Last week, I had the privilege of sitting in a Q & A with Bill Hybels, the Pastor and Founder of Willow Creek ChurchWillow Creek Church in the Chicago Land. Outside of planting Thrive Church, being on staff at Willow is one of my greatest treasures of 22 years of ministry.
A Pastor asked Bill what his keys to longevity have been. Great question! Here’s what Bill said…
1. ‘You can’t keep counting the hits’.
I wish I would have learned this one sooner! Every Sunday afternoon and into Monday till about 12pm, Satan does his best to remind me of Thrive’s inadequacies, my short comings as a Pastor and the folks who have left our Church and have said negative stuff it.
This is so important to remember! If you keep a record of this stuff, your mind and soul will become toxic. You have to Trust in Jesus, Keep your eyes focused on him and just keep being faithful.
2. ‘Discover Replenishment Disciplines’.
Do what you have to do, to recover from the hits. Because, just like being a boxer, the hits are going to come. Especially as you enter big seasons of ministry. Satan is going to going to do everything he can to screw stuff up. Whether is disunity, gossip, negativity, people’s feelings getting hurt, people feeling left out, taking on too much as a leader and letting people down, tough financial seasons and the list goes on and on.
For me, I’ve found that if I walk on Sunday afternoons, this is a huge help for our soul. I’ve also found that time with my family helps. And, I can’t front load my schedule on Monday mornings. I don’t take any meetings on Monday mornings and I try not to at all on Monday. I use Monday’s to write my next sermon and that time alone helps me recalibrate.
3. ‘Don’t try to control the disappointments’.
This is one is HUGE!! You just can’t control every situation disappointing season, trust me, I’ve tried! I have had to learn that I have to trust God. I mean, He is control. He is on the throne and oh yeah, I’m not.
1 Corinthians 13 talks about not ‘keeping a record of wrongs’. This is vital!
4. ‘Be wise about what you read, who you hang with and how you recreate’.
Again, these will help you ‘stay on the replenishment side’. I just can’t be around overly negative people on Monday and Tuesday of the week! Sunday takes so much out of me, that it really does take me a day or two to recover and get back to 100%. I know that probably sounds weird. I just heard Carey Neiwhof describe the post Sunday Pastor funk as a fog that doesn’t lift till about Monday afternoon. As Pastors, we pour out so much emotion through preaching and then again through so many conversations, that it takes time to replenish our tanks.
5. I’ll add one that I’ve learned that helps me…Elevate and Magnify the Encouraging things that are said to you.
So often, our heads and our hearts want to concentrate on the negative, because they hurt. We just can’t do that. Read the encouraging letters or emails or messages and make sure you elevate them!!
Almost the bottom
This is all so important to me, because I don’t want to burn out as a Pastor. I don’t want to lead on empty. And, to be honest, I’ve done that, I’ve had too.
Around year two of Thrive, we hit some really tough times. I’m talking excruciatingly, heart breaking times. We had the big MO…momentum as a Church and it kind of came to a screeching halt.
And then last summer, honestly, I came close to burning out.I honestly didn’t know if I would make it to year 5, 7, 10 and so on as Thrive’s Pastor.
Thankfully, my closest friends recognized it in me and I knew I was running on empty as well. And, we have an Elder and Staff Team that do an incredible job of caring and supporting their Pastor at Thrive.
This is so incredibly important to me as Thrive’s Pastor. We are not a Church were the Elders role is to protect the Church from the Pastor and Staff. I’ve served at Churches like that and really don’t resonate with that style of leadership and governance.
We are a Pastor/Staff lead Church and the Elders role is to encourage the Pastor, serve along side, pray through the deep, heavy and messy issues that arise and make sure we’re staying on track Biblically and to the vision that God has given us.
So, last summer I went to my Elders (which, my position is the only position that they Hire and Fire, they trust me to hire/first the staff of Thrive Church) and I laid out exactly where I was at. How empty I was and how empty my tank had gotten.
I wrote more about this journey HERE.
I ended up taking 29 days off. I dove back into meeting with my Christian Counselor, I re-read ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality‘ and I spend a lot of time caring for my soul and my physical health.
As I started 2018, I wanted this to be a different year. I didn’t want to let my emotional health suffer or my physical health keep suffering.
Hopefully and prayerfully, by living out these keys to longevity and keeping some strict boundaries for my life, I will eclipse year 5 and year 7 and year 10!