Self-care for today
Do not let your ministry face burnout
By Terry Masango, Captain –
“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps. 46:10).
I thought I was going to pass out. I felt faint. My body was weak. My knees struggled to support my frame. Sweat droplets glistened on my forehead. My heart rate beat as fast as is if I had been running a marathon. I stumbled a little. Then I leaned over a table to support myself. I sat down at that table, while taking gulps of cold water. What was going on?
Noticing something wrong, Rutendo came over to check on me. I told her I was OK. I just needed time to sit down and rest a little. I had not slept much in the past eight weeks. I had been working over 12 hours a day, seven days a week. I had been busy fundraising, preaching, teaching, and carrying out all other good ministry duties. The life of a Salvation Army Corps Officer. To me, sleep and rest were overrated. Who had time for that? Sleeping slowed me down. There was so much to do. There were so many toys to collect. Many Christmas bell ringers needed to be hired, and driven to their work sites. So much to do, so little time. However, the fatigue was catching up to me. I was running on fumes. I had run my body into the ground. For the past week, I woke up in the middle of the night, sweating; my heart racing. I had ignored this feeling, thinking it would also soon go away.
Rutendo called a local pastor, whom I respected. The pastor came to where I was, shaking his head. He challenged me to go to the hospital. I told him I would go after my speech that was scheduled for that evening. He walked away. Within a few moments, I saw an ambulance pull up to the front of the building. The EMT’s came toward me. My pastor friend smiled and confessed. “I called 9-1-1. You need to go see the doctor.” I glanced over, and saw Rutendo crying. What was going on?
Soon, I found myself in the Emergency Room, hooked up to the EKG. The doctor came in to announce the diagnosis. He told me I was suffering from exhaustion—an extreme case of fatigue. My body was trying to tell me to slow down. He asked me what my profession is. After telling him my story, I kind of chuckled. The doctor reminded me I cannot save the world by myself. He challenged me to observe the Sabbath. He insisted I take a day off work each week. The doctor chided me to take a vacation each year. His prescription was that I should take care of me so I can be effective in taking care of others. The prescription was simple, yet revolutionary. Ministry is a marathon, not a sprint, he said. As ministers, we leak. We give out physical, emotional and spiritual support. We need to refill ourselves, lest we run on fumes.
Ministry duties demand much of our attention. As ministers, we are on duty 24-7. If we do not take care of ourselves, we run ourselves into the ground. Many hard-working, gifted ministers quit the ministry due to fatigue and burnout. Many churches lose competent, dynamic ministers who left the ministry due to exhaustion and burnout. Do not let this be you. Develop a plan of self-care today.
Are you a victim of the tyranny of the urgent?
Are you enslaved to busyness, hurry, rush and adrenaline?
In what ways have you neglected caring for your health, your body, your relationships?
How might Jesus be inviting you more deeply into some area of self-care?
Are you experiencing exhaustion and burnout?
How have deadlines, timelines and bottom lines affected the pace of your life?
What sort of power have you given to these imaginary lines?
What options do you have?
What do you need to cut or change so you can take a handle of your life?
How can you replenish yourself?
What steps do you need to take to refresh your soul?