As a pastor, I am learning to prioritise my mental health. A lot will be at stake if I the pastor – the leader of the church, is not doing well mentally and emotionally. It will do damages to the church.
Pastoral ministry can be stressful: we deal with the needs of the people on a day to day basis. The pastor is playing the care-giving role: we give a lot of ourselves, our time, our energy to minister to people’s needs. There are texts to reply, phone calls to comfort someone, emails to reply, administration instructions to be sent out. Despite all these, there are many other things that need to be done within a limited time frame: Bible classes and sermons to prepare, visits to the unwell, attend meetings and the list goes on. We too are contemplating with the issues in the community, the society and the world as a whole.
Sometimes we can be feel overwhelmed emotionally, mentally, physically and even spiritually. Here are my reflections on caring for our mental health:
Christ with us
Jesus set the example for us. People from all walks of life came to Him, asking for healing, testing Him with questions, asking to be His disciple, or to hear Him preach but Jesus was not overwhelmed by these demands. It was because He was deeply connected to His heavenly Father, who was His source of strength and wisdom. Jesus spent a lot of time in prayers where He was refreshed by God’s presence. Today, we can be intentional in spending more time with God. Although he had an active preaching schedule, John Wesley spent 4 hours every day in prayers. Bishop Andrewes spent the best 5 hours of his day in prayers every day. William Bramwell was known among the Methodists for his personal holiness and for his preaching. He was also a man of God who would spend 4 hours in prayers. Today, we may not be able to spend hours in prayers but we can do so when we are on a spiritual retreat. We can also use pockets of the day whereby we can spend a few minutes in prayers.
The more overwhelmed we are, the more it is a reminder for us to go to God’s throne of mercy and grace and ask for strength and wisdom for the day. He is the One who will give us rest.
Boundaries and Priorities
With the advancement of technology, anyone can reach out to us at their convenience. I am learning to prioritise when it comes to responding to texts or even to invitations for meals.
The thin line is that discipleship is done only when we are with people. In a way, I prioritise who I want to intentionally disciple. This way, I can go deeper with the mentee and walk closer with her on her life journey.
I have the duty to set my own boundaries. If I do not set my boundaries and protect it, no one will do it for me.
Misconception of Servanthood
Pastors have answered God’s call to serve Him full-time. But this does not mean we should serve others while neglecting our own needs. Too often, the congregation expect the pastors to be on call 24/7. In the past, I felt guilty for taking some time for myself but gradually, I realised I have to take care of my needs first, not to the extent of being self-centred or lazy in serving, but so that I can be a healthy pastor who thrives in ministry.
Hobbies help me to unwind and take my mind off ministry. Sometimes I can be walking under a cloud of gloom when worrying too much about ministry-related issues.
Ministry is hard work but I don’t think God has intended ministry to be stressful and joyless. Ministry should be joyful and fruitful because we are partnering with the God of the universe! Ministry is hard work but there should be joy in ministry because the God that we worship is a joyful God (Nehemiah 8:10). ‘Joy’ is also one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
We need to find a balance in our ministry so that we will be able to serve with joy. May God be glorified in our lives and in our ministry.