Please read this before you continue:
This is for leaders and pastors. This is blunt. This is a needed talk that covers a lot of topics that just doesn’t get covered practically. Over the next few months I will be posting articles just for leaders and pastors, I will also post general articles and some updates. However, this “For Leaders and Pastors Only” series is from a brainstorm of conversations I’ve had with friends in ministry. Some of them will have articles here in the upcoming weeks and other articles will be collaborations of several pastors and conversations. The material we will address is specifically aimed at my generation of preachers and leaders. We will be open and honest. Please, don’t read pride into this, but rather just guys and gals in ministry wanting to help each other not make the same mistakes we have made.
Today’s post is about recharging. This is for leaders and pastors. There are qualifiers for reading this post and others in this series. If you don’t qualify, this won’t make sense and will come off wrong or even mean spirited. That is not the goal, rather to address some issues that need to be covered and understood. If you are not a leader or Pastor, please read something else. If you are a leader, pastor, ministry leader…here are the qualifiers:
- First, you must understand work and actually be working beyond full-time. I have met some pastors who honestly couldn’t do any other kind of work but be a pastor and many “so called” leaders who were just words and empty thoughts. Others think they work, but really do not. Many pastors I have met in my life have a glorified desk job, rarely do anything, and are honestly just elevated administrators. Work by definition is hard, takes time and exerts energy. Most only work on their golf game. Most are lazy, undisciplined bums. I honestly cannot stand some pastors/leaders because they are horrible examples and I wouldn’t let most of them mow my lawn. Some pastors sit in their office everyday for hours and hours doing what exactly? Paul, said being a preacher was work… So work!
- Secondly, you have to be out front. I hate talkers. Do something or shut up. In college I was a part of a graduating class of 100+. Less than quarter of that are in ministry today. The reason why, is that it is easy to talk big in theory, but doing it is something totally different. This is not a post for the guy in the back of the room who didn’t ask the girl to dance. If your worried about what others think about you, stop reading now, you’re a wuss.
- Thirdly, this is for the spiritually mature. This is a straight shooting post, don’t read into it. This is tough stuff, so I cover it likewise. Also, don’t read this post and think it spiritually shallow, I expect you to already be reading, praying, meditating & growing if you consider yourself a leader. I don’t cover reading the Bible, praying and maturity because I expect you to have it. If you don’t, get it. You won’t make it in ministry without it, unless you have a last name that carries weight. If you’re struggling with private sins, have the discipline of a fat cat, aren’t a witness for Jesus and can’t remember where in the Bible Jesus said to love people…then please pass this blog now and go get your Bible, if you can find it.
- Lastly, being busy is not working. Busy people get very little done. Productive people get things done, there is a difference. I know pastors who spend 40+ hours in their office every week, I get more done before breakfast than they do in a day. Remember, I’m a pastors kid who is now more than just a pastor, I write from my own experience, honesty, and my stupid mistakes. Hopefully, this helps you.
This past week I took my wife on a vacation. We spent 7 days away from the world. I turned off Facebook and all other social media, didn’t carry my iPhone, iPad or any of my many Apple products. We went to hear some great live jazz & classic rock shows, saw Chicago the Musical, chilled on the beach, ate a ton of food, spent time with no kids, partied, and rested.
Leaders (who qualify to read this) need to be replenishing the spirit, renewing the mind, and reorienting focus to better help us help others. Without times for personal, social, family, physical and spiritual recharging you will not last. Worse yet, maybe you will last, but you will be mediocre at best. So the question is asked how do leaders who are really working, really low on income, pour everything into ministry and sacrifice much, even when no one thanks you, keep on going? How do we keep on pushing?
To answer this question and give credibility to my answer, you need to get in my head for a bit to understand me. I will be open, brutally honest even. Don’t read arrogance or brash pride in this, rather hear a guy who wants to help you and is willing to be open about it. To do this, I’ll take you thru a day in my head, walk you through my week and then answer the question.
A Day In My Head.
I’m an early bird. I wasn’t always this way, I blame it on my dad (lovingly). He woke up early, so I wanted to wake up earlier the older I got. My dad worked hard, long hours, so I too wanted to do the same. No matter what it is, there is a voice of discipline in the back of head that will not let me slack off. If I could do it… I should do it. So, here is what it looks like on a random day in my head.
