Renewal from Decision Fatigue

Time To Renew

My colleagues invited me to lunch on my birthday and wanted me to choose the restaurant.  As I drove and they laughed about my passion for southern gospel quartet music, I realized I could not make a decision about where to eat.  This started a discussion about “decision fatigue.”  They told me I should take a cue from Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, who each intentionally reduced their daily decisions by wearing the same thing every day!

“Decision fatigue” is the reduced mental function due to the strain from many decisions and/or exerting extreme self-control, creating high emotional stress.  “People find that making many choices can be [psychologically] aversive.”[1] While reading about decision fatigue, I learned when we are tired, we generally are tempted to either become impulsive and reckless, or to avoid decisions altogether.   The “process of choosing may itself drain some of the self’s precious resources, thereby leaving the executive function less capable of carrying out its other activities. Decision fatigue can therefore impair self-regulation”.[2]

This is called the theory of ego depletion, which suggests that self-control, or willpower, draws upon a limited pool of mental resources that can be used up.  In other words, when we have used up our willpower resources, we begin to have boundary problems.  We may become quick tempered, impulsive, apathetic, etc.  I read that those who are struggling financially have higher stress and “decision fatigue” even when making simple purchases, and are therefore in greater danger of impulse buying than those who can shop or make purchases without financial stress.  George Loewenstein has suggested that the disastrous failure of men/women in high office to control impulses in their private lives may at times be caused by decision fatigue, which stems from the burden of day-to-day decision making.[3]  When this happens such a person may become unable to hear his/her conscience.  “Ego depletion has been shown to hinder the ability to engage in such reflection, thereby making it difficult to experience guilt.”[4]

I consider myself blessed to be surrounded by older, wiser men than me, who consistently challenge me to slow down, have quiet time, “Be still, and know that He is God.”  While the internet, the Starbucks-culture consumerism, and the pace of life are certainly increasing my decision-making opportunities, I think God’s solution to decision fatigue and ego depletion is the same as it’s always been.  Paul calls us not to conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Ro 12:2).  To be transformed, or transfigured, is to “be changed after being with” Jesus.  The renewing is to be refreshed by God’s power.  The Bible promises us an unlimited measure of the Holy Spirit’s self-control (Gal. 5:23) if we will take the time to receive it.

I also read “In a recent experiment, it was shown that inducing a positive mood can buffer the impairing effects of ego depletion on subsequent performance.”[5] This sounds like the Bible to me!  “It is God’s will that we give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18)!”

When you sense the decline of decision fatigue setting in, you can decrease decisions by wearing the same shirt every day as some high-level executives do, or you can spend time in solitude and thanksgiving as Jesus invites us to.  In the words of my dear friend Bill, “Jason, remember Psalm 42:10 – BE STILL.”

1 Danzigera, Shai; Levav, Jonathan; Avnaim-Pesso, Liora (2011), “Extraneous factors in judicial decisions”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108 (17): 6889–6892, doi:10.1073/pnas.1018033108, PMC 3084045, PMID 21482790

2 Vohs, Kathleen; Baumeister, Roy; Twenge, Jean; Schmeichel, Brandon; Tice, Dianne; Crocker, Jennifer (2005). “Decision Fatigue Exhausts Self-Regulatory Resources — But So Does Accommodating to Unchosen Alternatives” (PDF).

3 Loewenstein, George (2003), Time and decision: economic and psychological perspectives on intertemporal choice, p. 208, ISBN 0-87154-549-7.

4 Xu, H.; Bègue, L.; Bushman, B. J. (2012). “Too fatigued to care: Ego depletion, guilt, and prosocial behavior”. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 43 (5): 379–384. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.03.007.

5 CUTRIGHT, K. M.; SAMPER, A. (2014). “Doing It the Hard Way: How Low Control Drives Preferences for High-Effort Products and Services”. Journal of Consumer Research. 41 (3): 730–745. doi:10.1086/677314.

