3 Healthy Ways to Handle Ministry Pressure
Serving in ministry full-time, part-time, or even as a volunteer can be a daunting task. Constantly developing sermon series, teaching materials, leading or participating in staff meetings, board meetings, small group meetings (well, you get the idea). Not to mention dealing with numerous issues within the church. The litany of problems laid at your feet to solve and speak on creates consistent pressure ministers feel and carry daily. Add to this the often stressful role that many of us have as husbands and wives and fathers and mothers. With all of this, it’s obvious these responsibilities can cause health problems. Here are our top 3 ways to handle ministry pressure.
First, make sure you spend time in God’s Word and prayer.
This may sound like a no-brainer as a minister, but unfortunately often times we can be the most delinquent when it comes to our personal times with God. Much too often we’re spending time studying the Bible for a lesson for someone else or spending much of our prayer time with the needs of others at the forefront. Of course, this service to others is needed, but we become unhealthy when important needs of our own get eclipsed in the process.
I recall Mark 1:21-34 where Jesus’ ministry is starting to take off—after teaching powerfully, driving out demons, and healing people into the early morning. Does Jesus keep going full speed ahead, capitalizing on the momentum? Actually, the very next thing you see Jesus doing is getting up early the next morning to go to a solitary place to pray and spend time with the Father. Jesus’ example must be the consistent model followed to handle the pressures of ministry.
Without filling our cups back up after pouring ourselves out to others, we risk running off of our own power and not filling up and depending on the One with all the power. Stop following the model of Martha (Luke 10:40) who was so focused on serving Jesus and working for him but not focused on what was best. The scripture describes Martha as getting frustrated with Mary for not offering any help. With Martha at the point of exhaustion and what resembles “ministry burnout,” Jesus directs her to be more like Mary and choose what’s best: being with Him.
Second, don’t just make a mental note to start exercising someday. Do it.
Numerous studies show the benefits of exercising when it comes to relieving stress. Endorphins are released when we exercise and this release helps reduce our perception of pain and triggers a positive feeling in our bodies, similar to that of morphine. Having a weekly routine of exercise in place is key to handling ministry pressures. Due to living in a more sedentary society where a lot of our time is spent sitting behind a computer, having lunch or coffee meeting, or driving from place to place, we will rarely put our bodies into motion that requires exertion if we are not very intentional about it. Here are a few ideas you can implement to get started if you don’t already have a routine:
- Purchase and utilize a Fitbit to count your steps. Find out how many steps you take a day as your own baseline and work up to at least 10,000 steps daily.
- If you work consistently behind a desk, set a timer to go off every 2 hours to go for a 10-minute walk.
- Join a boot camp-style workout class that will provide camaraderie and accountability.
- Partner with a friend to hire a personal trainer together to help with the cost of your investment, provide fun accountability, and deepen friendship.
- Find an accountability partner who will message throughout the day to check in for workouts, prayer, and support.
These ideas and others need to become daily habits and routines in order to be a better servant to your ministry.
Third, find some people who don’t see you as the spiritual superior. Connect with spiritual mentors/peers.
Serving in ministry can be emotionally draining if you are not getting your own cup filled by spending time with other trusted friends and mentors. Ministry can also be a very isolating occupation due to the nature of serving, teaching, and advising others constantly. It’s easy for people to put you on a “spiritual pedestal” as the standard bearer of the Gospel. If you allow it, this can create a chasm of how people see you on stage versus who you really are in real life.
Having a group of spiritual peers and mentors you can confide in is of the utmost importance. Don’t fall prey to Satan’s scheme of always keeping you overly busy, possibly hiding out, or carrying the weight of your ministry and personal struggles all by yourself. James 5:16 implores us to “Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Ministers are often the ones hearing confessions and praying for people to be healed, with the result that their own spiritual needs can go unmet.
Talking with peers who are experiencing similar life and ministry challenges gives you someone to confide in and not be alone. It’s also wise to connect with a spiritual mentor who’s at the next stage of life and ministry to provide perspective and advise you on action steps.
In the end, making your health a priority is an important decision you must make for yourself, your family, and your congregation.