Living as a Small Church Pastor: The Dread of Monday

Sunday is not only the highlight of our week; it is when we must put our all out to the edge of burnout. We ride the Spiritual high of seeing God move in the lives of people, whom we are called to minister to. The build up of a week’s preparation has come to a fulfillment. We have put all our energy into this day of being a part of God’s movement among His people.
Yes, we have faced those who are not as excited with our message, or with what God is doing in the church where we are called to minister. We have weathered the critics, the cynics, and the complainers. We usually will have more stokes of accolade than scars of battle. Sunday is what every pastor hopes and prays will succeed on some level for the Lord. Our whole life is thrown into ministering to people, and worshiping along side them. The hopes and aspirations of our lives are thrown into Sunday.
Monday morning then comes along to sap the joy and energy of our lives into oblivion. It is the sudden stop at the end of a rollercoaster of the week. All of the perpetual energy, the ups, downs, and turns of a Sunday have come to an end. It is likely the hardest day for every minister to get out of bed and face the day ahead.
There are two ways to handle Monday hide from the fact, or face it with all the strength that the Lord can offer us. Many ministers find Monday to be the best day to take off, since they are extremely worn and tired. Others feel that they must work, and that using a down day for some good is a better way to handle Monday. There are many in small church life haven’t the luxury of deciding this issue, because they work bi-vocationally. I will take some time to examine the bi-vocational issue at a later time. The reality is though that if you are bi-vocational, Monday may mean getting back to work at another job.
What if you decide Monday is the best time for a day off? How should you use the time? This question faces everyone, no matter what day they choose to have off. Since we are so drained on Monday it can be a danger to just cease to do anything. We need break from the normal activity, and from the work of ministry. However, we must use care about ignoring our spiritual regeneration. Many people make their day off a mockery of resting in the Lord. The issue is an issue of a Sabbath rest.
A Sabbath rest is not only a need, but a command of God. Some of you will argue with me that Monday is far from the Sabbath, but I will argue that we as ministers need to follow the rule of the Sabbath for our own lives too. The Sabbath is a day for ceasing from our usual labor, it is a day to focus upon God, and it is a day to be refreshed in our spirits. We can not take the people in our care into real worship, if we are not regularly in worship ourselves.
There are many ways we can find to worship. I know of some ministers who take time for in depth Bible reading. Some read through hymnals to be inspired and meditate upon the words of the writers of the hymnals. There are some who prefer to go into nature and pray and be alone with God. You will need to find your own way in what works best to revive your heart and soul. The real fact is to do it. Seek God out and be refreshed in His loving care.

Recently I was rereading A Conversation with Jesus by Stephen Seamands. He
references a conversation by Lyle Rader with Samuel Logan Brengle, an outstanding leader
in the Salvation Army in the early twentieth century.
One day Lyle Rader asked Brengle, “Sir, what has been your greatest temptation in
Brengle thought for a moment, then responded, “Actually, I have only one temptation in
ministry. If I win the battle with this temptation, everything else in my life and ministry
falls into place. But if I loose the battle, I soon find myself confronted with all sorts of other
“What is the temptation?” Rader asked.
“It’s the temptation to want to do something for God each day, before I’ve first spent
time with Him,” Brengle replied. [1]

We sometimes need to be reminded to feed our souls. Brengle was big enough to admit his need, and his own weakness. In ministry we often let the work of ministering to others rob our own personal time. To do something for God gives us satisfaction, adrenaline, and even a spiritual high. This makes sitting still with God alone for a while hard to do. It makes learning from others hard to do at times.

