22nd February 2018
Do you ever feel under pressure?
As 2018 began, I wrote a paper for the elders and senior leadership team of King’s called 100 Days and Vision 2030. It was an attempt to manage expectations and agree priorities as I plan for my sabbatical which starts at the end of May this year. The second part of the paper was about showing that we have years ahead of us to get to all we want to achieve together.
My experience of sabbaticals (my last one was eight years ago) has been extremely positive – at an emotional level they have been life changing. I have seen pastors go through burnout far too often, putting pressure on their families and leaving churches uncertain as to what the future holds. I am extremely grateful to the elders and trustees of King’s for the opportunity to stand back and recharge – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
However, one of the downsides of an approaching sabbatical is that people suddenly realise you are not going to be around for a while! They start bringing forward requests and suggestions, aware that if they don’t catch me soon, they will have to wait until my return in September. And I am having to identify those essential tasks, things which would normally wait until June or July, which require my attention before my sabbatical begins. One seemingly small item builds upon another, and before you know it, you can begin to feel overwhelmed.
So what can you do when you feel under pressure? Here are a few things which I find helpful when the demands are great but time is short:
1. Keep praying. It is tempting to cut prayer times short when we are very busy, but this can quickly lead to too much reliance on ourselves and not enough on God. It is hard to keep going if we are not being fuelled spiritually.
2. Do not compromise on boundaries. We may think that by working on days off, or cramming in just one more evening meeting, the pressure will ease. This is seldom the case and can increase the chances of burnout before we even arrive at the start of a break.
3. Prioritise your work. I have two lists at the moment, one of things I must get to before my sabbatical begins, and another of things that can wait until after I get back.
4. Manage expectations. It is important to communicate with team members what needs to take priority and what can be left for now.
5. Continually re-evaluate your priorities. These may need adjusting as circumstances change and new information comes in. I make adjustments all the time.
We all go through busy periods and times of pressure. If we are to keep going and not experience burnout, we need to find ways of managing these seasons, even if it means making some tough decisions.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
Steve Tibbert leads King’s Church London, with sites in Catford, Downham and Lee. Over the past fifteen years the church has seen continued growth, both in size and diversity. Steve is also involved in Newfrontiers and regularly coaches other lead elders. His book, Good to Grow, was published in July 2011. He is married to Deb, and they have three sons.