Ministry is full of amazing moments where we get to participate in God’s kingdom work. As leaders, we experience many great things as we proclaim and live out the Gospel. Is it always easy? Nope. However, we have been called into a life of opportunity.
2020 has been an opportunity like no other to lead and minister to people in new and exciting ways.
As I talk with other ministry leaders, I hear some of the same themes and patterns. Many of us are tired and weary as this season continues. There is no book on leading ministry through a pandemic. We have never done this before. Added to the uncertainty of the pandemic is a growing list of political rhetoric, racial tension and growing division in our world.
If you find yourself growing weary, lean in hard to the Lord and ask for energy and strength that only He can give. Here are five signs you may be growing weary as a leader and what to do about it.
1. You are not sleeping well.
One of the first psychological signs of stress is an impact on sleep. There is a reason many counselors and doctors often first ask, “How are you sleeping?” If you continue the routine of poor sleep, it affects everything. This is a huge sign of weariness.
What to do about it? I don’t have to tell you to go to bed early, but I’m going to anyways. Get off the devices, count sheep, do what you need to do to get some sleep.
2. You are starting to feel isolated.
Offices are closed, teams are meeting virtually, and you miss people. Alone is dangerous, and even if you have the best staff in the world, it is vital to do life and ministry together. Feeling lonely not only affects you mentally and spiritually but medical experts say that it is harmful to your health. Isolation will drain you and leave you unmotivated and weary. When you are lonely, your mind will start to create story lines and scenarios leaving you with increased anxieties. You become skeptical or passive to everyday events. Remember: alone is dangerous.
What to do about it? If you feel isolated, reach out to your staff and leadership to set up a lunch or some type of gathering. Confide in someone you trust about the way you are feeling. Sometimes all you need to do is vocalize what’s going on inside. If you let loneliness fester, it will only get worse. Be proactive.
3. Every negative email, text or phone call hits you hard personally.
Chances are that your emails are full of people sharing love and support for you, your church and everything you are doing. That same inbox is probably full of people sharing conspiracy theories, frustration and blatant disregard for decency. If you are like me, you do not receive the love but take the negativity personally. A phrase that I got from Carey Nieuwhof’s book, Didn’t See It Coming, is that “loud is not large.” What this means to me is that often when I get those texts that cut deep, the volume I hear in those words may be loud, but they do not speak for the majority. This is a lesson I’ve had to learn even before the pandemic.
What to do about it? When you get encouragement, embrace it and accept the fact that someone really does care about you and wants to encourage you. Do not blow that off. When you receive negativity, read it all and look for truth. Address the truth and throw out the rest. Never respond back via email or text. Always pick up the phone or ask for a meeting to address it. Lastly, bring in other staff or leaders to the conversation. You do not have to carry the load by yourself.
4. You are struggling to do the small things.
You get the major things done each week, but those little extra tasks have gone by the wayside. Those follow-up texts encouraging leaders. The thank you notes. Don’t forget about those small things that make you a great leader. When you are fatigued you can easily talk yourself out of doing those tasks. They matter and your people need them.
What to do about it? Think back to before the pandemic. What were the small ministry details you did that you are no longer doing? These small things may not work in the current context, but you could probably think of a creative way to do them differently. Do them and do them well.
5. Your family can see it.
Someone recently asked my wife how I was doing. She has been a pastor’s wife for almost fourteen years and is good at protecting me. However, she told the truth in her own frustration with everything going on. The reality: she is weary, too. I have had to work extra hard not to neglect my wife and kids even though I recognize being tired. At the end of the day, all we have is those under our roof and nothing else matters. What are they going to remember about 2020?
What to do about it? For some, you may need to ask for forgiveness. For others, you may need to reassess how you have been treating your family. Dig deep and evaluate how you have been at home throughout this. You may need to add or subtract some habits in the days ahead. Huddle up with your family this week and plan something special. May this pandemic draw you even closer together and not apart.