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Every pastor I know gets a little depressed (or a lot depressed) on the days following Easter. It's natural.
Easter is our Super Bowl. We pour our lives into preaching, touching and responding to people, surviving the week on less sleep and more adrenaline than we should.
Easter comes and attendance peaks. Then it falls again.
Not to its old level, but we were secretly hoping that ALL our guests would return. When they don't, well, we're human, and we get disappointed.
How Do You Recover From the Post-Easter Blues?
There are a number of ways you might try. Here's one I don't suggest: Take a vacation.
Some pastors plan a vacation for the week after Easter. Why not? We've worked hard; we've earned it. And if we're out of town, we won't have to see the inevitable empty seats the following Sunday.
The problem with is, all our volunteers are exhausted too. If they follow our example, no one will be around the following weekend, and whatever inertia was generated by a great Easter experience will lost by the abdication of the leader at the critical moment.
The Critical Moment for Leadership
The most critical time for leadership isn't on the mountaintop, it's in the valley.
A leader's finest moments come when the troops are down, not up. Picture Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings when the hordes of Mordor are surrounding his men. He shouts, "Someday the strength of men may fail, but not this day!"
Or, Coach Boone in Remember the Titans, when the boys are being ripped apart by racial tension. He leads them on a pre-dawn run through Gettysburg. Great leaders rise up when momentum is waning.
For that reason, the Sunday after Easter may be the most important day of the year for the pastor to preach a great sermon.
You've heard the adage, "The speed of the leader is the speed of the team." If you are not excited about next weekend, nobody else will be either. But if you are over-the-top energized about what's coming, your excitement will infect others. So, what type of sermon series would really excite you? Better, what type of series would excite you and the people you're trying to get to return?
A second approach to your post-Easter discouragement is to think rationally about what's happened. (1) You are tired because you worked hard. This is how life works. And (2) attendance will be down because your once-a-year attendees all showed up for Easter. They won't be back next weekend. Nor will your once-a-month, twice-a-month, or twice-a-year attendees. They haven't left you; they're just following their normal patterns.
Don't allow others' lukewarm attitudes to quench your fire for God. Instead, leverage the pain you feel to motivate a solution.
3 Ways to Speed Recovery from Easter
After climbing Mt. Carmel, Elijah prayed down fire from heaven, executed hundreds of false prophets, prayed again until rain fell, then outran a chariot before taking a forty-day walk. Even with the eleven services we'll be doing this year, my spiritual and physical workload doesn't come close to matching Elijah's. If he could recover from his massive exertion, I can too.
What did Elijah do to recover? Well, first, he slept. That's on my checklist. Then, three things happened to him that enabled him to continue in ministry.
Elijah had a thing about mountains. After expending energy on Mt. Carmel, he recovered energy on Mt. Horeb.
1. Expose yourself to God's power. While Elijah is standing on the mountain, God sends a wind, an earthquake, and a firestorm to rouse him. The prophet may have been drowsy, but those forces roused him quickly!
In what ways do you experience God's power?
I get energized by listening to Christian leaders teach on vision and leadership. I've never done drugs, but for me, listening to Bill Hybels speak on leadership feels a lot like what I imagine to be a drug-induced high. Bill's opening talks at the Leadership Summit remind me of why I'm on this planet and why I signed up to plant a church. So every year I buy the Summit DVDs. Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel have a similar effect on me, so I buy the Catalyst DVDs too.
On Monday and Tuesday after Easter, I'll watch a few of those messages. And my sense of purpose, hope and energy will elevate.
2. Expose yourself to God's whisper. After his wind, earthquake and fire, Elijah experienced the still small voice of God. The Lord whispered to him, "What are you doing here Elijah?" which initiated an intimate conversation.
I have a chair where I love to sit and reflect. After watching a leadership message, I'll meet with God in that chair, where more often than not, the Lord brings me to a place of green pastures and restores my soul.
3. Expose yourself to God's new directions. After the whisper, God gave Elijah a new assignment. For three years the prophet had been focusing on one event: the defeat of Baal worship. Part of his depression came from not having another big event to look forward to.
Pastor, you're a leader, and leaders need directives and directions on ministries to launch, people to pour into, and new hills-to-take. Once the Easter challenge is behind you, listen to God for His next assignment—and don't settle for something like taking up tennis, or joining a bird-watching society.
Listen for how He wants you to build His Kingdom, and then gear up and go after it as He leads. For me, that means sitting in my chair with a journal in my hand, saying, "Speak Lord, your servant is listening."
These three steps (exposure to God's power, God's whisper, and God's new direction) may look different for you than they do for me, but they restored Elijah to ministry and I believe they will help speed your recovery, too.
We are in this contest for life, so let's run with endurance the race marked out for us.
Hal Seed is the founding and lead pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. Hal mentors pastors to lead healthy, growing churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com.
For the original article, visit pastormentor.com. This post was originally published in 2011.
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