19 April 2011


Alright, I'm going to be honest here. There is a good chance that this only applies to me, even though I've a suspicion that I am not alone.

The fact of the matter is that Holy Week, no matter how special and prioritized, is a lot of work for ministerial staff. I'm not saying this to gain pity, but am rather simply setting up the parameters of my point. There is a lot that happens in the next few days, requiring preparation and setup, jumping around and execution, cleanup and decompression. Sometimes it is easy for pastors to get so caught up in all of the stuff that we start to lose our grip on the meaning behind all of the stuff.

There are a few factors which challenge a pastor's ability to embrace the experience of Holy Week. One is the simple reality that these things take time to plan, which means that most have been mentally and spiritually engaged in Christ's passion for a number of weeks. And the most effective way of planning an appropriate and meaningful experience is to enter into the mindset of Holy Week/Easter before it actually arrives. Thus, when the day comes it almost feels as though you've been there for quite a while - and that pushes your emotional capacity to do it one more time (even if this time is 'for real').

A second factor that challenges the pastoral experience is time. Nobody has enough time anyway. Weeks can fly by in pastoral ministry just like everywhere else, but a special observance week heightens it all. Added to the difficulty of planning-execution is the feeling that there isn't enough time to pause and reflect. In order to do so requires an intentional effort and often takes form in awkward moments.

Perhaps one of the most difficult burdens on the life of a pastor is the third factor, the lack of family presence. I'm not saying that families aren't supportive or present, for in my case they are very much so. But my wife's reality on a Sunday morning is that she is a single-mom facing all of the pressures of get-to-meetin'-on-time alone. Because we have young children this is present. And while she does an amazing job handling this every week, it can often be disappointing that we don't get to have a comprehensive experience of our own church together.

A fourth challenge is energy. It takes a lot. Holy Week is just starting and I'm already out of it. There are always external distractions that will pass through the church office this week, just to make it interesting. And then you're supposed to fast, right? I don't know . . . maybe it's more about surviving? . . . am I being realistic or copping out? . . . aaaaannnd there goes my mental energy along with everything else.

On the one hand these challenges are unique, for they intentionally push against the pastoral leadership as we try to facilitate the church experience and engage people with the presence of God. On the other hand these challenges are not unlike those we face throughout life - these factors make the season challenging, not impossible. For Jesus still speaks to the hearts of tired, distracted, meager, boring pastors: Seek . . . and you will find.

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