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.

The Myth of Mine

A gentle reminder that it all belongs to God.

It was the spring of was 1976. I had been born in February of that year. At first things seemed to be going well for the first born son of the Carl and Teresa Terry. All of that changed when I began to run an extremely high fever that I just couldn’t shake. A series of tests revealed that I had been born perfectly healthy except for one organ – my left kidney. My kidney had not developed properly and as a result had begun to poison my body. At that time it was too risky to do surgery on a 3 month old child, so my parents had to take care of me for the next few months until I was nine months old and developed enough to undergo the removal of my kidney. 

All of the pictures from that time found me with a little white cotton blanket covered with yellow bears. I don’t know whether it was the trauma of that event or just the comfort the blanket brought, but for some reason I bonded with the blanket on the Linus level. For the next 5 years, me and that blanket were inseparable. I carried it through every adventure, sleep over, and birthday party of my early childhood years. 

From time to time my parents would attempt to take it away from me. Each time I responded with the same rebuke as soon as I was able to talk. “MINE!” That single syllable word was an ill advised theological declaration. I was declaring – this is NOT your’s. It does not belong to you. You are not allowed to touch it. This belongs to me. I don’t know why God gave it to me and not you, perhaps He knew that you would break it. Therefore, it is incumbent upon me NOT to share. Or else I would be calling into question the very wisdom of the Almighty, and that is neither good nor wise. This is my property – and nothing can separate me from what is MINE! The little blanket became affectionate known as my “mine”.

I’m sure it was cute at the time. As I grew up the insistence on possession and ownership of a long line of toys became less cute and more obnoxious. When my cousins would visit I would carefully arrange all of my toy guns in a pile and declare, “These are mine – those sticks are your’s”. When friends would come over to swim, certain floats were off limits, why? Because obviously, they were mine! 

Fast forward 19 years to the fall of 1994 when I was broadsided by the fact that nothing actually belonged to me, even my very soul had been bought with a price. I was a regular listener to Chuck Swindoll and the Insight for Living radio program. One episode in particular stands out to me as Swindoll described a conversation he had with his church member, the great Corrie Ten Boon in which she said, “Chuck, a disciple of Christ holds all things loosely”. 

A disciple of Christ holds all things loosely…

“Loosely”, I thought. But, someone might take it. Even, God may take it. The first few years of my Christian life may be described as the loosening the grip years. God systematically taught me that everything in my life actually belonged to Him. My career route was His. My talent was His. My friendships were His. Even the very faith with which I believed had been a gift from Him. 

Live Generously

Sermon Series Audio







SERMON 1 – More Blessed:

SERMON 2 – The Myth of Mine:

SERMON 3 – Spontaneous Generosity:


BONUS CONTENT – Couple’s Interview:


Thank you Billy Graham!

Personal reflections on the Greatest Evangelist of our Generation

billy_graham_2003_photo_david_hume_getty_images_51318434jpgIt was the mid 80’s. Christianity was indelibly marked by the moral collapse of men like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker. The only thing that kept many from becoming completely jaded against evangelicalism was Billy Graham. I will never forget my father watching Graham’s crusade on our local NBC station and saying, “at least they aren’t all corrupt”. Dad pointed out the fact that Graham had never been associated with any moral or ethical scandal.

Sometimes I wonder how many men like my father looked to Graham and hoped to God that they would never see his hands in cuffs or his picture under scandalous headlines.

Well, this morning (2/21/18) Billy Graham has finished his course. He has kept the faith. Right about now he is being fitted for his crown. Now, he knows God as he was known by God. And I imagine my father is in a long line of people ready to welcome him home. May I say with them, “Thank you Billy Graham for giving being above reproach in my generation”. 

Ecclesiastes 7:1, “A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.” What a good day this is!