You Need To Take Care of Yourself

self care sign

You Need To Take Care of Yourself

We have been looking at how to preach in a pandemic in these posts.   This is the eleventh post in this series, and self care signhere is the link to the first in case you want to catch up.   In this essay we are going to explore a simple fact, that you need to take care of yourself if you are going to preach during a pandemic.

The Stress Of This Time

I retired from leading a local congregation, but I keep in touch with many pastors and churches through some responsibilities I have with my denomination and with CLI.  What I hear concerns me.  One pastor, when I asked how he was doing, replied, “I’m fried”.   Another left ministry.  Tensions that existed before Covid came along increased with the virus, and so, he is out of ministry.  Yet another said that his calling is what kept him in ministry, because he’d do something else if he had the opportunity.

Stressors that require you to take care of yourself

finding a balance imagePerhaps you’ve felt that way.  There are many stressors right now, as you know if you are preaching regularly.  Hopefully, this list will remind you that you need to take care of yourself during this time. Here’s a list of a few of the things that cause tension. :

The Work

  • The challenge of trying to keep on doing ministry.  Most churches have had to create an on-line presence very quickly, and are still trying to figure out how to hold meetings, teach classes, etc. while the virus rages.
  • There’s also the challenge of trying to do pastoral care.  Do you expose yourself to the virus in order to care for the sick and dying?  What about funerals?  How do you handle those?

The People

  • Peoples’ disagreements get louder and more intense during this time.  In the US many churches have had to deal with the “mask-no mask” disagreement.  Some people won’t come to church if people will wear masks, because to them it’s a political statement.  Others won’t come because people won’t wear masks.  In one church near me two people got into a fight in the narthex over wearing masks.  Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?  Is this the body of Christ?
  • Giving is down.   Most churches have seen a decline in those who provide financial support to the church.  This happens for a couple of reasons, I think.  Some people don’t feel comfortable coming to worship, fearing catching the virus, and they don’t take advantage of the on-line means of giving.  And secondly, there are people who leave the church during this time, either going to one that has more acceptable services, or going to none at all.   Whatever the reason, pastors feel the burden when income fades and doesn’t match the outflow of money.

The Losses

  • People leave the church.  This is, perhaps, the most painful of all the things happening during the self care is a necessitypandemic.  People that the pastor has befriended, cared for, listened to and loved will go to another church. Why?  For some it’s the style of service.  Others find that they don’t agree with decisions that their church is making, and so, the pandemic gives a chance to leave.  Again, whatever the reason, pastors feel the disappointment greatly, even to the point of betrayal.
  • Forward momentum dies.  One church that I have had the privilege of working with to do strategic planning experienced this.  Last fall they had a well-developed plan for ministry, with a clear vision and an excitement about what God was going to do.  In March this year, all of those plans went up on a shelf, and survival became the goal for the immediate future.  For many pastors, this sense of moving backward rather than forward can lead to depression.

When You Don’t Take Care Of Yourself

One study that I read predicted that 20% of the churches in the United States will be closed by the end of this pandemic.  That’s depressing!  Even more depressing is the number of people leaving ministry during this time.  I don’t know the statistics, but I’ve heard enough to know that the number is large and growing larger.  Obviously, you need to take care of yourself in ministry at such a time.

In my next post, we’ll look at some steps to take to take care of yourself.  But for your further reflection, here’s a link to a pastor talking about self-care and how to do it.  I’ll be building on some of these ideas in the next post.