Pastors, have you identified your warning lights?

Posted by Aaron Buer on September 30, 2021

We’re a couple of weeks into the fall season.

For those of us who serve in churches, this is about as intense as it gets.

Especially in this season where we are attempting to rebuild our churches from COVID—and, COVID and the accompanying restrictions don't seem to be going away tomorrow.

The situation feels as confusing and complex as ever.  

How are you doing?

I mean for real. How are you doing?  

Are you healthy?

The last 18 months have been insane for church leaders.

You’ve been through a masterclass in crisis management, but not without cost.  

Are any of your warning lights flashing red?

Do you know what your warning indicators are?

Warning lights are the signs your body and mind give letting you know you’re headed for trouble.

So, do you know what your warning lights are?   

I’ll tell you a few of mine and perhaps they will reveal your warning lights.  

  • Sleep. I’m normally a master at sleeping. My wife is still kind of mad at me for how I slept through crying babies. Some people take a long time to fall asleep. Not me. It’s almost instantaneous.

I’m awesome at sleeping, but not when I’m exhausted and overwhelmed. I wake up in the middle of the night, mind racing and can’t fall back to sleep. Sleep is a warning light.    

  • Short Fuse. I’m a pretty chill person. I don’t like conflict. I’m normally happy to accommodate the desires of others. Part of my personality gift is getting along with anyone.

I’m chill most of the time, but not when I’m exhausted and overwhelmed. Then, I have a short fuse and I lose it about the DUMBEST stuff. When I start flipping out because one of my kids is using my favorite coffee mug…that’s a warning light.   

  • Lethargy. I get up earlier than everyone in my house. I work hard. I am active. I like to go out with friends.  

I’m active and hardworking but not when I’m exhausted and overwhelmed. In times of stress, I can numbly watch Netflix all day. That shame-filled “Are you still watching” message from Netflix is a warning light.    

  • Tummy Problems. I’ve been writing this pastor advice blog for a long time now. I feel like we’ve gotten pretty close and I can trust you. So, let me be vulnerable. One of my warning lights is how my digestive tract is working…or not working. Maybe this is TMI, but when I’m stressed and overwhelmed, let’s just say things do not work like they should. I’ve learned that this is one of my warning lights.  

Now that I’ve overshared, let me ask you two critical questions:  

  1. Do you know what your warning lights are?

    If you don’t know, spend some time processing. A surefire way to uncover your warning lights is to ask your spouse, co-workers, or good friends, “What do I do when I’m stressed out?” You might not know but trust me, your spouse does.

  2. Do you have warning lights flashing right now?

    My guess is you do, and probably multiple.

The last 18 months have been brutal and here we are in the midst of the fall season of ministry and you’re likely weary.

So, what are you going to do?  

Let me share a few things I’m learning. I picked up these ideas in Carey Niewhof’s latest book, At Your Best.  

“If your busy season has no ending, it’s not a season. It’s your life.”

I’ve been in the habit of saying, I just need to get through this season.

I’m realizing I’ve been saying this for about 15 years.

It’s not a season. It’s my life. 

What do you do when the pace you are working at feels unsustainable?  

“A sustainable pace is the solution for an unsustainable pace.”  

A week off won’t fix it. A sabbatical won’t fix it.

Why? Because when you get back from your time off, you’ll jump back into your unsustainable pace and you’ll return to your exhausted state in a matter of days.

Only a sustainable rhythm of life will fix an unsustainable pace.

So, here’s my challenge for you: If your warning lights are flashing red, pay attention to them.

Why are they flashing?

Probably because you're running at an unsustainable pace.

If you’re running at an unsustainable pace, the ONLY solution is to live at a sustainable pace.  

  • You need to stop working 55 hours a week. 
  • You need a weekly sabbath.  
  • You need to stop attending all those meetings you don’t need to be at.  
  • You need to stop saying yes to all those opportunities.
  • You need to start getting eight hours of sleep a night.  
  • You need to start actually using your PTO.

Wrap Up

Sorry if this blog feels a bit in your face but your church needs a healthy you.

Your family deserves a healthy you and the bottom line is only you can pursue a healthy you by living at a sustainable pace. 

Topics: Advice

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