By Doug Talley
As we approach July, I have two concerns that are weighing heavy on my mind: racial tension and pastors needing rest. I’ve written about both in the last couple of Indiana News editions but find that my thoughts and conversations keep circling back to both concerns.
It is time for the United States to embrace the healing of racial tension and do whatever is necessary to ensure that all persons are treated with equality. I realize prejudice and systemic racism have a history of over 400 years in our country and understand that it doesn’t change overnight or easily. However, it is time that we become relentless in addressing racism at all levels so that all people are treated with dignity, respect, honor, and value.
Black lives DO matter.
If you are familiar with the history of the United States, then you know that white lives matter. That’s not where the tension lies. Because whites have been in the power position since the beginning, Native Americans and immigrants have been treated as second class persons and even as subhuman. Our systems and institutions have been constructed by whites and designed to protect the privileges of whites. And because it is so difficult to give up privileges, most of us whites have been content to leave systemic oppression alone. It is time to change that.
If you are white, be honest with me. Do you want to be treated like Black people are treated?
- Do you want to wake up each morning wondering how your race might be used against you?
- Do you want to wonder if you apply for a job and do not get it if your race was the reason?
- Do you want to have frequent conversations with your family about race as you try to understand why character and competence seem less important than the color of your skin?
- Do you want to feel scrutinized by store employees when you go shopping?
- Do you want to be stopped by police because the color of your skin raises suspicion?
- Do you want to fear for the lives of your male sons because Black males are regarded as dangerous and threatening?
I do not understand social and racial injustice like a Black person does because the color of my skin has given me a totally different life experience. But I can tell that the systems are biased in favor of me and against Black people. Fighting against racism is OUR fight… humanity’s fight. We will not defeat it unless white people like me own that fight as much as those who have been the victims of racism.
We cannot waste this moment in time. We cannot allow the wide-spread protest against racism to be a nice news story. If we do, then white people and our systems and institutions will become more calloused to injustice. We’ve got to make the necessary changes to fully value Black people. If we can seize this moment, all persons will benefit.
Think about it: racism devalues the image of God in ALL persons of every color. If I, as a white person, am racist towards a Black person, then I am not just devaluing that Black person. I am also devaluing myself. And I am insulting and disrespecting God. I am hurting the spirit of my Black brother or sister, while I am wounding my own soul. I truly believe that if we as individuals and as a country can embrace that Black lives are as valuable and important as white lives, then we elevate the worth and value of all God’s creation.
I pray that the COVID-19 chapter of U.S. history will be the time period when prejudice is eradicated, racism is cured, and we can all see each other through the eyes of our Heavenly Father and Creator.
My second concern involves the level of fatigue I observe in pastors due to the ministry demand created over the last three plus months. I realize I wrote a lengthy Indiana News article about pastor fatigue at the end of May. I am discovering that a lot of pastors do not feel like they can take time off right now. So I want to touch on this again.
A couple of weeks ago I was on a Zoom with some pastors from Ohio and Indiana. We talked for over an hour about fatigue and burnout. When I asked for each person on the call (about 15 or so) to tell us how they were doing, the pastors responding first said they were doing well. As the conversation continued, more and more pastors began to open up to their struggle and some of the first responders even reconsidered their earlier comments.
I concluded that the pastors on the call could be divided into three groups – those who were more tired than they realized, those who were really tired and were moving quickly towards burnout, and those who had already crashed but didn’t know what to do.
I am continuing to have this conversation with pastors and am finding most pastors fit into one of those three groups. I am NOT hearing hardly anyone say, “I’ve managed the ministry demands of the last three months extremely well and maintained margin and regularly scheduled time off to the extent that I am feeling rested and refreshed and ready for the next challenge.”
By the time you read this, July will be here. And since schedules start getting busy in August and fall is always super busy, you have the month of July to rest, refresh and recover for the next five months. If you fail to take July to recover, you will enter the fall in a very precarious condition and will likely crash before Thanksgiving. So please hear my plea: take an extended vacation during July and slow your schedule down for the entire month.
“Doug, I have sandwiched in a couple of days off for July, but we are beginning to meet for services and I just can’t take the time off that I need.” Why not? Does it make more sense to take that time off later in the fall after you’ve crashed and are not able to function? Are you really so essential to the church you pastor that it can survive COVID-19, but it cannot survive you taking some extra time off? I know the work you do is important. I am not belittling that. But I do want to challenge the notion that what you do is more important than taking care of yourself.
Take a few moments in the next 36 hours to develop a new schedule for July. Include the following components:
- Take two consecutive weeks off. The last six months have been so demanding that your body, your mind, your soul, and your family need you to disengage for two consecutive weeks. If your board doesn’t see the need or if you are short on vacation time, I’d be happy to Zoom or meet in person with your board to help them process this.
- Reduce your work week for the remaining two weeks of July. Just do what is absolutely necessary and only what you can do. Delegate some things. Delay some other things. If you are like most pastors I know, you’ve put in enough hours thus far in 2020 that if you were taking comp time you’d be off for the next month or more. So don’t feel guilty about slowing down for the entire month of July. It is good stewardship.
Just to be clear, I’m not encouraging you to do one of the above but BOTH!
By mid-August, life and ministry will be full tilt again. July is your best chance and your last chance to refresh and renew so that you are well rested and ready for fall. I’m praying you will seize this opportunity!