7 Ways to Become a Resilient Pastor

by Dick Lozieaux, Converge MidAmerica Director of Church Strengthening
church strengthening

Does the never-ending list of pastors who have either flamed out, dropped out or copped out depress you? Does it scare you? Or both? If they can’t go the distance, how can we? 

Is it possible we need to be more intentional about developing spiritual and emotional resilience?

You know, resilience. Flexibility. Adaptability. The ability to bend without breaking. The ability to bounce back after setbacks. Like those roly-poly toys for toddlers, when you push them over, they wobble a little but always bounce back to an upright position. I want to be like that.

Without resilience, pastors are prone to:

Flame out: Pastors who over-rev their engines or drive out of bounds until they crash and burn.

Drop out: Pastors who get so tired of getting knocked down they leave the ministry instead of getting back up.

Cop out: Pastors who get back up, but don’t really get back in the fight.

Those pastors suit up every morning. They go through all the right motions and say the right words. But they aren’t playing to win. They are playing to not lose. They avoid risk, conflict and danger. They are no longer battling evil. They are no threat to the kingdom of darkness. They still believe in a great God, they just no longer expect great things from God. They no longer attempt great things for God. They may still be in the uniform, but they are not in the game. 

I have felt that temptation. The temptation to power down and back off so I won’t get beat up as much. So I won’t hurt as much. Maybe you have, too.

That is why I want to be resilient. I want to stay flexible, patient, joyful, grateful and hopeful all my years.

Don’t you?

Like Caleb:

“Today I am eighty-five years old. I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then. So give me the hill country that the Lord promised me” (Joshua 14:10-12).

How can we as pastors develop that kind of resilience to go the distance?

There are many ways. Here are a few that have helped me.

1. Catch and Release

Celebrate the good ministry moments and then release them. Let go of the past and accept your new reality, even if it is one you do not like. All ministry has low points that can drown you in despair and high points that can puff you up with pride. So catch the highs and then release them. Let go of the past and focus on being teachable and usable in your present situation. It is called walking by faith, one day at a time.

2. Clean as a You Go

Deal with the hurts and wounds of ministry as they happen. That way they don’t become scar tissue that makes you inflexible or baggage that trips you up. Stop pretending you aren’t hurt. Be authentic and face the problem. Practice deep forgiveness and use professional counseling or conflict mediation when necessary. 

3. Strengthen Your Core

Discipline yourself to lead a spiritually, emotionally and physically healthy life. Practice daily devotions, weekly days off, days of prayer and fasting, sabbathing, study breaks, romantic getaways and family vacations. Cultivate joy and gratitude and spread them.

4. Stay Flexible

Regularly stretch outside your comfort zone. Embrace change. Make mid-course corrections part of your plan. Worship a changeless God who created everything else to change. Build a church culture of change and experimentation. Think outside the box. Practice working around obstacles by developing options.

5. Use Setbacks as Stepping Stones

Treat mistakes and failures as learning experiences. Ask God to help you use what you learn to take you higher and further. Maintain an irrevocable commitment that quitting is not an option.

6. Travel in the Company of Friends

Travel with companions who can sing with you in prison or help pull you out from under a pile of rocks. Just as Paul did. Faithful friends. People who can take you down a peg or ratchet you up a peg, and know which you need and when.

7. Keep Your Eyes on The Conductor

When ministry is driven by our ego, with all our insecurity, competition and comparisons, we will over-rev our engine until we crash and burn.

When our ministry is a divine calling, we will listen to the voice of our Conductor and keep in tempo with the symphony of his kingdom work, content to play whatever part he assigns us. No matter how lowly or difficult our part may be.

This blog first appeared on Converge MidAmerica.

    Point - September 2018

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