Welcome to an article that you probably clicked on out of desperation.
Sadly, I predict a wave of pastoral resignations in the coming 12-18 months. It’ll happen fairly slowly as, God willing, the economy improves and the stability of our world resets. But this time of COVID, racial tensions, and political grandstanding is like three 100 mph strikes right down the middle of the plate to pastors who, through no fault of their own, were never given an opportunity to learn how to bat.
You’ve been copping it from both sides – you’re not doing enough and you’re doing too much. I recently was in a conversation where it was insinuated that because I didn’t sue the governor of my state that I was a weak pastor who didn’t trust God. It’s that hostile for ministry leaders right now. And pastor, I know you are probably wrecked, tired, beat up, discouraged, falling apart, and struggling.
Here’s my encouragement to you, brother-to-brother: just don’t quit. Verbally say these words to your spouse, your leadership team, even to your church if you have to, “In the next two years, I’m not going to quit.”
Then let your yes, be yes, and your no be no (James 5:12), not like a jail sentence you have given yourself, but as trust placed in the sovereign and holy Father to be faithful in his care for you as you stay the course (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Prioritize Rest and Recovery
For your part of that care, consider these four things you can do over the next two years to recover from this current season and strengthen you in the next. I don’t want this list to be something you feel must be added to your to-do list or something that needs to be beaten into you like so many other messages of the last four months or so. These avenues of rest are something I want to meet you in and encourage you to consider.
Regular Counseling: Find a good pastoral counselor; not just a biblical counselor but one that works with pastors. In light of the shots you’ve probably taken over this last season, you’re likely carrying a weight on your soul that I’m pretty sure you’re not fully aware of. A good counselor can help you unpack and process much of this weight to help you get back to emotional and spiritual health.
Sabbatical: You’re going to need time away, probably three months or so. I know many of you are thinking, “There’s no way”. Make a way. And ask those who need to approve this type of break, “Do you want to lose me for three months or forever?” This isn’t some veiled threat but a reality that can happen if you can’t reset sometime in the coming 18 months.
Extended periods out of the office: This looks like taking days off during the week, disrupting your normal schedule, and getting other people to cover the pulpit for you so you can get away for a couple of weeks or a few days. Whatever it looks like, do it on the regular for the next two years. Lift your head out of the craziness to getaway. Invest in this type of time – it’s worth it.
Rest/Sabbath: You should be doing this already but I know that it was the first thing to go out the window when things got crazy. Take your weekly sabbath, turn off your electronics, become unavailable to anyone except your family or close friends, and rest in the Lord one day a week.
Be an Example
To take a page from the often-quoted Hernan Cortez, “Burn the Ships.” Make quitting a non-option for the next two years. Your presence in your community is needed as the Lord draws the spiritually hungry. Your local church needs you to stay and they also need to see you, not as the unbreakable leader, but as a fragile and weak man who tires, struggles, and needs sleep. You are not God, and that is a good thing, but God will use you in immeasurable ways in your recovery and the work ahead.
Just don’t quit.