The first couple years into church revitalization there were more opportunities than time. I was so excited about the potential we had to restore a historic, established church, but my calendar wouldn't hold any more, and my mind was exploding.
One day I remember driving on the road that leads back to our hometown. I considered my schedule, the enormity of the challenge ahead, the dozens of emails awaiting a response and the people I was still having to say no to when they asked for my time—many who didn't understand why the pastor couldn't see them right away—and I turned to Cheryl and said, "Right now, I wish I could just keep driving, and this had been a nice little dream."
It wasn't reality speaking or how I really felt. Plus, I knew to be obedient, I was going to stay. It was emotions talking. I knew I was simply feeling overwhelmed.
What do you do when you find yourself in that situation? When the changes are overwhelming, and you don't know if you can do all expected of you—what do you do?
I hope you can learn from my experience. Here is what I did:
1. Step back. Take a day. Take a week. Pause everything. I realize it makes no sense to take a break when your schedule is packed, but stepping back gives you an opportunity to take a fresh look at the challenges ahead. Again, it may seem like you don't have time to pause right now, but it may be you don't have time not to do so. The time away will give you a better perspective, a clearer head, and the rest will give you energy you need.
2. Get fit. I used to tell our staff in a church plant that "you have to strive to be healthy to work here right now." It was this way in this particular season in ministry. As much as it depended on me, I needed to be healthy spiritually, relationally, emotionally and physically. I needed to eat healthy, exercise and maintain a healthy relationship with my wife. I also needed extended time in God's Word and prayer. This was even more than usual a time for intentionality in living a healthy lifestyle.
3. Renew the vision. When change is overwhelming, you have to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. The why is the key. It's what fueled you in the first place and what has the best potential to fuel you again. I knew I was called here for a purpose. God doesn't make mistakes. If you are overwhelmed at something God called you to do, ask God to renew again the passion you had in the beginning before you were overwhelmed.
4. Chart a course one step at a time. Baby steps. It's how big change is accomplished. One foot in front of the other. The bigger the change, the more methodical you must be. One day. One week. One month at a time. I had to ask people to be patient. I had to prioritize each day. I had to not feel bad about saying no. I had to get up every morning, create a list of things I could accomplish for the day and realize tomorrow would be a new day. Learning to live a healthy pace may be a leader's greatest challenge and most needed strength.
5. Invite people on the journey. Delegation becomes even more important during overwhelming times in leadership. If you're world is like mine, this pretty much equates to every season of ministry. In church revitalization, I was reminded over and over again of the value of a team. I had to learn whom I could trust, but I also have to take risks on people. I couldn't then—and can't now—be successful without others.
I made slow progress the first couple years. I was amazing how God blessed us in spite of our speed to obey. But the process seemed to work. God has overwhelmed us, even in our times of being overwhelmed!
If you are overwhelmed at the changes occurring in your life right now, I suggest these five steps.
Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.
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