Filling the tank

by Katie Swafford on October 21, 2021 in Ministerial Health

Katie Swafford is the director of Texas Baptists Counseling Services.

You know that feeling when you’re exhausted? When you feel like you have spent every drop of energy you have on a project, cause or event? Or maybe the energy has been sucked from your very being because of an emotionally stressful situation that you have little to no control over. Basically, your tank is empty, and you are in desperate need of a filling up — whether that be emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually.

I’m finding that many of our pastors are currently in this state. Either the tank is completely empty or the needle is pointing downward. Of course, I’m not referring to a literal gas tank, but rather the proverbial tank of pastors’ innermost being. Their heart and soul. The energy they need to make it through the day.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month — a time for pastors to prioritize refueling their tank and for members to show their appreciation by empowering their pastors to do so. Here are some ways for pastors and members alike to recognize and celebrate this month.

Make time for yourself as a pastor

If you are a pastor/minister reading this, then I encourage you to consider ways to refuel. You might need a few vacation days to allow your mind and body to relax. You might need a longer retreat or sabbatical to fully refill your depleted tank. It might be that you need to talk with a trusted friend, mentor or counselor about ways to incorporate self-care daily or weekly. Maybe you just need someone to talk to, or more time for healthy relationships and activities that feed your soul and fuel your tank.

If you’re not sure where to start, check out this video series from our Pastor Strong Initiative based on the book Leading on Empty.

Encourage and provide for your pastor

If you are a church member seeking ways to express appreciation for your pastor, here are some ideas that ministers have told me mean a lot to them:

  • Personal notes of encouragement or thanks

  • Time taken to express words of affirmation and appreciation

  • Gift cards or other financial blessings

  • Prayer for their work, home and spiritual lives

  • Time off to relax and refill their tank

You can find additional ways to honor and express gratitude for your pastor here.

Fill up before it is too late

Our vehicles usually have a warning light that comes on to alert us when the fuel tank is nearing empty. And I’ve often been encouraged to refuel when it nears one-fourth a tank so that I don’t end up running out and stranded on the side of the road. So too, pastors should be given chances to refill their tanks before they feel stranded.

While it is great to set aside a month to be intentional about appreciation for pastors and ministers, remember that these leaders’ tanks are in constant need of replenishment throughout the year.

If you are a church member, I encourage you to find ways to appreciate your pastor year-round so that they do not end up in a place of “leading on empty” or burned out and ready to leave ministry altogether.

If you are a pastor, I encourage you to reach out if you are in need of a fill-up! Texas Baptists Counseling Services can connect you with resources to offer support and encouragement along your ministry journey and help you keep the tank from running out of fuel!

Read more articles in: Ministerial Health, Counseling Services, Resources

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