When Ministry Overwhelms, this Tool Can Help

overwhelmedMinistry burnout, overload, and destructive stress lead to an abysmal survival rate for pastors today.  For 20 years a friend of mine followed 105 pastors and discovered that only half remained in ministry. Many other statistics bear witness to the high fallout rate for pastors. Burnout, moral collapse, and the weight of ministry has shattered many dreams for Kingdom impact.

No pastor ever begins ministry with a goal to end up as a casualty of it. Unfortunately, unless many make systemic changes to their hearts and ministry pace, they too will end up a statistic. But, if you feel yourself on the road to burnout you can change your trajectory through this simple yet life-transforming exercise.

As I begin my new role from serving as a senior pastor to serving other pastors through coaching them and consulting their churches, I’ve used a tool that many coaches use to help people regain balance. It’s called a “Life Balance Wheel.”

wheel of lifeIt had its origins in the Middle Ages when few could read. Etched on many cathedrals, it visually represented the cycle of daily life: happiness, loss, suffering, and hope. For most people life offered little hope and the carved images instructed the common person about the inevitable change process in life.

Today we use the life balance wheel in a more positive way. It takes many forms, but this example captures its essence.

5 Ways to Turn CRITICISM into CARNAGE

If you are a pastor or lead people in any way, criticism is a fact of life. We can learn from our critics or we can turn criticism into carnage.

Here are five ways to do that.

  1. Cut yourself off from everybody who criticizes you. Stay far, far away from them. They are idiots so avoid them at all costs
  2. Believe every criticism. It’s all true, every juicy morsel of it. Believe every word of it. Make it personal. Think about it all the time.
  3. The 4 Levels of Listening: Pastor, are you Stuck at the Pre-school Level?

    One of the greatest skills a pastor or leader can develop is to learn to listen well. Woodrow Wilson’s words below should cause every leader to evaluate his or her listening skills.

    The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.

    We pay others a high compliment when we listen.

    We affirm other’s God-given value when we listen.

    We develop our own heart when we listen.

    The father of the field of listening, Ralph Nichols, captures the essence of listening in these words.

    The most basic of all human needs is the need to be understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.

    Through my 15-week coaching I’ve learned that we listen at several levels. Often we get stuck on the first level, the most elementary one. As you read the four levels below, ask yourself at which level do you usually listen.

    1. Level 1-Listening TO…Internal Listening. At this level when we listen to others we mostly listen to our inner dialogue, our thoughts, our feelings, and what we plan to say once the other person has finished speaking. We focus on ourselves, our conclusions, our thoughts about the person/subject of conversation, and what the subject means to me. Unfortunately most listening happens at this level where it’s all about me.
    2. Discover your Leadership Vibe in 10 Minutes

      lead, leadershipIf you follow my blog, you know I love to read. As a life-long learner I learn from others’ writings and  I believe integrous writers should always give generous attribution to authors whose ideas they embrace or write about. That’s why I often reference my ideas. Recently I read Do More Great Work by Michael Stanier. It’s a short but good read.

      Stanier takes the reader through simple exercises that helps him clarify when he is at his best. In my case, I read the book with an eye to discover when I lead at my best. This is especially important in my life now as I transition from a senior pastor role into a coach/consultant role for pastors and churches.

      In one exercise I spent a few minutes choosing words that best describe me when I am at my best. For example, some of those words included poised, reflective, and focused. The next step, however, make this exercise stick. After I picked about 20 words and narrowed them to a dozen or so I then wrote opposite each word another contrasting word that would describe me when I’m not quite myself. I didn’t necessarily choose words opposite in meaning but ones more anemic in contrast to the others. Oppose to the three words above I chose diplomatic, distant, and intense.

      When I chose the contrasting words it helped clarify my leadership vibe, that state of leadership toward which I should aim.

      Here’s the list that contrasts when I’m at my best (on the left) and when I’m just ok (to the right).