The Sesame Street producers posted a video of Elmo’s father, another fluffy reddish monster of some kind, urging parents during the confinement to take moments for themselves. “Breathe,” he said, even while Elmo called “Daddy, daddy, come here” a half dozen times off screen. Elmo, always age three, needs lots of attention.
So do churches. Especially now.
Churches and pastors are wrestling with real issues brought on by the current crisis. The mantle of ministry is weightier than ever. I have watched pastors take on multiple online teaching responsibilities and try to coordinate whatever community ministries are possible. And some of them are tired. I can see it in their eyes—on Facebook.
Which leads me to say, Pastor, take care of yourself. Not to the exclusion of spouse or family or church members. But when we are running extra hard, even while others may be in an odd season of rest, we run the risk of burning out.
I find myself thinking about Jack Anders* right now. Jack was relatively a young man when he accepted the pastorate of a large established church in a popular oceanside community in Florida. The church was approaching 100 years old and so were many of its members.
Jack lived not far from where I did. We had church friends in common, so I heard about his struggle. Jack had to perform three funerals in his first week on the job, as I recall the story now 30 years old, and pace never let up. He buried well over 100 people in just a couple of years—and it got to be too much. People wondered why Jack quit what was considered by many pastors a “plum” church—large, well-funded, agreeable, pleasant people, in a really nice town. But it got to him.
Ministry to emotionally drained people also drained him emotionally.
I won’t enumerate the list of things we should do to protect our emotional and spiritual well-being, except to underscore their importance. Without proper attention to these areas, we run the risk of collapse just when everyone else is emerging from hibernation.
Eric Reed is editor of Illinois Baptist media.