Making Monday, or part of Monday your day for Spiritual Renewal means marking it off in stone and ink on our day planners. Yes real emergencies will arise, but the normal routine of life is not an emergency. If we are to take others deeper, then we must get serious about the care of our own spiritual life. There is no guilt in spending time away from work, so that we can get to know the one who calls us in a deeper way.
Spiritual and emotional renewal can come in times alone, or in meeting with others who are in ministry. One of the greatest times of my early ministry came, as I was striving to plant a church in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I was blessed with getting to know a group of local pastors very well. Eight to ten of us met weekly for coffee, prayer, and building one another up in the Lord. I came to need these weekly times of renewal. It was the spiritual recharge I needed.
I have had the opportunity to meet with other groups on a monthly basis and always feel stronger for our time together. Sometimes it’s over coffee, breakfast, lunch, or a round of golf. Always we set aside time to share our greatest concerns, and encourage each other in the daily life of ministry. Just like the parishner’s who are revived by being with others in church, I am revived by being with others in ministry.
I have a friend and accountability partner who I still call just about every Monday, sometimes at other times too. We need others, because we are created to need others and not as ‘Lone Rangers’.
You may feel that working is the best thing to do on Monday. Maybe you need to see something accomplished just overcome the feeling of depression that wants to creep in on Monday. I tend to fall into this category. I do work Monday, but I do not work as hard as on some other days.
Generally I start most work days with a visit to our local gas station, or reading at home in personal study by seven in the morning. I use this time for personal growth, or to start my sermon for Sunday morning. Some have questioned my setting at a gas station, drinking coffee, and studying. However, I can see about seventy percent of my local village while sitting here. It makes for good contact as well as keeping me aware of the needs of my community, as I prepare to preach to people.
Monday I sometimes have the coffee, just to give me reason for getting going. However, I do not return to my office for work. I generally try to use my morning on Monday for reading, refocusing, or writing. Writing articles such as this are still ministry, but it is not the normal sermon preparation, visitation, and other duties I have in my church. It gives me time to do ministry with a different focus. I sometimes will take on special projects that need attention, such as an upcoming youth event. Again it is doing work, but not the usual office routine.
If I do any routine work, it generally doesn’t happen until after ten, and most likely not until afternoon. I try to do letters or follow up ministries on Monday afternoon. Sometimes I visit, especially those in need whom I couldn’t get to on Sunday. By doing follow up and visitation ministries on Monday I get the focus off of myself. By doing special ministries, or writing I get the focus off of myself. I have found that when I am lower in my spiritual take, and emotional tank I need to seek God. I have also found for myself that time alone when I am emotionally drained often leads to a more negative outcome. I don’t revive well if I am too tired, I actually run the risk of sinking further in toward a depressive attitude.
That is why I will not take a Monday off, at least in its entirety. I may at times only work a half a day, and go play golf with a member of the church or a ministerial colleague. I may work most of the day, but focus on other ministries outside the routine. But, I do not allow myself to take the whole day off, because I need to keep going, or be drawn in to the dread of Monday.
I do take a day off to do the things I mentioned earlier. In fact my district requires pastor’s to set this up yearly as part of our minister’s salary package. The problem is that like many other bi-vocational pastor’s my day is hard to lock down for a year at a time. I substitute teach, which is a blessing since it doesn’t require me to lock down a set time for work. It also doesn’t dominate my ministry schedule, although from October to May I average twenty to thirty hours of work at the school. My day off often moves around, since I may be scheduled at times on my day off.
I strive to take Friday as my day off, believing like many in ministry that refocusing my heart and soul before the big weekend is best. I also have found that there are fewer disturbances on Friday, since most people are getting ready for their weekend and families are focused on the children’s sporting events. I do go to community functions and sporting events, which is outreach in a small community. However, this is not work for me, because I enjoy being a part of the community in which I live.
When my schedule moves around from the normal plan I try to let the congregation know, as much as possible. I often list the best hours to contact me in the bulletin each week, right by the church phone number. This seems to help keep the communication lines open. Most people I have found respect the pastor’s need for time off, and even encourage them to get away.
That is my usual key to time off, getting away. I can not relax in my home next to the church, or at the church. I often visit friends for a round of golf and prayer. Sometimes I take a book and my fishing rod and head for a local river. I take a walk a nearby State Park and spend time just talking with the Lord. That is what I strive to do, spend time with Him.
I am not perfect. I like Paul say, ‘not that I have reached it yet.’ Yet I strive to focus my life on Christ, and take time for just the two of us. I know when I have missed this, because my spirit hungers to be with the Lord. I am a work in progress, but I encourage you to keep working in your own personal walk. Let your life be renewed in Him. If you miss your time away this week, then get back with Him next week. It is the only way we can ever hope to sustain for the long term in the Ministry journey God has called us to.

— Keep on your Journey for Jesus this week.

[1] A Conversation with Jesus (Renewing Your Passion for Ministry, by Stephen Seamands, © 1994 Victor Books / SP Publications, Inc.; 1825 College Avenue, Wheaton, IL 60187 (page 18)