In my denomination, we take an ordination vow to serve God’s people with energy. I am not aware of anyone being charged with breaking this particular ordination vow, but I am aware of leaders whose energy for professional ministry is in fact depleted. Sometimes we are depleted of the energy to do much of anything.
It wasn’t until yesterday when I finally felt like I’d recovered physically from the family wedding we celebrated the previous weekend. As much as we loved the wedding, I was absolutely drained for days. My legs ached. My attention span was nil. My need for sleep rivaled somebody with mono.
Years ago, when I announced to a congregation I used to serve that I was leaving to follow HH to the Midwest, someone asked me what I would be doing. I didn’t have a call myself, but that was okay. I was absolutely spent. “I’m really tired,” I said to the group who had gathered. “Really tired.” I slept for two weeks after moving to Illinois. I had worked really hard and then I was done.
For what do we have energy? In one way, this is a question for the privileged. If I’m a single mom with no education and no safety net, I need to find the energy to do whatever it takes to support my family. I don’t have the benefit of waiting for “the right job.”
What concerns me about many of my ministry colleagues is that we often stay in a position even when our energy for that ministry is long gone. We have checked out. But we need the paycheck until we can find a new position. Or we need to hang on until we can afford to retire.
This is a problem not merely for our own souls but for the communities we serve. I observe serious damage to congregations when a pastor doesn’t leave after the energy is gone. But many of us stay nevertheless.
On the cusp of Labor Day weekend, this week’s posts will be about the work of professional ministers in the 21st Century. We are in the throes of tumultuous – and exciting – change in The Church. When our labor as pastors is lifeless, God’s people suffer. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Image of the windmill farm along Interstate 65 in Indiana.