My latest book, Fifty Lessons in Ministry: Reflections after Fifty Years in Ministry has recently been published by Darton, Longman and Todd. To encourage readers of Church Matters to buy themselves a copy (£12.99 paperback; £6.50 electronic) two of my blogs this month consist of excerpts. This week is Lesson 43: ‘Monday Morning blues are par for the course’.
It’s Monday and I feel fine. I went to church yesterday morning, and I still feel fine. I even gave a 15-minute presentation at Breakfast with the Bible, and that too has made no difference to my mood. I feel great and look forward to the rest of the week!
How different things are to when I was a pastor. Then I would often feel depressed. Some Mondays I could have almost wept. There was no rational reason for my sadness and depression; indeed, normally there was every reason why I should have been grateful to God for the way in which Sunday had gone. Nonetheless Mondays often were bad days.
On a regular basis I suffered from what I called the Monday morning ‘blues’. Or is that the right term? To my surprise I recently discovered that the Monday ‘blues’ are a set of negative emotions that many people get at the beginning of the working week if they’re not happy at work. According to Rita Friedman, a Philadelphia-based career coach:
If you love your job and are passionate about what you’re doing, going in to work Monday morning is another opportunity to do what you love. But if you’re feeling under-appreciated or unsatisfied with your job, it can be especially difficult to start another seemingly endless workweek.
If that is the case, I certainly didn’t suffer from the Monday blues. I loved my ‘job’ and felt amazingly privileged to be paid by God’s people to serve as a minister. Sunday was the best day of the week. What could be better than leading God’s people in worship, expounding God’s word, and meeting up with friends old and new after the service?
Yet, on Monday mornings I often felt desperate. Why? was this? I believe it was a physical, emotional and even a spiritual reaction to the ‘high’ of the Sunday. All the past week I had been building up to Sunday. On Sunday itself I would experience a major adrenaline ‘rush’, but on Monday I would often experience an adrenaline ‘crash’.
Let me explain a little more. Every week there were sermons to prepare – and then to deliver. In one sense it was reminiscent of my Cambridge days, when as a student every week I had to write a couple of essays. But preaching a sermon is a totally different experience from reading an essay to a tutor: for in preaching we are appealing not just to the minds, but to the hearts and souls of our hearers. Preaching is not just giving a ‘thought for the day’: it is a passionate proclamation of the good news of God’s love for us all in Jesus. Preaching is not about God and twenty minutes – rather through our preaching we are trusting that God will change lives as in Richard Baxter’s memorable phrase we seek to “screw God’s truth into their minds”. As a preacher I was very conscious that I was dealing with eternal issues – the sense of responsibility could at times be overwhelming.
Along with sermons to prepare, there were also services to ‘craft’. Services do not just happen – and this is particularly true in Nonconformist churches where there is no prayer book to fall back upon. Rather from start to finish creativity is called upon. Hymns and songs had to be chosen, Bible readings agreed. prayers crafted, interviews put together -true others may be involved, but ultimate responsibility for the shaping of the service falls upon the minister. Indeed, leading a service can be likened to conducting an orchestra.
Preaching God’s Word and leading God’s people in worship can be enormously demanding – let alone all the pastoral conversations that take place on a Sunday. It involves a total giving of oneself This is the reason for ministers experiencing the Monday morning blues – what one article on the net called ‘the pastor’s weekly wreck’!
So what can ministers do to help themselves on a Monday morning? Traditionally Monday has been the minister’s day off. However, with just one day off a week, I was loathe to use as my free day the day when I felt worst – instead I took off Friday. So I dealt with my Monday ‘blues’ by consciously adopting a number of ‘self-care’ strategies: on Monday mornings I would cheer myself up by meeting with my staff; on Monday afternoons I would often spend time allowing God to speak into my life by doing the basic commentary work for the following Sunday’s sermons; and on Monday evenings as an extravert I would often draw energy from interacting with ‘the punters’ at an Alpha supper.
Ultimately, however, what helped me was to realise that Monday ‘blues’ are just par for the course. A degree of self-awareness can be a great help in coping with the weekly low of a Monday morning.