Upside down and backwards – this is the way the Apollo astronauts returned to earth after their historic space flights. Upside down and backwards is likely how you are feeling right now as you reenter the “in person” world post-pandemic. Ministry life for the last 3 months has been anything but normal. All of us have been stretched into new territory – with more to come as the “new” normal approaches. You have been dealing with the anxiety of your congregation, your family and your own. Pastoring from a distance has been its own challenge. Decision-fatigue has been nipping at your heels and now you are facing the task of reentering the atmosphere of real time worship and ministry. The spiritual and emotional foundations of your life have been sorely tested.
How can you be more than just a survivor? What will be your plan to step back, take a breath and find your center again – a splash down that leaves you prepared for the days ahead?
This is part one of some reminders that can help renew your personal and ministry health. I am following the lead of the apostle Peter, who is the apostle of “reminding.” (2 Peter 1:12) You know these things but, if you are like me, you may need someone else to call your attention back to them. This actually may be the time to double down on these practices – to give yourself permission and then ruthlessly (a word that Dallas Willard has emblazoned on my heart) engage with them.
Step One: Get others involved from the start. You will need to talk with your spouse, your children, your elders or board members and staff about your plan. Don’t leave it in your head alone. Their buy-in and support will be mission-critical in finding the renewal you need.
Step Two: Rebuild your daily rhythms. The pillar of personal and ministry health is the pattern of daily rhythms that sustain a rich connection to Jesus, our souls, and our bodies. Here are some key features of good daily rhythms
- Make sure your work schedule has clear boundaries. The work/home boundaries have been blurred during this time. Defining your start and end times for your workday is critical. Move the time you begin a day if evening meetings will be a part of it. Don’t let yourself off the hook on this one.
- Practice thankfulness. The need for a thankful heart has never been greater. The cultural atmosphere is hostile to gratitude. Reflecting on the goodness of God in each day will nurture a kind and gentle spirit. Begin and end your workday with a time of thanks.
- Meditate, pray and read JUST FOR YOU – no strategy stuff, no boning up on theological or social ammunition. Immerse yourself in the Gospel, the love of Christ for you apart from any “doing” and simply to be present to God.
- Get some fresh air. The weather has turned and now is a good time to be outside, exposing your eyes to something other than a computer screen and your ears to the songs of the birds and the wind – not the next podcast. Breathe!
- My wife and I have become addicted to not having an alarm set for the morning. It has been amazing to retire when we are tired and get up when our bodies are done resting. We have found that our natural internal clock still gets us up early enough to enjoy a morning pace that starts the day unhurried. Young families may have a harder time doing this but working to set an example of rest will be worth the effort.
Next time… Step Three: Rebuilding weekly rhythms.