Daily Routine: up at 425a, prayer & devotions 430a, gym 5-730a, Jayden to school 8a, phone calls/messages 9a, study till 1130a, lunch and news. Afternoon is reading (rereading Simple Church right now), sermon prep, counseling calls. Jayden is out of school 330p, errands and delivery food/giving rides till 5p, home before dinner. Most nights we have people over to our house. Keiki cooks, I talk, boys play. In bed before midnight.
We have had over most families in our block in the last 2 months. Every family in our church has gotten an invite, and if they haven’t been over yet they will have an invite soon. Depending on the day, we have life groups at church, coaching baseball/after school programs, then family time. My days are full. Busy, no. Productive, yes. On top of this at least four days a month I work to specifically help families in need. This involves moving them, feeding them, hiding them, etc. Just last month Keiki cooked food for 50+ people in 4 days, I delivered food for over 12 hours in the same 4 day period. This doesn’t include Saturdays & Sundays, Recovery & Addiction meetings, concerts in the park, special events or days, or mass feedings.
The point is that in doing much, I get tired. Its easy for us to pour ourselves into people without remembering that we too are people that need to be filled. To help me, a good pastor friend advised me with some great advice that I have tweaked and now pass to you. I take one day a week as a personal sabbath from all ministry work. On this day, I unplug and recharge. I still go to the gym, I still read and study, but I try to stay off social media, off the iPhone and off the iPad. Keiki and I plan at least three date nights a month with no kids. Every 3/4 months I unplug from Church for a whole week. I go to another church, I sit and listen to someone else preach (not as a pastor, but as a butt in the seat). Every year Keiki and I take a whole family vacation (even a stay-vacation due to lack of $) to have bonding time with just us.
There is a method to the madness. There is a reason for why I started doing less to do more. From a guy who runs on RedBull, let me explain what I do to recharge and why.
Develop your Sabbaths.
The Sabbath is needed and totally misunderstood by most. Mark Driscoll wrote: To Sabbath is to rest from one’s labor. The first Sabbath day was a Saturday: “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done” (Genesis 2:2). The first recorded command for humans to Sabbath is in Exodus 16:23, and the Sabbath is listed as the fourth commandment in Exodus 20:8–11. In regards to the purpose of the Sabbath, it does indeed have benefits for all people. Workers and animals are permitted to rest as an act of justice and compassion to ensure the dignity of God’s creation. Both rich and poor are invited to stand in equality for one day as they rest from their labors, knowing that our sovereign God is on our side and is able to hold the universe and our lives together even when we rest and sleep.
You need to Sabbath (your spouse needs this too!). The truth is I never really had a Sabbath. Sunday doesn’t count guys as that is the busiest day for us. So, how do we develop a Sabbath when you are working a secular job, pastoring a church, trying to raise a family, have no money and are on the brink of a killing the next person that lets you down? Start simple, create some Sabbaths.
Create a Social Sabbath – get away from people for a set time period (short or long.) This is hard for most of us because we actually go where the people are. Some pastors have this already its called the office. They hide in their caves playing video games and stalking Facebook, I’m not talking to those pencil pushers, but rather the guys who are with people non-stop. For you, you need to get away even if for a few hours a week. Go take a nap, smoke a cigar, sit in the back yard in a lawn chair…I don’t care, just don’t do it with people. You’ll be shocked by how much better you’ll think and act with people when you take time to unplug from people. This also means no cell phone, no email, no social media. If they need to get ahold of you, it can wait till morning.
Create a Personal Sabbath – this is a day away from it all. If you are like me, then you are on call everyday. Even still, you need to plan a day each week where you can breathe. Sure, a funeral, a court date, an eviction or overdose is bound to happen but if you can get some time each week you’ll be amazed. Jesus took a nap in the boat, cooked fish with his disciples on the beach, took a long silent walk…learn from this.
Create a Family Sabbath – take a family day or family meal. This is hard to do with school, sports, jobs and ministry, but you need to do it. We have a pizza night once a week (most times its homemade to save money.) Go see a family movie at the dollar theater. Take a bike ride, go to the park, have ice cream at a Mcdonalds play house, etc. Your kids will thank you for it later in life. If all your kids see you do is stuff but not enjoy anything, then don’t be surprised when you raise negative, pessimistic preacher kids.
