This is part 3 of 6 in our Spiritual Formation for Pastors series.

A pastor faces many demands. This, along with failure to manage people’s expectations, creates fertile soil for workaholism.

Workaholics Usually Neglect Their Own Spiritual Formation

Pastors face very real time pressures. Coupled with busyness, people-pleasing, and the tyranny of the urgent, it become challenging to take time when we’re not “on the job” for activities that don’t seem immediately productive. There is never time to reflect on life or to engage the non-urgent interior activities that promote good spiritual health.

Workaholics Worry About How Their Job Looks to Laypersons

People see a pastor’s flexible schedule and assume pastor’s don’t work that much. You’ve heard the old joke about pastors only working one day a week. Thus many pastors become anxious to prove that they are earning their keep. But of course, most people in the congregation have no idea that time pastors put in – at all hours of the day.

Workaholics Worry That the Success or Failure of the Church Rests on Them

In such a central role, paid by the congregation to succeed, it’s easy for a pastor to take on a huge personal burden for the success or failure of everything in the life of the church. Add to this the fact that there is always something that more demands our attention. This amounts to idolatry. The success of the church is in God’s hands – even though he uses us as instruments. Pastors are never as responsible for success or failure as they think.

To combat this tendency, learn to evaluate your work habits.

  • Schedule time off and rest. Be intentional about setting boundaries in your schedule.
  • Do a time audit. Track your time in 15 to 30 minute increments for one week at a time. Do this several times over three months. It will give you a more concrete sense of how much time you really are investing in ministry – compared to family and other values.
  • Get a reality check. Get feedback from your spouse or a close friend about how they see your schedule.
  • Learn more about the work schedules of congregation. This will help you make a more fair and realistic comparison.

It’s easy to get in the trap of working FOR God but never spending time WITH God. But even the best ministry work for the best motives becomes toxic when it is not nurtured by our interior life in God’s presence. Make a decision to elevate the priority of your own spiritual formation.

Adapted from Resilient Ministry by Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman and Donald C. Guthrie. ©2013 by Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman and Donald C. Guthrie. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. On a scale of 1-10, to what degree is work the source of your hope, joy, emotional energy, support and success? Explain.
  4. What aspects of work do you tend to value too highly?
  5. Are you expecting more from your work than it can provide? Has it become an idol in your life? Explain.
  6. What results do you tell yourself you are gaining by working too much? What are the real costs in your life?
  7. To what degree is your work drawing you away from friendships and family relationships? What evidence can you give to support your answer?
  8. What Scripture passages can you use to preach truth to yourself about work idolatry?
  9. In what ways could you help your congregation get a healthier understanding of your work?
  10. How can you and your congregation deepen a commitment to every member being a minister and using their gifts?
  11. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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