Mark A. Moore, Atlanta, GA – Excessive stress is evidenced by personal distress (health issues) from internalizing issues or by acting out in toxic ways. The most overlooked “self- care” strategy is a consistent prayer life. Additionally, learning to find pleasure in simple moments – family time, books, exercise. In my estimation, stress management is largely the ability intentionally to let go and decompress.
Too often, nowadays, people run FROM God, His Word and worship. I’m thankful for the teaching of my childhood days. Here are the words of an old song, “Long as I live, and troubles rise, I’ll hasten to His throne!”
Brian A. Allard, Bakersfield, CA – When the minister begins preaching at the problem or the individual instead of preaching to feed the congregation, it should be a warning sign of excessive stress. Another is how he or she treats family at home. It has been stated that “burn-out” is common, but it appears that cynicism is an even greater indicator that one is over-stressed. It is impossible to be effective if one has become a cynic.
Sometimes, after church, I will have my wife drive me around town while I let the tears quietly flow, and then when I feel like I am past the stress, I tell her it is time to go home. Fortunately, I live two hours from the Central California coast, an hour from the Sequoia Mountains, and a couple hours to a large metropolitan area, so I have many options to get away and simply take my mind off of the stressors (leave the cell phone off for a few hours – that is okay). Too often, we believe that we must answer our mobile phones. If I am taking care of myself, I need a short retreat away from the pressures of ministry. The self-care doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. Just get away to where you can enjoy life without stress, even for a short time.
NOTHING can replace prayer and church attendance. Psychology states that people who attend religious services are less likely to submit to stressful situations and, in addition, it gives them a support group.
John Fonzer Jr., Germany – Sabbaticals are most definitely needed in our Apostolic ranks. However, most ministers I know could not afford to take one. Even so, most probably wouldn’t take one even if they could afford it. It’s common, even recommended, in the secular church world but not so much in our ranks.
We serve as missionaries in Germany, in Western Europe, which is predominantly Catholic and Lutheran. It’s almost godless, especially the farther north you go. It’s a nation steeped in agnosticism and atheism. Nearly everyone that visits here instantly feels a spiritual heaviness. The spirit of this area is not against God, per se; it just ignores God. Apostolics in the U.S. often gather with ministers of other denominations to pray for their cities and it seems there is always some sort of “spiritual” activity readily available. It’s not like that in Germany. Due to the widespread sexual abuse and constant scandals in the churches here, the term church is tantamount to a curse word.
Loneliness on the mission field is unequal to anything I’ve ever experienced in the U.S. The loneliness, coupled with being separated from family, friends and all things familiar, brings the stress level to new heights.
My relationship with God is my lifeline. Being able to talk to and hear from God gets me through every valley and over every mountain. The peace I gain in prayer surpasses all understanding. The supernatural connection through prayer is invaluable in helping me to fulfill the commission God has called me to do.
Kenneth Carpenter, Maryville, TN – What has helped me is to determine what is a small matter and a great matter. One of the danger signs of excessive stress is when we become distracted from the blessing of leading God’s people to the burden only. Then there’s the loss of zeal and energy, and negative speech replacing speech that speaks of revival and harvest.
I would like to highly recommend a book written by Christopher Ash entitled Zeal without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice. It is a must-read for everyone in ministry.
Leonard Scott, Indianapolis, IN – One of the stressful times in ministry to me is when people come for counseling, agree with the needed course of correction, but refuse to follow it. Some natural ways of dealing with stress include maintaining a positive attitude and using joy and laughter to combat the emotions of sadness, frustration, disappointment and depression.
One of the major weapons against ministry stress and stress in general is positive self-talk. One of my most effective self-talk strategies is to meditate on Scripture, and one of my favorites is Isaiah 26:3: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
Mark McCool, Ocean Springs, MS – Stress can do a lot of strange things to your body: seizures, blackouts and poor health. Sometimes it even makes you feel like you’re about to have a heart attack. Jesus gave His disciples a secret to dealing with burnout, travel and stress of ministry when He told them, “Let us come apart for a while.” I’ve heard it preached, “Come Apart Before You Come Apart.” I think hobbies are important. I used to not have hobbies because I felt I didn’t have time, but I believe you have to strike a balance in life. Some years ago, I started making time for hobbies, and I am much happier and can approach ministry more refreshed.