Sundays are by far the most difficult days in a pastor’s calendar, especially if you are a pastor of a small church and if you are a bit mercurial by nature. Every other day of the week, you are doing something and people are being engaged. During the week, I might be meeting with people at a coffee shop, writing a message or working on some music with the worship team. But on Sunday, you become stretched across a broad spectrum of ministries and affairs.
Having a staff probably offsets this quite a bit, but when you are “the man” without any other full-time pastors on staff, you carry the whole thing on your shoulders. Some Sundays, everything works and you’re able to focus on your giftedness. On other Sundays, everything seems to fall apart and you wind up looking around going, “What the ____?”
Here are some areas that I am working on in my own ministry to help stabilize things so my wife does not have to put up with the Sunday evening to Monday morning blues.
Area #1 – Expectations
We all have expectations for ourselves and for others. My tendency is to keep my expectations for myself way too high and to keep my expectations for others too silent.
Expectations for Yourself
Limit your focus as much as possible when it comes to a Sunday. Small church pastors have a tendency to believe everything rises and falls on their efforts, but in reality you cannot change how much someone will give on Sunday. They’ve already decided that or had it decided for them. You cannot change if people are tired from a long night or frustrated with their kids and not as attentive as they should be.
Don’t expect to be able to get others focused on Christ if you are yourself focused on others rather than Christ. Get your focus right.
Expectations for Others
I tend to tell people only part of the expectation I have for them and then get frustrated because they did not live up to the expectations I never told them about.
Here’s the thing. In a small church, you are working with an all-volunteer staff. That means people have a lot of other things going on in their lives. This is not an excuse for them though. If they are involved in the ministries of the church, then they need to prioritize those ministries because transforming lives through the Way of Jesus.
More importantly, you have to prioritize those ministries. Yes, you need to sympathize with people when they have a demanding schedule, but should anything require more attention than the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Lay out your expectations in writing and in speech, and then remind people to meet them. Keep them simple. Remind them why they are doing this and why ministry requires their focus and energy. And remember to thank them when they meet the expectations.
Area #2 – Information
I repeatedly make the mistake of trying to convey vital information to people for the first time on Sunday morning before worship. This is beyond a terrible idea. By the time volunteers get to church on Sunday, they have a certain momentum building.
Convey information beforehand. Have meetings and make attendance one of the expectations you are very clear about. Reinforce this with email and/or phone calls during the week. That way, when you meet with people on Sunday morning you can exhort them to something they already have in their “package”.
One other thing about information. Keep people focused on the vision God has given the church. Make sure that information is connected to it – bound to it. If you are asking people to fulfill a vision and then asking them to do something that does not, they get mixed messages.
Area #3 – Rest
After the Sunday worship, try to keep your focus off of what went right or wrong. By all means, make a record of it but then set it aside until Monday. You’re exhausted – whether you want to believe it or not. And exhausted people never make good decisions or see things in perspective.
Do yourself a favor – be the pastor on Sunday morning, then be a normal human being for the rest of the day. Work comes again on Monday and you’ll have plenty of time to deal with things during the week.
Also, take regular rests. Spend at least one day of your week as your Sabbath. Mine is Thursday, although we only do a mediocre job of honoring it. I think that is one of the reasons I get burnt out. After having sacrificed my family’s time to take care of church stuff, church is not what I expected and there’s a root of bitterness to be torn out.
Beside the Sabbath, take an annual break. Take two if you can. Spend at least two or three Sundays a year NOT as the pastor or at your church. Let things go. Your people will miss you; and you will miss them. Absence makes the heart fonder.