It isn’t if, it’s when, and it’s often usually.
I walked into my office Monday morning, and it was an unusually dreary day for Southern California. My office looked different than it did just the day before.
Just twenty-three and a half hours before that moment, I sat tall at my desk feeling confident, invigorated, and hopeful. I had already preached one sermon with one more to go. My office was bright, colorful, and warm as sunbeams pierced through my office windows, as if my room and I had been specially chosen.
Content and emboldened, I was eager to step into our second service to preach the sermon again. It was a lovely Sunday, with the faithful people of PazNaz gathered like they always do after worship. The children ran amuck underneath the California sun and palm trees while parents and the PazNaz silver sages gathered for fellowship. I left campus that day with a full heart. “I get to do this,” I thought.
I get to immerse myself into the study of the Word.
I get to proclaim the good news of the Jesus with which I’m so madly in love.
I get to lend an ear and heart to the sacred story of God’s people.
I get to have a front row seat to the movement of God’s people in this world.
Now, twenty-three and a half hours later, I sat in my office. The sun wasn’t piercing through the window, warming the office as it had the day before. Instead, my office now seemed grey and drab in contrast to the bright and vibrant colors of Sunday.
Mondays are different for me, for pastors.
Earlier that morning, when the alarm clock went off, I could have used pliers to open my eyes. In a quick moment of panic, I had a flashback to the vulnerability of my sermon just the day before. It was one of those sermons in which I wore my heart on my sleeve a little more than usual, and when I woke, I felt embarrassed. Did I share too much? Was it over the top? Am I too emotional? For a brief moment, I felt naked.
I rolled over and did exactly what I knew I shouldn’t do—I reached for my phone and immediately opened my email. I quickly scrolled down for any highlights, and I saw a message with a feisty subject line. I opened it, and reading it felt like a flaming arrow was piercing my gut. It was an angry congregant with a host of complaints, some personal.
I knew better than to open emails especially on a Monday, but I had done so without even thinking twice about it. I immediately regretted it as dread and discouragement consumed and saturated my mind until I reached my today-dreary office.
As I opened my email again, I discovered another fire that needed putting out. To my left was a stack of Connect Cards that had been submitted on Sunday, and as I shuffled through them, I found one that had been used as a complaint card. Jagged cursive, harsh and angry words, belittling sentences.
Tired, with a hint of vulnerability hangover, I pushed through the rest of the afternoon with back-to-back meetings—staff meetings, worship planning, pastoral counseling, frustrated congregants, operations, and more. By the time I returned to my desk, my text messages and email inbox were once again full. I anxiously pulled up the giving and attendance metrics. And again, another low Sunday.
Depleted, I made it home only to be a train wreck of emotions and exhaustion for my family.
This was a typical Monday nearly four years ago. It took many, many grueling Mondays at PazNaz to realize that something had to give. I often talk to pastors from around the country, and many can testify to the difficult and vulnerable reality that Mondays often bring. I didn’t want to be a pastor who burned out after a few years, so I immediately began designing, praying about, and shaping my Mondays in a way that this pastor would be not be depleted. Pastor, here are four activities you might consider to nourish yourself on Mondays:
While the rest of the world is speeding out of their driveways at 7 a.m. on Monday mornings, the rest of the world may not have had an intense work day the day before. It took me several months to recognize that I didn’t have to be in the office first thing on Monday mornings, that it would be ok to come in later. What is an activity that would force you to resist the Western idea of production? Is it reading? Journaling? Walking? Sitting with a good book? Bird watching? Whatever it is that helps you slow down for a few hours, I now find something beautiful in intentionally slowing down for reflection and quiet on Monday mornings. I find something beautiful in intentionally slowing down for reflection and quiet on Monday mornings. Click To Tweet
Move Your Body
If I’m transparent with you, Sundays may be one of the least nourishing days of the week for me, and perhaps it is for many pastors. I’m usually drinking beyond my limits of coffee and not eating healthy, and by the time I get home on Sundays, I typically collapse onto my bed for a few hours. On Monday mornings, that exhaustion is only intensified. It sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes what I need in addition to slowing down for quiet and reflection is nourishing my body through physical activity. I have found that if I can incorporate body movement, especially connecting my body to earth through hiking, I’m able to clear my mind and get the endorphins pumping for the rest of the day. If I’m transparent with you, Sundays may be one of the least nourishing days of the week for me, and perhaps it is for many pastors. Click To Tweet
One of my more meaningful practices that is a sustaining means of grace as a pastor is my Monday gathering with a small group of community pastors. We share openly about our wounds, sometimes the freshly-bleeding ones. We share wins. We share challenges, roadblocks, and ideas. We call it triage because, well, this is not an easy line of work. It’s a calling that is costly on the pastor and the pastor’s family. Sometimes we cry, sometimes we laugh, sometimes we strategize, sometimes we vent, and sometimes we nerd out on theology. If at all possible, get grouped with fellow clergy. I recognize that some pastors may be more isolated for various reasons, but remember that Zoom or other video technologies is a great resource to make and sustain connections.
Reflect and Dream Forward
On Monday mornings, I have found it helpful to journal as a centering practice. For me, journaling is an opportunity to practice prayer, praise, confession, and adoration to God, and also reflection, venting, naming. Often pastors wake up on Monday mornings with “all the feels,” and journaling is a healthy way to connect those emotions with God and your own self. Journaling also helps me prioritize my goals for the week as well as name and leave behind anxieties and unhealthy fears.
Pastors, Mondays can be very difficult, and pastoring more difficult than most other professions. Be kind to your body, love yourself, and fill your cup so it overflows the rest of the week. You might find other practices that work for you, so help other pastors by contributing to the conversation and giving others insight into what nourishes you on the most challenging day of the week.
What have you found helpful?
(I talk more about Monday mornings over at another helpful podcast, The Monday Morning Pastor.)