Call it a slump, being overworked, overtired, always exhausted, or perhaps feeling brain-dead or “in a funk,” getting out of a slump can be a very, very hard thing to do. I know from personal experience. In the last nine years, I started my consulting business, began this blog, and along the way, had not one or two but FOUR kids! My youngest is 19 months old . . . so I am still in the thick of it.
I’m sure your story is quite different, perhaps you planted a church several years ago, or maybe you’ve been in the same ministry or staff position for the last 20 years. Whatever your situation is, it is totally human to be in a personal slump from time-to-time. Heck, the people of Israel were in a slump for 40 years wandering in the desert! I’ve been studying Exodus over this past year in my women’s Bible study and learned that this “journey” would have only taken them 11 days if they had obeyed God in the first place.
It begs the question that if God is sovereign, He has very explicit and detailed reasons for each journey that we are on, and this journey that he has planned for us always includes slumps! (You probably don’t want to hear that, but it’s true.)
Theology aside, here are five ways to break out of a slump that might help you through yours:
1) Pray continually. Yes, I know that Jesus recommends that you “pray always,” but you really need to remind yourself to do this as frequently as possible when your energy and mood are in the toilet. Write yourself notes and tape them to your bathroom mirror, your coffee pot, your computer, your car, etc. Set reminders on your smartphone or in your calendar to remind yourself to pray – even amidst the “regular” things you are doing during the day. I find that I’ll break partway through a slump, only to find there’s deeper issues lurking behind it. Seek God again and again for wisdom (I’m chanting this to myself as I write).
2) Get out there. It’s easy to stick to our comfort zones and not do anything different, but doing things differently is often how we un-slump ourselves. Whether it’s setting new routines like hitting the gym three times a week or meeting with a prayer partner weekly or monthly, doing something different is key. Since I work from home part-time and am a stay-at-home mom, for me, getting out of the house is key. So far this year I’ve attended the Worship Conference 2011 at William Jessup University, and plan to attend the Chick-fil-A Leadercast at a local church, and I’m also lined up to attend the Thrive Conference at Bayside Church next month. For me, getting out there and shaking it up helps ignite my brain with my heart and break through the slumpiness (yes, I know this isn’t really a word).
3) Take a vacation. Okay, so those of you out there who either have your own business, are pastors, and/or have small kids, you know there is no such thing as a “vacation” with your kids. I call it “a temporary hiatus from laundry,” but it certainly isn’t a real vacation (especially for us moms) to pack up everything but the kitchen sink, travel somewhere, get everyone used to sleeping in different places, then pack it all up and come home to the grind. So while taking a family vacation can be fun, I highly recommend taking a personal retreat-type vacation. It could be for one day — off by yourself to hike in the woods or see a great movie, and eat at a few great restaurants — but do exactly what YOU want to do for at least a day or two. Offer to give your spouse the same type of personal retreat (men, you’ll be golden for at least three months, trust me).
4) Meet with a mentor. If you don’t already have people that fall into the “mentor” category, find several people that you know and trust and who are several steps ahead of wherever you want to go. These folks could be older in age, or just be further down the path where you’d like to go. Ask for prayer, guidance, direction, and love. Meet with them as often as possible and ask specific questions about their lives that relate to where you are at. Ask for honest feedback about your current life situation. Pray for God to help these mentors reveal something in yourself that you need to be working on. Mentors are gifts from God – I’d hate to do life without them.
5) Take a sabbatical. Most of us feel like the world cannot survive without us. I know I feel this way both professionally and personally. However, having taken six weeks off every two years for the birth of my four children, I can tell you that the world keeps on moving without you and six weeks will not choke your career. Sometimes it has the reverse effect and people are chomping at the bit to get a piece of you when you return from your time away. I know that not everyone has the option financially to take a sabbatical, but I’m sure many people in ministry might be able to negotiate this with their churches. When you return, refreshed and ready to lead, everyone will thank you that you recognized your need to step back, reflect, pray, meditate, go to Hawaii, or do whatever you needed to do to break the slump.
If you’ve experiences at least one slump (if not five or six) in your life, please take a moment to share by leaving a comment. I need to hear from you personally not only to be encouraged during my own slump, but so that other readers can also hear how you broke through. Now I’m off to take some of my own advice . . .
Lauren Hunter is a freelance writer, church technology consultant (http://laurenhunter.net) and founder of the blog ChurchTechToday (http://ChurchTechToday.com), Technology for Today’s Church.