Just stop it!

By Gerry Lewis | Published Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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I couldn’t tell you how many workshops or seminars I have kicked off with this hilarious Youtube classic: Stop it!

And just when I think I’m showing it for the last time because everyone has seen it, I get a room full of people who are seeing it for the first time. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just google “Bob Newhart stop it.” It may be the best five minutes you spend all day.)

Of course, in our highly sensitive culture, I have to offer a disclaimer: No, I don’t think this is a proper method of therapy for people who truly have mental health issues.

But wouldn’t it be great if it worked?

Would you like to know some of the people I’d like to try it on? (I’m pausing here to let you decide if you want to keep reading). Still with me? OK!

I’d like to try it on busy and exhausted pastors and other leaders. Forty years of “church work” has led me to this conclusion about leaders in any context: No one is going to tell you to stop it unless what you are doing is inconveniencing them.

Words most pastors/leaders will rarely hear:

“You are working too hard and doing too much. How can I help?”

“You need to be delegating more. How can I help?”

“You are putting the church/organization/business before your family. How can I help?”

In the context of what I’m writing about today, I’m going to completely skip the words of complaint and criticism that many of these leaders regularly hear from people who think it is the job of the leader to serve them.

There are, however, some positive words that are spoken:

“Our pastor works so hard.”

“He’s always there when there is a need.”

“I don’t know what we’d do without you.”

Do you know what those two sets of statements have in common? Both of them acknowledge that there is someone who is pouring his or her life into a meaningful cause. They are working long hours, taking on great responsibility and choosing to serve a greater good. Their work is noticed and appreciated.

Do you see what is different about those two sets of statements? The first set will help this pastor/leader maintain a healthy approach for the long haul. The second set is a recipe for burnout.

If you are the leader, here’s what you need to know: You are responsible for maintaining a healthy schedule. No one is going to do it for you. You will be congratulated and celebrated on your way to burnout. Learn to say, “no” and “not now.” Invest yourself in equipping and empowering people, rather than just doing things for them. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.

If you are not the leader, here are two suggestions: Be sure you are saying those words of appreciation to the leader, and be willing to say, “How can I help?”

Our lives matter to God. He intends for us to do this together.

Dr. Gerry Lewis, author, blogger, church consultant and leadership coach, serves as executive director of the Harvest Baptist Association in Decatur.

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