Create a Marriage Sabbath – Keiki and I go on at least 3 date nights a month. It’s not alway grandiose, but it is just us. Starbucks, a bookstore, eat at home and then take a walk, watch a movie, go to the movies, watch baseball, etc. Have some fun times & some romance times. Don’t treat your spouse like a church member (listen because you have to), rather involve yourself in his/her life. For Keiki and I, we like coffee and we like to read. Keiki loves musicals, I love sports. We give and take and we have a happy home.
Get a Hobby.
Not only do you need to have some Sabbaths, it is good if you can do something else than just pretend to be Superman. Pastors have tendencies to forget they are human and act like Samson. We get bold and arrogant. We forget that God made us for his pleasure. Pleasure is a good thing, not a bad thing. Most don’t think about humor, fun, or relaxing when it comes to Jesus…but you should.(go read Vintage Jesus by Driscoll). I never really had a hobby when I first got into the ministry. I watched sports & played golf but I would find away to turn it into work. An example of this is a church guys night for a game or church golf outing. Those turned into jobs I had to do rather than things I wanted to do and enjoyed doing. I have developed hobbies now. Some are productive hobbies, others are purely recreational. Some of my productive hobbies are that I am teaching myself Latin & Hebrew (thanks Rosetta Stone), and I am working on some college classes for my Doctorate. When I sit and watch games now, no multitasking. I love to read books from various authors, love Jon Stewart, Colbert, PTI and watch Olbermann when he is on. I like to golf, I try to go a few times a month and leave the phone in the truck. The point is to do something that you enjoy that will help you decompress. Don’t take up something you don’t enjoy as a hobby, it will turn into a job.
Plan some trips.
This is a hard one, but not really. We don’t make a lot and we live on little. But we still plan trips. We plan a few years out and try to save money for it. I understand how tight things get, really I do. But if you don’t plan stuff, you’ll never do it. The trip Keiki and I went on last week we planned almost 3 years ago. It took me that long to save up some spending money, and cover the cost to fly, but it was worth it. Now if a pastor in Detroit who spends every dollar on a church and mission he started can go on a trip, you can. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you should get away. You don’t have to go somewhere expensive, but you should get out of dodge. There is a pressure that comes with the city you pastor. People know you (they should), and you should be vocal with those you meet. It is hard to decompress and recharge, when you vacation in town and you run into people you know at dinner. Go 30 minutes away at least. Leave your ministry in the hands of someone you trust and go. If you don’t have someone you trust in your ministry you could leave it to, you don’t have ministry you have a monopoly and need to change some things fast.
Church/Leadership trips – these are conferences, pastor meetings, and seminars. The two best conferences I ever went to were the ones I had to work the most to get to (ChurchWorks and A29). Plan it bro! These conferences are good for you, they plan the dates on their websites, do it. Find something in your area, find one not so close. I don’t care…just go. It will help you, your spouse, and your church. Go and take notes. Take it home and don’t change anything over night, rather take 30 days and pray over it and then implement changes. Keiki and I are going to hear John Piper in December and several more next year. Yes, it costs money. Yes, I’ll have to work side jobs to go, but its worth it.
Honeymoons – I can’t believe more couples don’t do this but if your married…go on a honeymoon every year. Go be together, have sex, go to dinner, relax and be with the one you love. This can be as simple as a few nights at a resort/motel, or a cabin up north or as elaborate as you want. Seriously, you are not married to the church, you are married to your spouse. Love Her! Love Him! You give 6+ days a week to the church, don’t just give your spouse minutes a week. Spend some time together. Time is how you spell love.
Family Vacation – take the kids to the park, go to Disney, go to the zoo. Plan it! Keiki and I planned last summer to go some beaches here in Michigan. Its nothing like Hawaii or the Bahamas…but we had fun! We packed sack lunches, we took the dogs, the boys had fun, we all went to Sonic and got shakes. Make it fun, doesn’t have to be crazy, but it could be.
Take a step back and look at your whole life. You can’t do this when your still in the zone. Get away and get a third person view. The insight alone is priceless. Start planning your days to get things done. Start planning your Sabbaths to help you recharge and refresh.
I am not a pro at this. For a long time I never took a break or a vacation because I thought it was lazy and not worth it. Others I know don’t work hard enough and take too many breaks. Find your balance and develop a plan for success that will allow you to last.