. That gives me four full days, Tuesday – Friday.

I always plan for the first day (yesterday, Tuesday) to be a day of decompression:

  • Lots of sleep
  • Lots of quiet (I read this week that it’s good for preachers to remember that God’s first language is silence! It takes time to get acquainted with it. You have to do it on purpose.)
  • Moving slowly
  • “Mind Dump” (writing down tasks coming to mind that haven’t made it to my to-do list yet)
  • Light reading (usually something NON-ministry related – you can see a review of the book I just finished here)
  • Taking a long walk
  • Seeing a movie

Then, on the 2nd – 4th days, I’ll focus on mapping out my message direction for the next few months. This week, I am preaching Sunday, so I’ll use some time to write this weekend’s message. I’ll calendar, read (usually something related to an upcoming series or two, as well as reading larger chunks of Scripture than I normally do when  at home), write, take walks.

On these breaks, I follow my body clock. I’m a night owl, so I enjoy working late and sleeping in, which doesn’t happen at home very naturally. That means I’ll take naps when I feel them coming on.

I use Time and Newsweek magazines for some research, so I’ll let them collect for weeks and then fly through them, tearing out what I want to use and file. I’ve got a box of them to go through while I am here.

I do a lot of relfection on these breaks, and enjoy long periods of time just talking to the Lord and listening for what He wants to say as well. Sometimes I go home with a strong word and other times not. Either way, He and I have had some good, long periods of time just being together.

That’s kind of what the Study & Planning Break looks like. I’ve done them alone, but they’re always safer and more fun to do with a friend. On this one, a friend who I haven’t connected with in a long time was able to come with me.

It’s important in selecting your “break-mate” that you both understand and are not awkward about the need to give each other a lot of silence and solitude. I always look for someone who I know I won’t be a distraction to and he won’t be to me either.

I also purposely look for someone who I know I’m going to have fun with. I am too reflective and not very funny naturally, so it helps me to have someone who I know is going to get me laughing!

Any habits you’ve developed along these lines that you can share? I’ve had a number of Pastor-friends who have made mention that they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves on a retreat like this. Maybe sometime, if enough interest is generated, we’ll do a small group “Pastor For Life” Study & Planning Break. Would you be interested?

Post-Holiday Intense Life Patterns

January 25, 2009

Is it just me, or do you find that your counseling requests increase right after the holidays with INTENSE situations? Over the first three weeks of the New Year, I’ve had a handful of REALLy intense life situations for people and couples in the church.

Looking back, I am finding this to be common at the first part of the year. Maybe due to the holiday stress and steam letting out, maybe due to the financial stress of the holiday season and credit cards being stretched.

The symptoms don’t present themselves that way, but the proverbial cork is definitely popping off the top of some relationships and lives right now.

Let me wncourage you to manage your focus and health well. Keep up (or for some, begin now) the habits of doing things just for you, rather than getting caught in the cycle of doing for everyone else.

When life and relationships are leaning on us hard, it’s important to be sure we’re standing on the right Rock! I’ve been “working” to be sure my life has some non-church/non-work margin to it.

For instance:

  • I spent some extra time this week with Colleen, going to bed when she does (I’m a night owl by nature).
  • I attended and celebrated Colleen’s first Certified Nurse’s Assistant Class Graduation. Her first 10 students couldn’t say enough about her and boy did she soar and shine handing out those certificates of completion!
  • I spent a chunk of time this week with some new friends in ministry that I don’t get to see very often, and it’s been refreshing and rewarding.
  • I took the time (even though there wasn’t much) to keep my quarterly appointment with my psychiatrist. The drive there and back is always relaxing for me, and the time in the appointment well worth it.

What are you doing for you to keep your margins well-attended?

I’ll Be Toast on Thursday! You?

December 22, 2008

Thursday is Christmas Day, and I am as excited about it as anyone gets. I remind our church all through the year how many days are left till Christmas.

One thing I’ve learned over the years though. When we do our Christmas Eve Celebrations on the actual night of Christmas Eve, I am almost worthless on Christmas Day.

You can deny it if you want, but it’s true for most of us in ministry leadership. It’s called Adrenal Letdown, and you can read a little more about it here. I’ve found it very freeing to be honest with myself and others about it. I fought it for too many years and wasted too much energy trying to figure out why I felt so funky the day after intense ministry and people time.

How do you deal with your adrenal letdown? What will you do with it on Christmas Day?

« Previous PageNext Page »

Help When You Hurt

Who ministers to the Minister when you're hurting? Many do, and they can be found on this listing. Please find a friend in your area and seek the help you need today.
Continue reading »

A Place For You

Many Pastors are not aware that all over the country are a number of places you can retreat to for a number of given reasons or purposes. Find some of them here, get there, and find your pace!
Continue reading »