Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Adjusting to the Pastoral Ministry

I am in a slump lately, and I think its because my brain is tired. I'm not sure how all of this works because this is only my third year as a pastor and I'm still adjusting to the pastoral routine...whatever that is. Let me tell you my background so that perhaps you may understand.

I come from a long line of farmers. Up until my grandfather's generation, that's basically all my family did. After that, we moved to plant work. We're blue collar folks, for the most part. My dad has worked plant work his whole life. I think its bred in my blood. My favorite job ever was the landscaping job I had at the golf course, or the time I spent laboring as a National Guardsmen. I like to sweat when I work.

I don't sweat much as a pastor. I sit and stare alot. I stare at printed pages and out the window. When I'm staring out the window, I'm thinking of things I've read on printed pages. I also write. Alot. Currently, I'm writing Sunday School material and Discipleship Training material. I'm also writing for my Seminary classes, and sometimes I write for this blog. On Sundays, I teach Sunday School, preach Sunday Morning, teach Sunday Evening, and preach Sunday evening. We were also doing a Men's Bible Study on Thurs. which I also taught.

I'm not complaining, those things are my joys in life. But they don't make you sweat and you don't get dirty doing them. You can sit and look at paper all day, and the only thing that will get tired physically are your back and eyes. But neither is sore the next day, for the most part. My voice gets tired sometimes, but it works pretty good. (I also lead the singing on Sundays.)

Instead of being sore, this sort of work tends to put me into a sort of sleepy, zombie state. I've been in that state for the past few days. I want to sleep, not get up at 5am and drive to New Orleans. The rub is that my blue collar blood wonders why I'm tired. I feel like I haven't done anything. Thinking isn't work, is it? I'm learning that it is, and I'm learning that it is much harder to gauge mental fatigue than muscular.

I'm also learning that mental fatigue is not as satisfying as muscular. When I work until my muscles are worn out, say by laying sod, I sleep like a baby and feel good about it. When I read all day, I get cranky and zombie like. I stay dazed. And it isn't conducive to a good night's sleep.

Another thing about the pastoral ministry is the schedule...or general lack thereof. When is a pastor "at work"? When is he not? At my blue collar job, I'm at work when I'm at work. I'm done when I'm done. My time is my time, the rest belongs to the man. I can't really figure out when I'm off in this job. When I'm off...I read about and think about Christ and the Church. When I'm "on," I read about and think about Christ and the Church. Jogging has helped with this. In moments of intense agony when I can only think of putting one foot in front of the other, it helps shake off the zombie fog. I also sweat profusely, which is nice.

Finally, if you like to see production, ministry can be very trying. At the landscaping job, I could, after several hours of work, see that I had satisfactorily moved a pile of dirt across the golf course to make a pile of dirt on the other end. In ministry, I teach and think and preach and pray and exhort and rebuke and at the end of the day, I'm not certain if much changed. After a day of ministry, I often look back and think, "Well...what did I do today? I talked with some people; I read a book; I did my quiet time, and I wrote a section of commentary on Daniel. Oh yeah, I also spent time wondering if ton was an accusative singular definite article or if it could be a neuter nominative singular. The noun wasn't helping me because it is a 3rd declension and I've forgotten my endings again." Oh the days of, "Two pallets of sod. They go over there. Lay it green side up."

So why am I telling you all of this? Because Frank Turk loves where am I now posts, and because I just force fed myself Leviticus 5-8. (I know, I shouldn't say that, but I read it, was blessed by it, and was reminded of how serious God is about sin. But it was still a tough read.) And, I thought it might be funny for you to see through the window into my world a bit. For now, I'm going to take a nap. Enjoy.


Lisa writes... said...

Your adjustment to the pastoral routine sounds similar to my adjustment as a stay at home mom. I love lists, I love marking things off my list. I love clear expectations and accomplishing them. But as a mom, it is sometimes difficult to make a list and then even more difficult to mark things off. And clear expectations? Whatever! Like you, I have gotten to the end of the day and wondered what in the world I did all day. Somehow "raising a generation of godly men" is an item that never gets marked off my to do list!

Hustino said...

You have just listed two reasons to stay in N.O. tuesday night. One, play some Bball and you will sweat it up. Two, you can wake up at 7:30 instead of 5:30.
I am also feeling the lull of seminary. Oh, how I miss the days of pulling wire and hanging fixtures. At the end of the day my brain hurts, and I still can't remember 3rd declension endings.

Russ Reaves said...

what's a 3rd declension ending? :-)

Sojourner said...


It's part of Greek grammar. In Greek, word order will not tell you what part of speech you are looking at, and so you have to look at the ending to tell you if it's a direct object, indirect object, possessive, and etc. 3rd Declension nouns are particularly tricky because they are a bit irregular.

Even So... said...

Thank you very much for this Brad...let me tell you, you will probably have some of the same feelings still when you are a few more years into it...keep the faith, brother, God bless you...

Anonymous said...

That's not how you described your workday the last time I talked to you. I thought you just recycled last year's message for this week!

You know who I am>>>The Duke of Earl

Russ Reaves said...

Thank you brother, but I knew what they are. I was making an attempt at humor -- I feel your pain in trying to keep it all straight in my head. I have to refresh myself regularly.

Or I could say I was just testing you -- and you passed.

Matt Brown said...

This may sound strange, Pastor Brad, but it's good to see your humanity showing.

Anonymous said...

Spring is coming / is here- I can think of several locations that need attention (in Greenwell Spgs). You can sweat all you want.