Wives, Encourage Your Husbands Daily -Heb 13:3

  1. Your desire to lead means a lot to me. -1 Ti 3:1 If a man desires the position of elder, he desires a good work.
  2. I really appreciate that you want to do the right thing. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be blameless
  3. You are such a loyal man -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be the husband of one wife
  4. I like how self controlled and kind you are. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be temperate
  5. You do a good job of being rational -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be sober minded
  6. I’m so glad I married a man with the fruit of the Spirit -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be a good behavior
  7. It means a lot that you help me have a home to have friends over. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be hospitable
  8. I think you’re really wise. -1 Ti 3:2 An elder must be able to teach
  9. I admire your discipline to get up every morning -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must not be given to much wine
  10. I like to be close to you when you’re gentle -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must be gentle
  11. I notice how well you get along with your friends. -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must not be quarrelsome
  12. Our marriage is the best when we’re content. -1 Ti 3:3 An elder must not be covetous
  13. You manage (this) well -1 Ti 3:4 An elder must manage his own house well
  14. Your love means so much to our kids -1 Ti 3:4 An elder must have his children in submission with all reverence
  15. You are a blessing to our church. -1 Ti 3:5 An elder must be able to take care of the church
  16. Its so cool that you’ve been a Christian for ___ years! -1 Ti 3:6 An elder must not be a novice
  17. Your humility brings God’s grace for our family. -1 Ti 3:6 An elder must not be puffed up with pride lest he fall
  18. Thank you for having a good testimony with your work friends. -1 Ti 3:7 An elder must have good testimony with outsiders
  19. I really respect how hard you try to overcome temptations. -1 Ti 3:7 An elder must overcome temptation
  20. Thank you for trying to understand -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands must give understanding to their wives
  21. I have felt so special since the day you proposed. -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands must give honor to their wives
  22. I’m so thankful you know God’s grace for each of us. -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands see wives as coequals in the grace of life
  23. Thank you for praying for me. -1 Pe 3:7 Husbands must be men of prayer
  24. I’m glad we are like minded about Christ. -1 Pe 3:8 be likeminded
  25. I’m blessed by your compassion -1 Pe 3:8 be compassionate
  26. Your love makes me feel special -1 Pe 3:8 be loving
  27. For such a strong man you are tenderhearted. -1 Pe 3:8 be tenderhearted
  28. I noticed how courteous you were. -1 Pe 3:8 be courteous
  29. Thank you for not being insulting or overpowering. -1 Pe 3:8 not reviling
  30. You are such a blessing to me. -1 Pe 3:8 blessing one another
  31. We are blessed because you are such a nice guy. -1 Pe 3:8 inherit a blessing

(see also Genesis 3, Proverbs 5, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 3, 1 Peter 3)

