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If You've Reached Your Limit

Pat Verbal

How to refocus on the goal when you feel like giving up; when you're stressing out, God desires to teach you the way through the muddle.

Do you drive home from church every Sunday mentally writing your resignation letter? Do you get a headache at the mention of a second worship service? Do your hands tremble when the phone rings on Saturday evening? Have your own children threatened to make an appointment with your secretary to get your undivided attention?

All these things happened to me in 16 years as a children's pastor. (Did I mention the prescription for Zantac?)

If you're ready to check out of your ministry, hold on tight. "The time to leave a ministry position is when things are going good," says Johanna Townsend, a veteran children's pastor. "When you're stressing out, God desires to teach you the way through the muddle. So watch and wait for his victories."

We all need a plan to handle the stress, disappointment, and just plain exhaustion in our busy roles. Try what works for me.

1. Schedule rest. Take a real day off every week. If you find yourself working on your day off, repeat out loud, "Stop that! It's your day off!" Chuck Swindoll in his book, Strengthening Your Grip, reminds us that God rested not because he was exhausted, not because there wasn't more he could've done, but because enough is enough. It was a decision! If you don't take a day off each week, you'll end up needing a bigger break.

"It wasn't the big things in my ministry that pushed me over the edge," says Dorothy Powell, a children's pastor in Walnut Creek, California. "A ton of little irritations surfaced day after day and wore me out."

Dorothy got the rest she needed. Armed with a written proposal for a month off-with pay, she headed for her annual review. The church, remembering her 11 years of service, granted her request. They even hired an interim leader to assure Dorothy's smooth return. The person who stands in the way of rest and you is-guess who? You!

2. Create a joy file. On one of "those Mondays" while filing one of "those notes" (We appreciate you, but...), I created a JOY File. I drew big, yellow sunflowers and red spotted lady bugs on the file folder. Every time I got an encouraging note from a teacher, parent, or child, I dropped it in my JOY File. It made great reading on cloudy days.

3. Guard your friendships. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says "Two people are better than one because they get more done by working together. If one falls down, the other can help him up. But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls because no one is there to help."

I've experienced the truth in this passage. When I told my friend, Cathy, that I might resign my position at church for a better-paying job, she fasted and prayed with me about the need. God provided, and I stayed at the church. My husband and most supportive friend also helps me refocus my schedule when he sees me pushing the limit.

4. Get help. Pray about hiring help at home. It's worth the extra money. Not having to do the day-to-day cleaning removes pressure and allows you to really rest when you're at home.

5. Journal. My prayer journal helps me look back so I can look forward. It's a record of growth, including my strengths and weaknesses. I write Scriptures and put people's names in the promises of God. In my journal, I offer the Lord my work as worship and he affirms my place in his plan.

6. Confront. Talk to whomever you need to talk to, whenever you need to, about whatever it is you need to discuss (see Matthew 18). Mental baggage gets tiresome and self-defeating. I once heard a speaker say "The reason some of you are so tired is that you're standing in the middle of the Red Sea holding back the waters on both sides with your bare hands. That's God's job! You better get up on the shore where you belong."

Pat Verbal is a Christian education consultant in Glendora, California. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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