Defining Your Ministry Area of Influence (pt. 2) - Are you Overextended?
For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:14 ESV emphasis added)
As I entered vocational ministry part time in April of 2010 I was also trying to balance a full time job, a wife and 2 kids. Working 15 hour days became the norm ... for a while. By February 2012 I ended up in the hospital. I couldn't keep going at the pace I was. I had a what was diagnosed as a panic/anxiety attack that sent my heart racing for no reason. It was only then that I realized I was overextended.
Signs you are overextended
- You are tired, but you aren't resting. There are times and seasons when ministry is demanding. That's normal and to be expected; but even in those times you need to rest. You need at least a day (two if you can) away from your normal work. Everyone needs this, not just pastors. Everyone needs to recharge. Without quality rest, you will burn yourself out.
- You are ineffective. When you don't rest, it takes longer to get the normal things you do done. This is often due to not being sharp and attentive. Things won't come as easily, so they take longer. Because normal tasks are taking longer, you are getting less done. So what do you do? Spend even more time working (... and not resting).
- You are angry and irritable. Your lack of rest and feeling of ineffectiveness will eventually lead to you being more irritable and getting angry more easily. It's a natural progression. This anger comes on at the most inopportune times, typically with those you are closest with.
Are any (or all) of these traits describing you right now? This is an easy trap to fall into. This is the trajectory I was on when I landed in the hospital. What can be done to avoid it? How do we prevent being overextended?
How to deal with being overextended
- Ask for prayer and help. The most basic reason I ended up in the hospital was because I didn't let anyone know how I was doing. I didn't ask for prayer. I didn't ask for help. I didn't want to appear that inept. I didn't want to appear weak. The hospital visit forced this issue. While asking for prayer and help revealed my bad habits, which I thought were going to be scrutinized at length; it also encouraged me in that I didn't have to do all on my own. It's good and helpful to get the perspective of others. I most often miss to big picture, because I'm trying to hard to work out the details.
- Determine priorities. Through the process of asking for prayer and help I was challenged to look at my priorities. As I did, I quickly realized they were jacked up. I was putting ministry before everything; before family, before my other job; before rest. I started to break down tasks into more manageable chunks that could fit into the time I had. The rest could wait.
- Cut back on non-esseintials. Once priorities are determined, the process of cutting back and cutting out began. There are always things I'd like to be doing, dreams I'd like to see become reality. But they had to wait. Wait until such a time that I had more time to properly devote to them.
- Train up others. Sometimes those dreams can't wait, but that doesn't mean it should be YOUR priority. What it most often means is that you need to start training someone up to do it. Godly leaders are called called to, "equip the saints for the work of ministry," (Eph. 4:12). You don't have to do everything, you can't. God has placed a community of believers around to invest into and train them up so you can focus on what God has called you to do.
- Delegate. Once you've trained them up, let them loose. Give them the authority and support they need to do what God has called them to do. Support them and protect them. Then you'll see how far reaching the ministry of the church can be.
Feeling like you're overextended? Feel burnout coming on? Don't try to do it all on your own. Trust that God's way is the best way.