11 ways to reduce stress in ministry

A year and a half ago I took an inventory of my life and wrote a list of how I will crash and burn(out) in ministry. Since then, I frequently receive emails from youth workers who feel maxed out, tired and drained. Here are some common recommendations I make on how to reduce stress in ministry.

11. Take regular breaks.
Ministry workers are usually workaholics. There are appropriate times when you need to settle down and crunch through some work, but when it’s done, leave your workplace a couple minutes. Go outside, walk around, and get some sun. You’ll be amazed how refreshed you feel coming back. A 10-15 minute break outside can really energize you to finish the rest of your work in much better time and in higher quality, too.

10. Work when you focus best.
It seems like most people I know in ministry are early-morning people. They love waking up before the sun and hitting the office early. If that’s what works best for you, then do it! However, some people, like me, think mornings are a result of the fall in Genesis 3 and can’t function until lunch time. I honestly work best between 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM. I stay focused and tend to crank out my best work during that time. Find out what works best for you and capitalize on it.

9. Address the work at home.
Stacks of bills, car maintenance, yard work, and home repairs can really stress you out, especially if it seems like everything else going on in life is always a higher priority. If tasks start piling up at home, take an extra day off to get it all done and set your mind free.

8. Eat healthy.
Give your body food that will keep it well nourished. Balance your carbs, fruits, vegetables, and grains. Junk food will drain your system, making you tired and unfocused. A sugar rush may give you small bursts of energy, but the crash at the end will keep you going back for more sugar all day long.

7. Stay in shape.
It’s clinically proven that regular exercise reduces stress, gives you more energy, improves your sleep at night, and helps you stay more alert during the day. There’s really no excuse not to stay in shape, especially for people in ministry. And if you have tight muscles and achy joints, see a massage therapist or a chiropractor.

6. Use your vacation days.
Many of us may be happy with our jobs, our ministries, and the work we do, but there are always small things about each job that we hate. That’s just a part of life. Over time, those annoyances can build until they become frustrating. Make sure you take a break, time to rest, time to get away, and leave it all behind. If your ministry can’t function without you for a couple days to a week on a regular basis, the ministry is way too focused on you and is unhealthy.

5. Keep ministry simple.
Lots of activity and responsibilities may make you feel more important than you really are, but it’s a guaranteed formula for stress and burnout. Know your limits and be realistic. If you have too much on your plate, delegate some of it to others or simply cut it out of your life. In my ministry, if no one steps up to help or take over something I don’t have time to do or shouldn’t be a priority for my limited time, it simply doesn’t get done. It’s really that easy.

4. Listen to worship music.
I don’t mean just have it playing in the background, although that might help. Sit down and really listen to it. Let the Holy Spirit work in your life as you spend personal time in worship, thinking, reflecting, and meditating on Him. All the other stressful things in your life pale in comparison to a healthy reminder of who God is.

3. Say “No!”
I don’t know why ministry workers feel like they have to say yes to so many things. Maintain boundaries on your life! I’m a youth pastor and I only go to about half of our weekly youth meetings. I work hard to recruit and train solid volunteers that work great whether I’m there or not. If the ministry is focused around you, you’re doing something wrong. You shouldn’t be out more than 3 nights a week maximum! Be at home with your family.

2. Maintain healthy relationships with your spouse.
Remember, your primary ministry is to your family, especially your spouse. Don’t wait until the relationship starts feeling dry to do something about it. Maintain the relationship so you never get to that point in the first place. Spend alone time together, go on dates, read the Word together, do random romantic acts, be sexually active.

1. Focus on the Lord.
Regular time with the Lord is critical, but it often seems like it’s the first thing we set aside. Spend time with God on a personal level and also make it a priority for your family. You can’t serve the Lord and follow Him without knowing where He’s leading you. Otherwise, you fall into a stale rut of just “doing” ministry, rather than leading a movement of God’s people.

What other tips do you have to reducing stress in ministry? What do you do to recharge and stay focused?

Posted on September 29, 2008

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