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Time Out: Dealing with the stress of ministry

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Time Out (by Jerry Schmoyer)

When is the last time you felt stressed out by your ministry? How many times a week does the stress get so high it impacts your moods and performance? It seems like stress goes with the territory, that it is an occupational hazard. But does it need to be that way?

Stress and stress-related diseases are in epidemic proportions today. Studies show that almost 70% of those who visit their doctor do so because of stress-related symptoms. The best-selling drugs in this country are all to help people handle stress. Stress is a growing problem among those in ministry, as well. We aren’t immune. In fact, we often suffer more from it than others in the general population.

Stress simply means we feel under pressure. Some times that pressure comes from within, what we demand of ourselves. Other times it comes from without, what we feel (real or imagined) that others look for us to produce. We are to follow Jesus and live as He lived.

Some stress is inevitable. Not all stress is bad. It can serve to motivate us in times of special need. Good stress brings out the best in us. Bad stress actually makes us less productive. Good stress we control, bad stress controls us and we can’t stop. We become driven. Impatience and anger become our daily companions. Peace and joy flee. Little things become big things and big things fade to lesser priorities. Our work list takes priority over our relationships.

Symptoms of stress include always being in a hurry, not having patience for others, trying to make every moment count (often by doing two or more things at the same time), inability to relax and enjoy, becoming irritated by things that don’t go right and sensing a loss of intimacy in your relationships, including your relationship with God.

When you recognize a symptom, see it as a warning light on the dashboard of your life. It means your battery is being drained too quickly and is getting dangerously low. It calls you back to the throne for “repairs.” Where are you failing to listen or obey or trust?

How can we overcome stress? Know your Plimsoll mark and honor it. Ships once were required to have a line painted on the hull that would remain above water only if the vessel were not overloaded. Most people know where their line is, but neglect its warnings. Don’t drown yourself into obligations or take on more than you can handle. You’ll sink. Jesus knew how to say no to things, we need to learn that as well. Strive for balance. In Eccl. 3:1-8, Solomon lists things that all have a place in every life. A good life has enough time for every worthwhile activity under heaven, including leisure. Regularly do something that is nonproductive and “fun.”

Pursue peace. It’s not a by-product of wealth or good health; it’s an end in itself. You can find peace in any circumstances, even when it makes no earthly sense to have it. Peace brings contentment and long life (Phil. 4:11, Ps. 34:12). God gives peace to those who ask Him for it and then are willing to make the necessary changes in their life so they can recognize and enjoy it.

Learn to enjoy. Many successful people feel a sense of accomplishment, but no enjoyment of their work or talents. The ability to enjoy yourself is a gift from God (Eccl. 5:19). He has given us all things to enjoy freely (1 Tim. 6:17). Ask Him to help you stop striving and accept His blessing.

Perhaps expecting to have a totally stress-free life and ministry isn’t a realistic expectation, but certainly for all of us there is plenty of room for improvement. Jesus certainly experienced stress, but it wasn’t from overwork or too high expectations. He didn’t start more than He could finish, He knew how to say “no” and He certainly paced Himself. You can, too.

Reflect

  • When do you experience the most stress in your week?
  • If Jesus were in your place, what would He do to prevent or remove the stress?
  • What can you do this week to cut back on stress in your life? (If you can’t change the circumstances, you can change your reaction to them.)

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Jerry SchmoyerJerry Schmoyer has been a minister in Pennsylvania for over 25 years and has worked with teenagers for 15 years, ever since I became one myself. He authors the weekly Time Out series here at Life in Student Ministry in hopes to spiritually refresh your soul as you continually pour so much of yourself into students. God bless!


Posted on March 1, 2010

  • Thomas

    Well i'm trying to build student leaders in our ministry but ever time we take one step foward it's three steps back. It seems like lack of dedication, desire, or other priorities. My stress is sometimes with these certain core students, i care deeply for these guys and their walk with Christ. But sometimes they act like it's no big deal and have other things to do. I've met with them and told them that we need to live for Christ and put Him 1st in our life. I've constantly encourage them to be obedient and live a life worthy of Gods calling. But its like in one ear and out the other. The question was "What can you do this week to cut back on stress in your life? (If you can’t change the circumstances, you can change your reaction to them.)" __In what ways can i change my reaction towards these guys wanting to be student leaders in our ministry yet doing these things? __

    • You encouraging them and them having the desire for it are two totally different things. You can encourage all you want, but you can't infuse a desire into them. That's a work of the Holy Spirit that you can prayerfully be a part of.

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