Pastor’s Hangover

There’s sort of a common joke among church leaders that pastors write many Monday morning letters of resignation. Along these lines, I once heard Rob Bell use the term “pastor’s hangover” in a sermon, and it’s stuck with me ever since. Perhaps it’s because I know what it feels like (although, mine are normally mild).

If I remember correctly, Bell stated that during a pastor’s hangover, the pastor wonders, “Did I really say that?”

The classic illustration for the pastor’s hangover is Elijah. After confronting the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel and leading people toward tremendous transformation, he runs from Jezebel, hides in a cave, and prays that God will end his life.

Well, that’s a pretty extreme form of a pastor’s hangover. But then the transformation experienced among the people was pretty extreme, too.

Hangovers come after times of great boldness (boldness isn’t static). I think the areas where I feel the most bold are (1) praying, (2) writing, and (3) preaching. But it’s only after preaching that I sometimes experience a pastor’s hangover.

When I experience them, I can feel the boldness wearing off on Sunday afternoon/evening, especially if it was an extra-intense day, as yesterday was.

I imagine it’s a much more intense experience for those who battle depression. “Hall of Fame” preacher, Charles Spurgeon, battled depression, I believe. I remember reading a story about him where he once prayed that he would break a leg so that he would not have to preach at a particular place. And that was *before* the sermon!

Fortunately, my hangovers are generally mild and short-lived. Sleep does a lot of good. Normally, I’m ready to dive back in by Monday morning. And I haven’t written any Monday morning letters of resignation, so far. 🙂

But this underscores why pastors — people who are called to transform people and shape culture through the preaching of God’s Word in the “life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels” (Ephesians 6.12, MSG) — need prayer. See Praying for Pastors for a good prayer guide.

Well, your comments are always welcome. I especially invite preachers to share their experiences of pastor’s hangovers.

4 thoughts on “Pastor’s Hangover”

  1. I definitely feel the “pastor’s hangover” on Sunday nights and sometimes into Mondays. I try to keep my Monday’s very light (no sermon prep) and that seems to help. I usually use Mondays as my day to plan my week.

  2. Thanks for mentioning Mondays, Kevin.

    For years, Joleen and I took Mondays off. Our weekly rhythm was Tuesday through Sunday with Sunday as the climax and Monday was a natural break between weeks.

    Overall we liked that schedule, but the bad thing is that we were sometimes too tired to enjoy our day off. 🙂

    We now take Fridays off, which has its pros/cons. “Starting” the week on Tuesday made us feel like we started the week late and were playing catch-up the rest of the week, so getting started on Monday feels better that way. Sometimes, we miss having the Monday break. Friday does provide a needed break toward the end of the week, too.

    And like you, we try not to jump into anything too heavy on Monday (well, that’s what we *say* anyway).

  3. Monday is a “crash.” There is a lot of adrenalin rush that goes on Sunday morning, and there is a pretty big let down. Unless I get a very good and long nap on Sunday afternoon (which is difficult because I am hyper), Monday is a tired day. I’ve made a promise to myself I won’t go skiing anymore on Monday’s – my day off — I get too fagged and could get hurt.

    People who say “the pastor works only one day a week” are not entirely off the mark. Saturday needs to be a quiet day – not a lot of running around and social events or you won’t have your edge on Sunday. You pack an entire day on Sunday into just Sunday morning and Monday you are so tired from Sunday you can’t fashion the day for leisure. So there you go — three days out of your week!


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