If I got to rank what I love about my job, preaching would be in the top 2. I love the prep, working through a passage, a series, thinking through how to best present an idea, praying about those who will be there and that God would work in their lives and draw them to Himself through my meager attempts at presenting His word.
There is a downside to this love, it is what happens after preaching. The recovery. Recently, Katie and I met with a doctor to talk about how to handle the adrenaline that goes with preaching (I’ve heard of pastors who sleep for days after preaching because their bodies can’t handle the adrenaline): the emotional, relational and spiritual drain that it can be. The doctor asked, “Is it like teaching a class?” It’s different for one reason, eternities hang in the balance. I heard one pastor describe preaching as “reaching into the road to hell and pulling people back” (I realize there are some possible theological problems with that, but you get the point).
This process has been especially important for me in the last 2 weeks as I have preached 3 – 4 times a week at different places.
The crash a pastor experiences the day after preaching can be brutal. Your whole body aches, your eyes hurt, you feel as low as you have felt all week. There is a joke that pastor’s share that they all want to resign on Monday morning because of this feeling and feeling like they have nothing left to give. Mark Driscoll calls it “bread truck monday.” Meaning, you either want to quit and go drive a break truck or you feel like you got run over by a bread truck.
In talking with our doctor we started to work through some ideas.
Ways to cope with the adrenaline and the highs and lows of preaching:
1. Keeping the day before and after preaching as stress free as possible. Don’t have meetings, stay focused on preaching and recovering.
2. Do something the recharges me. Hiking, running, playing with my kids, reading a book, drinking coffee with Katie.
3. Have some people who call/text to encourage me afterward. This is crucial (especially for me as my love language is words of affirmation). A few guys from church let me know how great Saturday was, ask me how I am feeling and let me know they are praying for me and my family.
4. Eating. Most pastors are notoriously poor eaters. What you eat before and after preaching is incredibly important, especially if you preach at night like I do. What you eat will make it easier or harder to preach, to sleep, to recover. Eat something that is light, will sit well and won’t give you indigestion.
5. As quickly as possible, move onto next week. Regardless of how your weekend went, good or bad, the next weekend is coming very quickly. So move on. Don’t dwell on what happened (especially if it is bad). Celebrate what God did, learn from what you did poorly, but move on.
A great book that I came across this summer that was really helpful on this was Adrenaline and Stress by Archibald Hart.