5 Tips to Help Pastors Keep their Sanity During Holy Week
Holy Week is here! For many pastors, this can feel like a very unholy week. There is so much to do—extra services, extra sermons, extra elements in the service… And the pressure can be overwhelming. We once again see our Chreasters who only come on Christmas and Easters. There is a looming sense that if we could only wow them with our services and sermons then maybe they would become regular attenders.
It can be exhausting. Worse, we pastors can get so caught up in the work of Holy Week that we do not experience the Resurrection for ourselves. As pastors, we need to be intentional about keeping our sanity and experiencing Easter for ourselves. Here are five tips for surviving Holy Week:
Keep an Edge
We have heard the stories so many times. We have preached the sermons. We have taught the Bible studies. It can be hard to find fresh insights in these texts that are so over-familiar to us. We need some way to keep an edge or push us to think deeply about the story. This year I am reading a lot about the symbolism of the Passover Seder and trying to understand Holy Week trough that lens. I am also reading Living the Resurrection by Eugene Peterson to prepare both myself and my sermons for Easter. Where are you learning and growing this week? How are you keeping your edge?
Spend Time with your Family
This is a family holiday. Many of us in ministry try to create that kind of environment in our churches and encourage it in the families in our church. Yet, how many pastors become absentee parents and spouses for Holy Week? Not only is this dangerous for your own experience of Easter, but it is especially dangerous for your family. I never want my kids to have animosity or resentment toward the God or the church because of my work. Be purposeful about spending focused time with your family during Holy Week. In my case, we homeschool our kids and I am teaching them this week about Passover. We are going to be learning about and experiencing the week together.
Get some Rest
You are going to work on a holiday and you are carrying a lot of weight. There is nothing wrong with taking an afternoon off. There is nothing wrong with sleeping in a little bit or catching a movie you have been wanting to see. Plan to do some things to get rest and refreshment. In fact, one of the best things that you can offer your congregation is the freshest and most rested version of yourself. You do the church a disservice when you do not take care of yourself. One of the ways I do this is by keeping a very sparse calendar during Holy Week. I find that it is easier to carry a lot of responsibility if you are not carrying a lot of meetings. Try to do your visits the week before or after Holy Week so that you have space to think, pray, and rest.
I am a list guy. I like keeping detailed lists because then my brain does not have to store all that information and it can be free to think creatively. This is especially important during Holy Week. I am running a Passover Seder as well as doing an extra Sunday service. I have too much on my plate to be working last minute or to be remembering things on the fly. This also helps you delegate things to other people because if someone offers to help or is in a position to help then you can know exactly how they can help and even write down who you are delegating jobs to.
I understand wanting to make a good impression on Easter. You would like to catch some of those Chreasters and, if you are like most churches, a good offering day would also be really helpful. Here is the thing—Easter is about celebrating our risen Savior and Lord. You, as the pastor, are not that savior. You don’t want to be the savior. Saviors get crucified. Perhaps that is why so many pastors feel so burned out during Holy Week. But Jesus said once, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.” Lift Jesus up in your worship and your sermon and let Him be the one drawing people in. Let Jesus be praised. Not you. Not the church. Relax. Pray and give Holy Week to God.
May your Holy Week not only be sane, but also special. And may you draw closer to our Risen Lord.
This article was originally posted March 30, 2015, on Jordan’s blog.
Jordan Rimmer ’12 is the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in New Brighton, Pa. He earned his Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently working on getting his Doctor of Ministry. Before moving to Pittsburgh, he was the director of outreach and youth ministries at Glenwood Methodist Church in Erie, Pa. He is a husband and father of four children. Jordan blogs at jordanrimmer.com and tweets at @jrimmer21. His sermons are available for download on iTunes or at http://jordanrimmer.podbean.com.