I remember clearly being taught in seminary the importance of doing things outside of one's congregation to keep one's energy level up. There is something about being involved in activities and volunteer opportunities outside one's daily grind which help boost enthusiasm and passion for doing the Lord's work. These can be as simple as volunteering to read at a local elementary school to working at a food pantry or other such institution.
I've done this at selected points in my time as an ordained pastor, and I have benefited from it. I've mentored at school, worked at a computer lab for poor folks, served on a food pantry board, and worked a few times at said pantry. As my congregation in Cat Spring grew, I cut back on such venues. Looking back from where I sit now, this was probably unwise.
Since I began writing about my experience with burnout, I've come a long way in the healing process. Things are setting much better with me emotionally, physically, and spiritually right now, and there are many, many more good days than bad. One of the things I believe that has helped in this process is a return to engaging in activities outside my congregation but still very much related to my job.
My son attends a dayschool run by St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Bellville. They have a new head of school there and are currently without a Rector (Pastor). Every week, they hold chapel services for the school, and I was asked if I might be willing to lead said service at least once a month. I readily agreed.
This morning was my appointed time, and after all was said and done, I was amazed at the sense of peace, calm, energy, and excitement I had after leading the kids in worship.
I always have fun working with kids, and it's been fun watching these kids progress as I've led chapel with them. I bring my guitar each chapel service and teach the kids songs. We sing together, and it's been a joy watching them learn it's o.k. to move and dance and do all the hand motions associated with the songs we're doing. It's been a blast having them interact with me as I tell them the Bible stories. Their enthusiasm and excitement is contagious and truly brings a deep down joy to my heart.
Now, this isn't to say I don't get a charge out of leading worship at my congregation. I truly do. This Sunday was one of those times. We had great worship attendance. We conducted our Gospel service and introduced a couple of new, fast paced, songs to the congregation. Folks were toe tapping, and they even clapped for our special music. They had fun while worshiping and were touched by the service. When you see such things as a pastor, see your people engaged with worship, and appreciative of the effort you put out, it truly makes a difference.
Leading chapel at St. Mary's gives me such a response every time. The kids have been great as they smile and laugh and sing and answer questions during story time. The teachers and school administrator have been thankful and appreciative at every turn. Such things might seem little, but they are actually huge for me. I can see the effects of my work, and sometimes when you are engaged in the daily routine, you miss such things.
As I reflect upon this morning's experience, I hope to keep myself engaged in such activities. Once St. Mary's gets a rector, I might not be able to conduct services there, so I will have to find some other avenue. It helps tremendously. It's a great source of energy.