Hung over after Holy Week, Church Leader?

Hung over after Holy Week, Church Leader? April 1, 2013

Dear Church Leader,

Are you hung over today?

No matter what your church tradition, you’re coming off the most intense worship schedule of your Church calendar. Nothing compares to Holy Week, not even the Christmas season. If you’re shepherding a liturgical church, you’ve had a long run-up to holy week, beginning with Ash Wednesday 47 days ago. But even if your congregation doesn’t add additional services during Lent, this past week has probably been packed with anything from invite-the-community Easter egg hunts to Tenebrae services to Seders to play productions to vigils. Then there’s Easter itself: Your church community is coming into your doors, often dressed in spring finery (where I live, the pastel outfits are often covered in tired winter parkas), expecting to experience resurrection celebration in your sanctuary.

If you are part of a seeker-friendly church and are used to filtering your service planning through the Unchurched Mary and Harry grid, you have really gone the fourth mile in the last week, thinking about how to connect with those “Christmas and Easter” visitors. Traditional and liturgical churches go beyond their usual on Resurrection Sunday as well, as those in charge have worked in special music, invited a crew to gussy up your worship space, added a sunrise service or a congregational breakfast to the routine, all in the hopes of creating a meaningful experience for their regulars as well as the C & E visitors who’ll be joining them.

Whether this is your first day-after-Easter as a leader or your thirtieth, today is the day when you can finally exhale after the high octane activity of the last week. Perhaps you found your day a joyous rush as you realize that God used you and your team as spiritual midwives to attend at a rebirth among your congregation yesterday. Or (more likely?), you girded your loins and marched through the events of the last week like the pro you are, hitting each mark at each event and service. Showing up. Doing what your congregation expected of you.

In any case, the day after Resurrection Sunday is a hangover day for pastors and staffers alike, that post-event letdown that inevitably follows a big push, immovable deadlines, and high visibility. All that effort – and then *poof!* – it’s over. As a congregant, I appreciate your efforts on my behalf. As a former staffer, I well remember what it is like to come off of the intensity and in some cases, spiritual conflict, of the last week.

Out of that experience, I’d like to offer you a couple of thoughts about how to best “treat” the ministry hangover you might be nursing today:

(1) Next weekend’s services and/or gatherings are (mercifully) a few days away. Savor that reality for a moment.

(2) You need some down time big time today. Really. You need to counteract that adrenaline you used last week with some sacred goofing off.

(3) Don’t chase down “Well done, good and faithful servant” verbal bouquets from your pals today. That is the equivalent of someone with an alcohol-fueled hangover having a giant Margarita for breakfast. There is a time to get constructive feedback, but I’d like to suggest that this day, you’d be better served by starving your ego a bit in order to fuel your spiritual health.

(4) Use some of that sacred goofing off time today to contemplate the Resurrection. Your congregational responsibilities for Easter are finished. If yesterday was “a work day” for you, you may not have yet had an opportunity to simply follow a couple of women to Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb at sunrise. Peek over their shoulders, and behold your Savior. He is risen. Indeed.

(5) The writer of Hebrews offers a word of encouragement to those who press on for the glory of God and the benefit of others. He writes, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Heb. 6:10) He was with you last week. There’s a hangover cure in that promise.

Church leaders past and present, what practices have helped you remedy those times when you’re exhausted and “hung over” after a period of intense public ministry responsibilities?  

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