Sometimes life in the church seems to run an unbearably fast pace. Especially in the fall as programs start back up and committees get back to meeting regularly. I have really been feeling the pace at St. A’s in the last couple of weeks.
My days are full of meetings and so are my evenings. That’s not really a complaint, so much as an observation. But it could, all too easily, become a complaint. Because one of the things that many clergy struggle with is the pressure to be “the super-pastor.”
In his book, Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell does a great rant against the super-pastor. He encourages any clergy reading the book to take their inner-super-pastor out to the back ally and kill it now. It’s very amusing, but also deadly serious. Because pastors burn out all the time. We have a hard time saying no. A hard time drawing clear lines around time spent at the church or in ministry, and time spent away from all of that.
Most people work a 9-5 day. They arrive at the office at a specific time, and they leave at a specific time. Not true of ministers. We work weird hours in a weird work week (my day off is Friday, and in September I will have worked every Saturday and most Sunday afternoons…in order to make up for the lack of an equivalent to the average-joe’s weekend, I’ve been taking it easy on Monday mornings.). We can sit in a coffee shop and do incredibly intense work while looking to the outside world like just another dude enjoying a venti latte with a friend. Most of the people in the congregations we serve don’t see all the ‘extra stuff’ that goes into our week – a late night phone call or a last minute funeral or a meeting that pops up outta nowhere and takes unexpected hours from our day. That’s just the way it is.
So one of the things we have to be really careful about is controlling the pace, finding time for ourselves, drawing good boundaries and recognizing that we cannot do it all. (One of my friends loves to tell the story about his first day in Seminary, when his professor had the entire class stand up and then said “Repeat after me: I am not the savior of the world!”)
There are many ways that I practice what was taught as “self-care” in my time at Seminary. The morning walk I take with my dog and a friend, the daily classes I take at the gym, the nightly chats on the phone with my Mom. These things are important. They are my way of being still (even though some of them involve heavy physical activity) and knowing He is God. Because if I lose sight of that, everything else – all the meetings and coffee conversations and sermons and pastoral care – doesn’t matter at all.