Posted By Matthew on May 6, 2013
There is always talk about how stress kills you. The medical industry understands the negative impact of stress on the body. There are words like stress fractures, stressful situations, and the stress test. Stress is big news for some time now. In ministry, we use the term “burn out” which is a nice way of saying that the stress got to someone. And in ministry, stress is killing out preachers faster than a Colorado wildfire.
Someone mentioned to me recently that I am always on the go. People make the comments, “You are so busy, you do so much. How do you do it?” And I report back, I have strong coping mechanisms in my life. And when these coping skills break down, my body and soul feels it. If I stay strong in these areas, I can continue to move at a fast rate.
The problem in ministry is that there are high levels of stress to deal with on a weekly rate. And when preachers stuff the stress, instead of using the coping skills to process it, it comes out in negative and destructive ways. You see ministers discover all kinds of problems. You got to deal with the stress on your terms or the stress will deal with you on its terms. Probably, the stress, and the lack of coping is the downfall of the majority of ministers who fall into moral and destructive patterns.
A minister is doing well, than all of a sudden he starts having an affair. Chalk this up to poor coping with stress. A minister will use various means to deal with the stress in his work. This is where moral sin comes into play. He will drink, watch pornography, angry outbursts, have an emotional affair, work too much, you name the sin, and it will appear during stressful times. But what is sad, is that these sins will get you fired, but other sins that are from stress will get you a raise. A preacher will visit every member, he will work himself to death, he will throw himself into the work and forsake his family, in other works, he becomes out of balance, and there ways that are allowed in the church and others that are not, but the source and the problem is the same.
Too much stress will destroy your ministry.
So you got to watch yourself. Stress often leads to addictions. Addictions are coping mechanisms that are unhealthy, but most preachers have a few. Myself, when I am dealing with a detox time in ministry, I will turn to chess playing. Yes, I do, and this is just as bad as the bottle. I want to read chess books, play chess on line, and mostly go into this chess world with an addictive gusto of a crack addict. I have done this a few times in ministry, about three so far in my life. It is chess for me, but for you, it is probably, and hopefully something different, but it can be just as bad. It could be the classic preacher sins, or some other negative pattern that develops.
So what to do?
1. Watch for the Pattern. I have seen this pattern a few times before in my life. I see the warning signs. And I get help. I talk it out. If you have to, go to a counselor. There is no shame in watching out for your emotional health.
2. Review Your Sermons. Your sermons tell the story of what is happening in your life more than you would like to admit. Go back a few months, what are the common themes. Right now, my sermons have a theme of “winners versus losers”. It is this theme of God will give us the victory. Not sure why my mind is there, but it is there. Your sermons will give you hints of what you are dealing with over time.
3. Write Down You Coping Skill Habits. I know what works for me these days. Gym, Rock Climbing, Hiking, these bring me back. These provide perspective and healing to me. Often recreation is a healthy coping skill when it is done in balance. What is sad though is that churches sometimes can make a minister feel guilty for having a time of recreation. He should be working, and then the church is ripped apart because of a minister’s sin. If he is doing this in balance, encourage it.
4. Protect Yourself. Satan will hit you at your weakest. He knows about those coping habits that are unhealthy, and he will throw the temptation at you most at this time. Listen to the voice of wisdom. A was traveling a lot, just went through a super hard season, and I was tired, and I remember this elder saying to me after telling him my calendar. He said, “You know Matthew, this is when Satan tempts us the most.” My guard went up, because I knew I was going to be attacked.
5. What Is Causing the Stress. Get to the bottom of the issue. Is it conflict with an elder, or member, or within the family. What is causing this flare up? What are you doing to cause the problem? Go to your network and look for answers.
6. Stress can make you Stronger. Do not always run away from stress. It can develop you as a leader. You must learn to deal with stress, because you will never truly remove it from ministry.
7. Quiet Time with the Lord. You got to make time for this. Quiet time is not just praying or meditating. It is simply being still in the presence of the Lord. Have no agenda, have no time to have to pray, or think, or accomplish anything. Just sit and listen, and speak if you need to use words.
Stress is the silent killer for preachers. Watch it, and if you are a leader in a church, watch out for your man. Shepherds, this is a huge one, do not allow your sheep to be destroyed by stress. And preacher, guard your heart like a hawk.