Managing the Monday Morning Ministry Melancholy
Dear Pete, do you have any articles on post-ministry blues, especially after the output of a big Sunday service and its high? Definitely feeling it today and wonder if it would be helpful for others to know about it too?
I am four Sundays into a new church plant. I have an amazing launch team. They’ve been running really hard for the last couple of months. I got this email from one of them a couple of Monday mornings ago. And just to give you a bit of context, the Sunday afternoon just a few hours earlier, this ministry leader had been sharing how they were doing really well in terms of energy levels in spite of the mad sprint in recent weeks.
It’s the “Monday Ministry Blues”. Mark Driscoll used to call Mondays ‘Bread Truck Mondays’, because Mondays were the days he wished he drove a bread truck rather than worked as a pastor.
If you’ve ever had busy days or periods of intense ministry, then you’ve felt it. Whether it happens on a Monday because of a busy Sunday, or any day of the week after an intense period of ministry (e.g. a mission or conference), then you’d know exactly how this feels.
So here’s my attempt to answer this email from one of my church leaders, in the hope that it benefits others too.
I reckon it helps to understand why we get the Monday blues. Here are three reasons:
1. You Have An Enemy
1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
The Bible tells us to be constantly vigilant because we have a spiritual enemy who is determined to undermine the work of God and his people. If the devil, our enemy, is as clever as the Scriptures say he is, then he would know how to bide his time to hit us when we are weakest.
And more often than not, ministers of the gospel are weakest on Mondays.
It’s not surprising, then, that it’s on Mondays you get the voices of doubt and discouragement. Your sermon wasn’t as good as you wanted it to be? You’ll feel that acutely on Monday. Your difficult conversation with that church member that didn’t go so well? You’ll hear it replay in your head on Monday. Your personal godliness was pretty good up until now? Monday’s often the day that the temptations come like a tsunami.
Let’s not be naive. These can’t just be explained on the natural realm. We have an enemy and he not only knows how to go for the jugular, he knows when to do it.
Our battles are ultimately located in the supernatural realm. Be alert. Be watchful. Be prayerful. Put on your spiritual armour (Ephesians 6:10-17). Especially on Mondays.
2. You Have A Body
While the ultimate reasons are spiritual and supernatural, let’s not forget that there are physical and natural reasons for the Monday blues as well.
You and I aren’t in glory yet. Neither are we just free floating spirits. We are embodied beings. And these bodies? Well, they’re nothing like the bodies we’ll one day inherit.
The Apostle Paul writes on many occasions of his physical and mental weariness (e.g. 2 Cor. 7: 5 and 10:27). We have bodies, and these bodies are a complex interplay between the physical, emotional, and psychological.
When we exert ourselves in Christian ministry, don’t be surprised that the adrenalin high will eventually give way to a low. Those who have never experienced the intensity of preaching one to four times on a Sunday, led multiple people in groups or ministry teams, run music ministry, led Sunday worship, taught kids or youth, run leaders meetings, met one-on-one with people for discipleship or counselling etc., won’t understand how these activities have an intensity that is disproportionate to the hours you spent doing them. You’re going to feel tired after this kind of intensity. Mind, emotions, body – all of these will feel on the verge of collapse after particularly big days (or weeks).
We therefore need to recognise this physical dimension of ministry life. And recognising this will help us manage our tiredness with simple but vital solutions such as relaxation and exercise; mental and emotional refreshment; music, art, creativity, hobbies and the like.
Until we get our new creation bodies, our outer persons will waste away day by day even as our inner person is renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). And that brings me to my final point…
3. You Need The Gospel
It’s so easy to be frantically ministering to others with the gospel and forget that you and I need the gospel just as much as those we love and serve.
The Monday morning blues are a great (and sometimes painful) reminder that we never move beyond our great need for the gospel. The more we feel weak and melancholy and down, the greater is God’s reminder to go back to the gospel we’ve spent so much time and energy to give to others.
Here are some ways we especially need the gospel on Mondays:
(i) We need the gospel to remind us that our identity and self-worth don’t come from our ministries.
This is because doing Christian ministry is uniquely satisfying on the one hand, and particularly discouraging on the other. We can be tempted to find our identities so caught up in what we’re doing to serve God and others that we forget that our relationship with God is not grounded on what we do for him but what he’s done for us.
(ii) We need the gospel to remind us that the power of God is in the gospel and not in us.
How tempting to think that the church I serve will stand or fall by my ability or inability in ministry! The same gospel that saves me from pride will save me from discouragement and defeat on a Monday when I feel that my sermon wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be. It’s the gospel that is the power of salvation (Romans 1:16-17), not me. I can rest and entrust the fruit of my ministry to God.
(iii) We need the gospel to remind us to worship.
Many Christian leaders would know the principle that all theology leads to doxology. All of our thinking and leading and preaching and teaching should lead people to the praise and worship of God. After all, this is where the whole of creation is heading.
And yet, this is the one area where Christian ministers and leaders are most likely to neglect when it comes to their self-care.
Christian leader, how is your personal worship going? How are your quiet times? How is your personal Bible reading? Do you meditate on the Word of God? Do you spend time in personal praise and song? Do you confess and repent of your sins daily?
If we don’t value the importance of personal worship and adoration, personal confession and repentance, personal reading and meditating, then perhaps we’ve forgotten the gospel. For it’s the gospel that reminds me that my service of God doesn’t come from my power or my initiative or my talents or gifts. It comes as an overflow of my life of worship. I must be filled before I can fill others. Anything less is ministry by works, not ministry by grace.
Spiritual refreshment is even more important than physical, mental, and emotional refreshment. We must never neglect our great need for it and how much greater that need will be after an intense period of ministry.
So take heart dear brothers and sisters who labour in the Lord. Though Mondays may feel more melancholy than other days, it’s also a day where God has more grace to give us in the gospel. For our times are weakness are there for the greater display of and experience of God’s wonderful power in the gospel (2 Cor. 12:10).
I think it’s a good time for me to go to the gym now.