By Lonnie Wilkey
FRANKLIN — As the calendar rolled from April into May, TBMB leader Randy C. Davis reflected on the burden he feels for pastors and ministers who suffer from burnout.
In his monthly Radio B&R podcast (see Episode 30 here), Davis commented on the TBMB board of directors meeting held April 30 at Thompson Station Church. Actions included the formation of a special task force to study sexual abuse prevention and response and the purchase of property adjacent to the Baptist Campus Ministry facility at the University of Tennessee-Martin. See story in this issue.
His primary topic on the podcast revolved around a column which appeared in the May 1 issue of the Baptist and Reflector, “Somebody Tell the Pastor He’s No Cowboy” (baptistandreflector.org/somebody-tell-the-pastor-hes-no-cowboy/).
During a closed forum with himself and just the board of directors, Davis said numerous people expressed concern about the “pastor leaders of our churches knowing how to take care of themselves mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.
“When a pastor starts giving of himself, like a really good pastor will do, he’s going to be emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally spent. That’s what he does. He gives himself away constantly.”
Davis cautioned that if a pastor doesn’t understand and realize the need to take time away to “replenish what he’s giving out, then there’s disaster around the corner.”
Recharging the batteries is his last major focus of his column. The first three deal with prayer, preaching the Word and being a shepherd to the flock.
“Pastors absolutely need to rest up,” Davis maintained. “Pastoring is not only a high calling, it is a grind.
“In the pew, people have the perception of the pastor never needs a vacation,” Davis added. “I mean all he does is preach on Sundays and maybe Wednesdays. So why does he need any kind of vacation or any kind of time away?”
The reality is that pastors need at least one day a week they can “rest and unplug.”
The TBMB leader noted that in his last pastorate, a wise lay leader asked him to do a “time study.”
Recalling that he had worked since the age of 12 and been a pastor since the age of 20, Davis had never done a time study. “I just did what I needed to do, much to my own detriment.”
After doing the time study for a period of about six weeks, he discovered some weeks he spent as many as 70 hours a week doing ministry-related tasks.“But here’s the deal,” he said. “It’s not just a matter of ticking off time, it’s what you’re doing with that time.”
Davis said that during the last 18 months of his pastorate he spent a lot of hours ministering to families who lost young children and conducted four funerals of babies. “When you walk as a shepherd with a family through that, you pour your heart into it and it drains you,” he said.
Multiply that by a multitude of other crises that church members face and it “takes a toll on the pastor,” Davis said. “I would encourage pastors to take time off. I would encourage our churches to make sure their pastors are really healthy and taking the time they need to recharge. They will be glad in the long run.”
Davis also called for churches to remember that pastors also are called to take care of their own families as well as their flocks.
“Our pastors are dealing with a whole lot, even in their own families. We need healthy pastors and healthy churches that walk together through these times and appreciate that we all put on our pants the same way. We all have the same struggles,” he said. B&R