Meetings, deadlines, projects, and events. Leadership within the scope of ministry seems to be a never-ending whirl of activity. And this doesn’t include family responsibilities, hobbies and self-care, and maybe time with friends! I have seen far too many leaders with wonderful hearts and intentions finally succumb to the overwhelming pressure to stay busy by burning out and leaving ministry forever.
This is not how Jesus designed the church!
He regularly said no to opportunities, woke up early to spend time in prayer, and poured his heart into a few disciples who would one day turn the world upside-down. I am not sure how it happened, but our world today seems to operate in the exact opposite way.
- How often do you say yes out of guilt or obligation?
- When you leave work on time, do you struggle with feeling that you should have given more?
- Have your children forgotten your name? Or at least asked on multiple occasions why you were late for dinner again?
- When was the last time you went on a date with your spouse and didn’t talk about ministry? Do your friends remember what you look like?
For too many of us, the answers to these questions would be painful to admit. We feel trapped in the hamster wheel of “ministry success”—stuck in a perpetual state of busyness. What happened to “be still and know that I am God”? (Psalm 46:10)
I wish I could say that I have mastered this issue, but far too often I feel tired and worn out. When this happens, I don’t lead well—I become self-absorbed and short with people. When I am tired, my devotional life suffers, my marriage suffers, and those whom I serve lose out due to my lack of energy and focus.
So, what’s the remedy? It’s easy to quote the verses about rest and refreshment, quietness, and still waters. But how can we actually live out these verses while leading and serving well? Let me share just two thoughts with you:
- Time with God is not a nice idea, it is essential to effective and stable leadership. I’m not talking about a 5-minute devotional in the morning as I rush out the door to go sit in freeway traffic. I mean an intentional conversation with God that involves prayer and His Word along with my journal in a quiet place. My day is completely different depending upon my start: I can intentionally meet with God or be immediately caught in the vortex of busyness.
- As a leader, it’s really not about you. I know that leadership is influence and everything rises and falls on leadership. I believe and preach these principles daily. However, if everything depends upon me and I must be present at all times, then I’m actually not leading well. Perhaps the greatest compliment for a leader is when he or she is unable to attend an event and it goes just fine, if not better, without them. Don’t let your ego get in the way, and learn to say no—take a vacation and just read a book.
Work hard and plan well, but remember that busyness and burning out are not hallmarks of great leadership. Rather they are the tools of the enemy used to disrupt and discourage the work of God. God did not call you to a life of busyness and chaos. He called you to an abundant life that influences others through your relationship with Him. Feel free to say no and then unplug.
Mike Dobes has been in pastoral ministry since 1997 and is currently the Manager of Church Relations for Joni and Friends.