Husbands, Encourage Your Wives Daily -Heb 13:3

  1. You have a powerful influence of moral excellence on the people around you –Pr 31:10 Virtuous (powerful influence of moral excellence)
  2. I hold you in high esteem, you are the most important person in my life –Pr 31:10 worth (held in high esteem)
  3. I trust you, you’re the most competent person I know –Pr 31:11 her husband trusts her
  4. You bring so much good into my days –Pr 31:12 you do me good all my days
  5. I appreciate how hard you work –Pr 31:13 work hard with hands
  6. I noticed how far out of your way you have to go to take care of all of us. –Pr 31:14 goes far to provide
  7. Thanks for getting up to care of us –Pr 31:15 rises early to provide for family and others
  8. I wish you didn’t have to make mony, but I’m impressed with how you do it. –Pr 31:16 earns private profits
  9. You are the strongest most steadfast woman I know –Pr 31:17 strength
  10. It makes me feel good when you perceive all is good, we’re going to be fine. –Pr 31:18 perceives all is good
  11. You strengthen me when I know hard times don’t destroy your confidence –Pr 31:18 lamp does not go out in darkness
  12. I love how you extend your hands to give to others –Pr 31:19 hold out her hands to give
  13. Your confidence is beautiful –Pr 31:21 confident
  14. I appreciate how fearless you are –Pr 31:21 not fear
  15. You look really nice today –Pr 31:22 well clothed
  16. I want to be the kind of man you respect and admire –Pr 31:23 respected husband
  17. You are so good at making ______________. –Pr 31:24 sells what she makes
  18. I just wanted to honor you by _______________. –Pr 31:25 strength and honor
  19. I love it when we rejoice together. –Pr 31:25 rejoicing
  20. I think you’re really wise and I appreciate your input. –Pr 31:26 wise
  21. I think you’re a really kind person. –Pr 31:26 kind
  22. Thank you for making our household run so smoothly. –Pr 31:27 watches over household
  23. I appreciate how hard you’re working –Pr 31:26 not idle
  24. You are leaving an incredible legacy. –Pr 31:28 children appreciate
  25. I believe in you and I’m excited about _________ (This part of our future) –Pr 31:28 husband affirms
  26. You are at the head of your class, there’s no one as gifted as you are. –Pr 31:29 excel in them all
  27. Your fear of the Lord is your most valuable quality. –Pr 31:30 fears the Lord
  28. You should praised for ____________. –Pr 31:30 to be praised
  29. I wish everyone knew how good you are at _____________. –Pr 31:31 show off your works
  30. Your gentle and quiet spirit is so beautiful –1 Pe 3:4
  31. Your love for the Lord inspires me to love Him more. -1 Pe 3:1

(see also Genesis 3, Proverbs 31, Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2, 1 Peter 3)

Why Pastor In Residence Ministries?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Have you ever lost a job? It’s never a fun experience. It hurts. Cleaning out your office is hard. Then the questions start. What am I going to do? How will we pay the bills? What will we do about health insurance? Will we lose our home?
When a pastor transitions out of a church, there are more conversations. He has to comfort his wife’s tears as she loses her community. He has to explain to his kids why they can’t go to church with their friends anymore. And while many people can change jobs without changing homes, for most pastors, a change of churches requires moving to another city. A pastor and his family invest their whole world into the church, their home, their community, and all their Christian relationships.
My wife and I are in a transition of our own. Two years ago we found mold in our attic because it wasn’t vented properly. We spend a lot of time and money fixing the problem. Recently we realized our kids rashes, stomach aches, and other symptoms may be from mold. We have been displaced from our home for three weeks this time. Fortunately, we’re finding it may not be our home, but our belongings. We are in the process of losing all our clothes and porous possessions. Why do we care so much about where we live and what we wear? I don’t know but we do.
In John 21 Jesus said to Peter, “18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.
Many pastors have a Peter calling and this effects the whole family. Sometimes they find the Lord’s plan is difficult. Pastor In Residence (PIR) Ministries exists to help pastors and their families in the difficult transitions of ministry. http://www.pirministries.org   Many pastors transition every 4 – 10 years and many of these transitions last 12-18 months. If you’re a pastor and you don’t know what is next, you’re not alone. You’re not crazy. Be encouraged. God’s plan may be uncomfortable but He always takes care of His kids.

The road I have traveled has sometimes been steep,
through wild jagged places of life.
Sometimes I’ve stumbled and fallen so hard
that the stones cut my soul like a knife.
But the staff of my Shepherd would reach out for me
and lift me to cool pastures green.
With oil of the spirit anointing my wounds,
there I’d rest by the clear healing stream.
Oh, but now more than ever I cherish the cross.
More than ever I sit at His feet.
All the miles of my journey have proved my Lord true,
and He is so precious to me.
Is Love’s Old Sweet Story too good to be true?
Do you find all this hard to believe?
Has the cruel world we live in so battered your heart
that the hurt child inside you can’t grieve?
I can’t say I blame you.
I’ve been where you are.
But all I can say is it’s true!
You’re wanted, You’re precious,
You’re the love of His heart,
and the old rugged cross is for you.
More Than Ever lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GcihwpFWkE

David Strengthened Himself In The Lord

under-pressure-300x217

As a pastor I spend most of my time in one of two areas.  I serve people suffering weakness, like hospitalizations or financial needs, and I spend time responding to conflicts like  broken marriages and church disagreements.  I was recently encouraged by Dr. Zack Eswine (The Imperfect Pastor) when he shared the story of how David responded to these things in 1 Samuel 30.

