In an article that goes back a few years, Jared Wilson writes:
Monday. What to do with these Mondays of ours?
If you’re a pastor or ministry leader, I know that Mondays for you can be a mixed bag. You may be still glowing from yesterday’s victories — high attendance, vibrant worship, the well-preached sermon and ensuing compliments. Or you might be still smarting from yesterday’s wounds — struggling ministry, sluggish praise, the feeling of not quite delivering that hoped-for homiletical fire. Maybe you’ve heard one complaint too many, too much grumbling. The loyal opposition continues to gossip and nitpick. Maybe your wife or kids are unhappy. Maybe you don’t know how to ask the church’s “powers that be” to help you afford to pay your bills. Or maybe you’re just in a funk, feeling like you’re spinning your wheels and not sure why what you’re doing matters.
Wilson goes on to offer words of encouragement, and I’d highly recommend that you read the article in its entirety. But I’d like to take a different approach to the question of what we do with Mondays.
Those of you who are grizzled veteran pastors probably already have a weekly routine that you’ve followed for years. So this is intended more for the younger guys who are starting out and trying to make some sense of their weekly routine.
In one of his books, author and pastor Gordon MacDonald wrote about a question he and his staff would ask each other on Mondays. They used to measure the impact of Sunday by “trucks” (as in being run over by them). “What kind of Sunday did you have?” “It was a four-truck Sunday!”
Sundays take their toll on pastors. Sundays are draining because they require a good deal of energy. Even if the physical output is minimal (which it is unless you do some kind of weird gymnastic thing when you preach or teach) the mental and emotional drain can be substantial.
We expend energy by being “up front.” Some pastors are perfectly comfortable in front of people. But many pastors I’ve talked with have at least a few twinges of nervousness. We expend energy by engaging with people. Saying “hello” isn’t going to require an afternoon nap, but navigating through a group of people can be demanding – especially if a critic or two is tossed into the mix. When churches go through difficulties, leading worship or preaching as if nothing is going on feels like trying to ignore the elephant in the room. It can be a huge drain.
Because of the impact of Sunday, many pastors take Monday as a day off. Maybe that’s your practice. But I’m finding that Friday seems to be the favorite day for many pastors I talk to, and I believe it is the better choice.
To some, Monday makes sense as the day to take off because we need to recharge our batteries. It would seem to make little sense to immerse yourself in work if you’re depleted from the day before. But I think there is a way to accomplish being refreshed while also accomplishing some important ministry tasks and use your day off more strategically.
I used to use Monday to set up and catch up. Monday is a great day for:
- Reading the books you want to read but can’t seem to get to.
- Going through email, regular mail or making phone calls that have been on hold.
- Filing or tossing that stack of papers you have accumulated.
- Browsing through articles that you’ve marked to “read later.”
- Visiting someone in a nursing home or hospital.
- Having lunch with a fellow pastor.
- Printing out the passage you plan to preach so that you can start making notes on Tuesday. If you diagram sentences, you can do some of that.
- Writing a thank-you note.
These are generally low-stress tasks but they often get buried once the sermon or lesson prep and other “musts” have your attention.
If you confine the bulk of your “must” tasks to Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, you can hit Friday with most things finished and still have Saturday to complete what is needed for Sunday. Saturdays are generally quiet days around the average church office, so even though you are working, it’s a different pace. This schedule also gives you the opportunity to take a fresh look at your sermon or lesson from a “rested” perspective. I can’t tell you how many times I made significant adjustments to my sermons on Saturday.
Friday, then, becomes a day to recharge at the end of the week. It prepares you to minister with a refreshed spirit on Sunday. You’re looking back on a week of work rather than spending the day anticipating all that you have to do in the coming week.
Monday in the office allows you to recharge a bit while still getting things done. We all need to find our own rhythm, but if you’re still in the discovery phase, maybe this is a good way for you to handle Mondays and those Sunday “trucks.”