Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Overwhelmed and Understaffed

Overwhelmed and Understaffed -
Strategies for coping with feelings of being overwhelmed as Pastor of Everything Else

Its happened to me more than once – OK, a lot more than once. I wake up in the middle of the night wondering how on earth I’m supposed to do everything expected. Or, I pull up to the church on the edge of tears, thinking “Only six more days until another day off...”

“Prepare to be overwhelmed” wasn’t written into the job. I didn’t realize that’s what they meant when I read this in my ministry description: “Other duties as required by the position.”

How do we cope with the pressures and demands of being the only other pastor on staff? Here are things whuch have helped me.

Take my your day off.
Churches give us one. We need to take it or crash later. Sometimes we take great pride how long we can go without one. Its stupid. By my third week I’m toast. And eventually I get sick. Less productive in the long run. Bottom line, no one is going to take this for us. And, no one is going to look to look over our shoulders to make sure we’re resting when we should. We need to take it.

When my day off is interrupted, take alternate time
I know - sometimes unavoidable meetings happen on this day. In my first church, board meetings took two evenings a month on my day off, and there was no other day I could take as a day off which gave me a full day. It took me a long time to realize that I should not feel guilty for taking other time off in the week when this happpens.  

Find things which recharge, and not drain, my batteries - outside of church life
I love to tinker, fix things, work on the house. In the past I have joined a cycling club and I’ve been a volunteer firefighter. I love to write and enjoy a good biography. Currently I help a local high school orchestra. If there was more water here, I’d canoe more. These are some of my things. You have to find yours.

Get regular exercise
Let’s just say my disposition goes “off” unless I can get some exercise once in a while. Go for a walk, bike, canoe, run, jog, play floor hockey, basketball. Something. I joined a gym recently. I can’t believe how much better I feel. And I do this during the day as a way to make up my scheduled time off. 

Plan to schedule
Take some time at the beginning of the week to create a “To Do” list. Its tempting just to dive into the week, but take this time, and keep the list on paper or electronically. What things have to be done this week? Look ahead - 1 month, 2, 3, 4, 6 months... What is coming up? Who needs to be seen this week? What things can be handed off? What can be put off?  Make sure the important things get done. This is a little bit of a moving target, so add to it as required, but make sure to readjust. OH - don't forget to look ahead and plan for special events like family birthdays or anniversaries. Take my word for it - don't forget your wife's birthday.

Involve more people
This takes planning and prioritizing, and won’t happen overnight. But it lightens the load.

Use Spiritual Disciplines
This is not about adding to the "To Do" list. Prayer and reading the Bible are about a relationship with God. This is why we went into ministry in the first place. I find it better when I remember this.

What has helped you?

Troy Dennis - 2012 - Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church in Moncton NB Canada.