In previous chapters David had been fleeing King Saul who was trying to kill him and then he was rejected by the Philistine leaders in 1 Samuel 29 who didn’t approve of him.  In the beginning of chapter 30 David and his men were raided and all their wives and children were taken.  David’s men were so upset they wept till they had no more strength to weep, and then they talked of stoning David.  And the Bible says, “David encouraged himself in the Lord.”  As we continue reading, some of David’s men were so overcome with grief they were too weak to go recapture their wives and children, so 200 of them stayed behind.  Upon reclaiming all the wives and children and plundering the Amalekites, the 400 who went resented the 200 who stayed back and refused to share the plunder with them.

And David, having strengthened himself in the Lord, was able to “manage well with all dignity” (1Ti3:4) and give grace to them all.  Those too weak to contribute were blessed alongside those who worked hard for it.  And those in conflict, who were filled with resentment, were blessed alongside those who had been overcome by love for their families.  May we strengthen ourselves in the Lord and bless those who are weak and those who are angry.

Be encouraged; God’s grace is for you.

Joggling Pastoral Transitions

joggling-michal-kapral

Recently I saw a commercial featuring marathon joggler Michal Kapral, who set a world record in running a full marathon while juggling, otherwise known as joggling.  While in a pastoral transition I could relate to the high pace of life while trying to keep multiple balls in the air.  See Michal talk about this … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDd07tyMwzA

Pastoral ministry is much like juggling while running a marathon.  There are certainly times of fatigue and endurance.  There is as much mental stamina required as physical, oh, and spiritual stamina too!  What most people may not realize is that every pastor I know, whether serving in a one pastor church, or those serving in a multiple staff churches, every pastor is running and juggling multiple things while trying not to let one of those balls drop.  And when a ball does drop, there’s the grief of people focusing on the one ball bouncing alongside rather than the successful juggling and running act being performed right in front of their eyes!  This criticizing the imperfect circus act can feel very isolating.

I find the same is true in my walk with Jesus.  Why is it that before becoming a Christian, I didn’t feel good enough for God apart from Jesus, but now that I’m in Christ, I don’t feel good enough for God with Jesus?  I’m also focused on the one ball bouncing alongside this miraculous event of the Holy Spirit functioning within me?  The Holy Spirit’s ministry in me makes me look like I’m running and juggling at the same time!

While in a pastoral transition we often find ourselves juggling a few new balls on top of the usual.  There’s the ball of insecurity that comes with a new position or the lack of one.  There’s the ball of new problems and/or new responsibilities to face.  And then there’s that big medicine ball of fear that comes with a transition.  Ever tried to juggle a medicine ball and two tennis balls?!  We have to learn to administrate new things to get this ship back to safe harbor!

When life is moving too fast and there’s too many balls to juggle, I’m reminded of the story of Mary and Martha.  Jesus says Martha is worried and upset about many things, including her project partner.  But Mary is at peace and enjoying what is most important, a forever friend.

So in joggling pastoral transitions, may we overcome the tendency to be discouraged, worried, or upset about things like our project partners, and may we enjoy the forever friends that He provides along the way.

Oh, and way to go, you juggle and run really well!

Creating a Culture of Ministry Health

Dear Church Board and Chairperson,

Management Consultant Peter Drucker called church leadership “the most difficult and taxing role he knew.”1  LifeWay Research Vice President Scott McConnell said of pastors, “This is a brutal job, churches ought to be concerned.”2  100% of pastors surveyed by the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development had a close associate or seminary friend who had left the ministry due to church conflict, stress related burnout, or a moral failure.3 

Until your church is large enough to hire an executive pastor, you as a board are the human resources department.  It is a huge responsibility to steward your employees, and stewarding the pastoral position has unique challenges.

