Ministry Inside.130

exhaustion1My friend told me many years ago, “If you are going to last, you can’t keep working like this.”

I was a young preacher.  I had just told my new friend some details about my typical work week.  I had no sense of boundaries or priorities.  Consequently, my days were typically spent with far too much activity and too little reflection on the value of these activities.

My friend had served congregations for many years.  He was ten years older than me and had given much thought about his use of time in his own ministry.

Consequently, I made some changes in the way I used my time in my work.  I also learned much about the way I had been using my time.

Perhaps you will find these helpful.

1.  Every “yes” is a “no” to something else.  Some people say “yes” to almost every request they receive.   Yet time is a limited resource.  Consequently, I can be busy fulfilling the requests of a few people, while I ignore the message preparation that will impact hundreds of people on Sunday morning.  I learned to think through the implications of saying “yes” to far too many requests.

2.  Creating margin during the work day can really help with stress.  When I was a young minister, I created almost no margin in my work.  Consequently, my schedule often looked something like this:

1:00  PM – Visit with John who is discouraged and somewhat depressed.

2:00  PM – Visit with the Smiths who are talking about getting a divorce.  Their marriage has been hanging by a thread for years.

3:30  PM – Visit with the Jones family who are very worried about their son who spent last Saturday night in jail after wrecking his car while drunk.

These are intense, emotional, demanding conversations.  Maintaining this kind of intense schedule many afternoons each week was exhausting.  During those years, I was seeing far too many people back-to-back with no pause or margin.

3.  Creating times of refreshment must be intentional and must be a priority.  For example, I learned to carve out time early in the morning for reading, journaling, and prayer.  A good cup of coffee coupled with time set aside for my own refreshment became a sacred space for me.

4.  Taking care of my body impacts my energy level and my emotional state of being.  When ministers get busy and stressed they often respond to the demands by ceasing to exercise.  “I don’t have time to go to the gym, run, walk, etc.”  Then, some begin to rely on caffeine for energy while they munch on junk food throughout the day.

I learned that eliminating exercise from my regular routine was a dead end street.  I had more energy, felt better, and thought more clearly, when I regularly exercised.  I also had less desire to eat too much junk food.


What have you learned about your use of time that has been especially helpful to you?

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