candle_aglow.jpg Stress  is unavoidable – Burn out is. Burnout occurs when clergy do not manage their stress effectively.  Prolonged periods of excess stress, few techniques and skills to deal with the stress find clergy experiencing one of the highest burnout rates of any profession. It is paramount that we equip ourselves with effective methods to prevent stress from distracting us from our God given appointment.   Why is the pastoral ministry so stressful?  The reasons are too many to list in this article but I would like to share four.  Pastors have no plan for self wholeness.  As pastors we have perfected our skills in finding solutions, repairing broken relationships and meeting the needs of everyone around them. Often time these activities ignore our personal boundaries and increase stress.Suggestion – Develop a physical, emotional, family or spiritual wholeness plan. This will allows you to set, maintain and communicate boundaries to achieve self wholness as we seek to meet the needs of the people that we serve. 

Pastors lack of clearly defined expectations and try to meet unrealistic expectations of others.  This includes everything that is not done by the ministry volunteers and other tasks not assigned to anyone else.  We can quickly become frustrated trying to live up to everyone’s expectations.Suggestion -Outline your time management system. Have this available when you discuss new requests and opportunities. Have a set day off and fiercly protect that as your Sabbath. Pastoral ministry is also stressful because it is often difficult to craft win-win solutions with leadership and laity.  Instead of adopting the scripture “Come now, let us reason together,” (Isaiah 1:18) many people who create, sustain and fuel conflict in the church adopt the scripture, “ I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed.” (Psalm 18:37) The people who perpetually, complain, gossip, and create confusion are often reflecting their own low self esteem and insecurities. Solution- Do not internalize the frustrations of others. Do not avoid the conflict makers but apply the Matthew 16 principal.  Pray daily, journal and a get a prayer partner who can assist you in staying focused.  

Pastors are stressed because of a secular world view of competition and market driven popular culture church.  Administration,  financial management, visiting the sick and shut in, negotiating community activities, training the volunteer staff are just a few of the competing priorities.   Suggestion -Develop a personal Mission Vision and Values Statement 

  • Vision = the future reality of our life and ministry
  • Mission = the activities that we must engage in to realize the vision
  • Values = Our beliefs that discipline, motivate and moderate our behavior.

Begin the process by discerning your vision

 Vision

  • Take a 24 – 48 hour silent prayer retreat
  • Take a Personality, Disciple Lifestyle®, Values and Spiritual Gift assessment
  • Ask yourself these questions
    • What does my personal ministry look like in 3-5 years?
    • What does the congregation ministry look like in 3-5 years?
    • What does my family life look like in 3-5 years?
  • Prioritize and develop 3 sentences that clearly articulates your 3-5 year vision
  • Evaluate your vision based on your personality assessment, spiritual gifts and Disciple Lifestyle® Assessment

Mission

  • List the goals and objectives necessary to fulfill the vision.
  • Your list will be two to three pages
  • Combine and consolidate goals and objectives
  • Prioritize and keep the top five.
  • Evaluate your activities over the last 30 days to determine if your activities are aligned with you fulfilling your mission

Values

  • Return to the values assessment and prioritize the top five
  • Evaluate your current activities for the last 30 days and compare.  Are the values that you have chosen as the top five reflected in your activities?
  • Evaluate what activities or values need to be re-aligned

After you have finished the entire process place your MVV on a 3 by 5 card and write one key scripture that you will use to keep you focused on your MVV. Share this process with your leadership team and staff. Lead your team through the process and you will be assisting them in reducing their stress.

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