Simply stated, the pastor must make time for the pastor. Whether it’s a hobby, like fly fishing, leisurely reading, cooking, painting, coin collecting or another non-ministry-related activity, the pastor should have personal time. Recharging the battery is an important step in maintaining the energy to minister. This precious time can help put everything, even that demanding member of the congregation, into perspective.
Getting the proper support to manage the multiple priorities and diverse personalities that the pastor deals with on an ongoing basis is also critical to continuing a successful career. There are a few fundamental ways that the pastor can seek support:
The importance of rest is greatly underestimated in today’s culture. Research by the Mayo Clinic shows that on average Americans are now getting a half hour less sleep per night than a few years ago. The link between diminished sleep and the increase in disease is now being researched. While minimum sleeping time varies from person to person, most experts recommend sleeping uninterrupted for a full seven hours each night as a minimum. When we are under excessive stress we need more sleep than usual.
Time constraints are clearly at the top of the stress-inducing list. Clergy are on call 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. This can often create conflict in the home and difficulty planning family activities. Setting firm boundaries can aid the pastor in managing both home and family. Examples of such boundaries might include: “We will have an undisturbed vacation” or “Soccer practice with my child is a priority, so I can’t make meetings on a Saturday morning.” Setting and keeping mutually agreed-upon boundaries can support a strong family and improve the pastor’s ability to minister.
Having a reasonable financial plan is critical to the overall well-being of the pastor and the pastor’s family. Realistic salaries and reasonable budgets are a necessity. Finances have been cited as a major drawback to pastors staying in the ministry. Also, having a plan to deal with a financial crisis can lighten the load.
Communicating needs and expectations is key to managing stress. Keeping communication lines open, even with difficult people, can aid any pastor in managing stress. The goal of diffusing any potential conflict is to solve problems using good communication.
Pastors often have overloaded schedules and burdens that seem too large for one person to manage. This is due to many factors, but large among them is unrealistic expectations of the congregation. Managing the congregation’s expectations is key to a harmonious work environment.
Pastors face many sources of stress. Though relieving stress may not be a simple matter, fostering good family relationships, developing a good support system, pursuing a fulfilling avocation and getting enough rest can certainly help.