If you want to create a culture of ministry health and growth, you need to intentionally identify and address the risks that could sabotage your goal. Below are 10 questions that reflect the challenges that you and your pastor face, as researched by Dr. Charles A. Wickman in Pastors at Risk (note chapter references in parentheses).

  1. How do we become unified with our pastor to clarify, communicate, and contend for God’s vision for our church? (Ch#4) “The primary stressor experienced by pastors, leading the most often to forced resignation, is vision conflict.” -Wickman/Spencer4
  2. How do we help our pastor by setting appropriate and manageable expectations of our pastor and clearly communicating them to him and our church? (Ch#7) “In a survey asking how exited pastors experienced stress in their ministry, role conflict was a top ranked producer of stress second only to conflict over how ministry was to be done in the church.” –Wickman5
  3. How are we helping our pastor train volunteers and delegate (administrate) responsibilities? (Ch#6)George Barna has discovered that while 69% of the pastors of effective churches have preaching/teaching as their primary gift emphasis, administration and leadership are found in only 15% of these pastors.” – John Hawco6
  4. How are we facilitating healthy communication in our church? (Ch#9) “Most church conflict results from poor communication.” -Rick Warren7
  5. How do we help our pastor manage the grief and loss he experiences regularly and create a culture of joy? (Ch#11) “Ministry is fraught with grief because of difficulty in relationships between sheep and shepherd, people and pastor.” -John A. MacArthur8
  6. How do we help our pastor manage stress related burnout and encourage him to have enough rest? (Ch#1-2) “75% of pastors experience a significant crisis that they faced due to stress in the ministry” -Fuller Institute9
  7. How do we help our pastor say no and handle the criticism that comes with it? (Ch#8) “All of the top at risk pastors said it was difficult for them to say no.” -Wickman10
  8. How do we help our pastor manage discouragement and encourage him to invest in self care? (Ch#3) “70% of pastors constantly fight depression.” -Fuller Institute11
  9. How do we support our pastor to pursue a healthy relationship with his wife? (Ch#10) “77% of pastors felt they did not have a good marriage.” -FASICLD 12
  10. How do we help our pastor manage isolation and encourage him to meet with pastors of other churches and denominations? (Ch#5) “Only a fellow minister can point out the width and depth of the rut in which a colleague may be running.” – Winton H. Beaven13

Thank you for investing in the health of your church by addressing the 10 Risks every church and its pastor face.  If you would like further resources or there’s any way we can support and strengthen your ministry, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Serving Jesus together,

jason@pirministries.org

1 Grudem, Elliot. “Pour It Out,” Leadership Journal, Winter 2016.

2 Green, Lisa Cannon. “The One Percent;” Christianity Today, September 1, 2015.

3,8,9,11,12 Krejcir, Dr. Richard J. “Statistics On Pastors,” http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/?articleid=36562, 2007.

4,5,10, Wickman, Dr. Charles A. Pastors at Risk, 2014.

6 Hawco, John. “The Senior Pastor/Executive Pastor Team: A Contemporary Paradigm For The Larger Church Staff,” Dissertation, https://www.xpastor.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/hawco_john.pdf, 2005.

7 Warren, Rick. “Develop These 7 Skills When You Want People to Listen,” http://pastors.com/develop-these-7-skills-when-you-want-people-to-listen/, October 2, 2015.

8 MacArthur, John A. “Restoring the Grieving Pastor’s Joy,” https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/47-48/restoring-the-grieving-pastors-joy-part-1, September 24, 1995.

13 Beaven, Winton H. “Ministerial Burnout-Cause and Prevention,” https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1986/03/ministerial-burnout-cause-and-prevention, March 1986.