Managing Your Emotional Tank

Practical Advice for Pastor's Who Wish to Develop Longevity in Ministry

fuel gauge showing and empty tank

Joe Rogan was the ringside announcer for a UFC fight a few years ago. He mentioned in passing that one of the fighters was not 100% healthy. Then he made a comment that stuck with me. Rogan said, “rarely is anyone 100% healthy when he walks in the ring”.

Then he suggested that the fighter had to determine when he or she could fight, perhaps 80% or 90% but if they hold out for 100% they would rarely enter the ring – that’s the nature of mixed martial arts.

I think that is similar to the emotional life of a minister. Charles Spurgeon once said that a Pastor’s primary tool is not the brain or the muscles, but the heart (the seat of the emotions).

As we do ministry throughout the day, we are called upon to match people emotionally. Perhaps we speak with a broken-hearted woman whose family is falling apart, then on to a distraught father who is worried about his prodigal son, then there are hospital visits each with its own emotional weight.

Often times this emotional matching leaves us drained as we return home to our families. Then, we have to deal with the regular issues that come with parenting, marriage, and life.

You are responsible for your emotional tank. You have to guard it, refill it, and maintain it. Here are a few suggestions that may help:

  1. Develop a Sustainable Rhythm – Recognize that ministry is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. Develop a rhythm of life that you can maintain over the course of 20-40 years. 
  2. Stay Physically Healthy – A good diet, workout routine, and sleep are all essential to maintaining your emotional reservoir.
  3. Learn to say, “No” – No is not a four letter word. If you are a “yes” man, the enemy will see to it that you are invited to countless events and opportunities, none of which will see you at your best. Decide which ministry opportunities you are most designed for and surround yourself with a capable team to cover the other events.
  4. Sabbath – remember to weave into your life regular times for a long slow recharge. Get away from things that drain you and refill the tank.
  5. Practice Righteousness – The fact is, nothing drains our tank more than sin. When we get emotionally drained, there is a temptation to fall into an escapist form of sin that grants some separation from the draining events of life. BUT, trying to manage sin is one of the most emotionally draining patterns we can fall into. The result is an endless decent emotionally that often lands in depression.
  6. Make it a team effort – Speak openly with your spouse and family about the tolls of ministry on your emotions. Invite them to help you by allowing times of refreshing and refilling. You will find that your wife is often your best ally in the battles of life.

Like the UFC fighter, if you only do ministry when you are 100%, you won’t get much done. BUT, it is possible to maintain an 80%-90% full emotional tank. What helps you keep your emotional tank full? Add your thoughts in the comment section below.