Skip to main content

A Pastor’s Reflections: Migraine Mondays

January 1, 2013


Few people have the opportunity peer into the life of the pastor—a real behind-the-scenes glance of life in a pastor’s home. Some television shows in the past have dramatized what life in a pastor’s home is like, but they’ve often presented a very inaccurate representation. I remember watching one show where the pastor was preparing his sermon in his office and one of his children interrupted him. What I thought was funny was that the shelves behind his desk were packed with what looked like photo albums, not serious scholarly books on theology and the Bible. Television portrayals aside, what is life like for a pastor on a given Lord’s Day?

I would typically ensure that I had a good night’s rest and get to bed at a responsible time on Saturday night and then get up early, around six, on Sunday morning so I could study and review my sermons and Sunday School lecture. I would make whatever refinements I deemed necessary and then join my wife for breakfast afterwards. After a full day of meeting people, talking, impromptu quick counseling, preaching two sermons, leading the two worship services, teaching Sunday School for an hour, and then talking with people after both services, to say the least, I was wiped out. At the end of the day I felt like I did after a long five-mile run—physically spent. My wife and I would come home, unwind, eat a light dinner and turn in for the night.

Monday was typically supposed to be my day off, though it was sometimes anything but restful. Given the physical and emotional stress of the previous day, I frequently found myself laid up in bed nursing a migraine headache. I don’t think that many people in the church realize how stressful Sundays can be for the pastor. As the pastor you want to make sure that you meet and speak with as many people as you can. Sometimes, you have to deal with difficult issues on Sundays, though not directly. In other words, if you know about a brewing problem with one family in the church, and perhaps have given them a private reprimand or corrective counsel, seeing them on Sunday can be awkward or uncomfortable. Preaching can be incredibly stressful. Yes, you do your best to rely upon the strength of the Lord and the unction of the Holy Spirit, but ministers can often be plagued by doubts. “Have I exegeted this text correctly?” “Are these illustrations appropriate?” “Why are so many people dozing off while I’m preaching?”

One of the indicators of my “pulpit-stress,” typically unnoticed by most people, except for perhaps my wife, was the hole I wore in the front of my dress shoes. I would place my right foot perpendicular to the floor so my toe was pointing straight down and then I would move my foot back and forth. No one usually saw this fidgeting because the pulpit shielded me from the congregation, but I soon had to replace my shoes. I’ve since conquered that nervous pulpit-tick. The point is, Sundays can be stressful for the pastor. So, naturally, my body would decompress by letting off steam with a nice raging migraine headache. I know that I was not alone in this, as I have conferred with colleagues over the years who have shared similar experiences.

If my experience is at all common, this means that your pastor is probably under similar stress each and every Lord’s Day. You may not notice it, but Sunday can be a vice-grip on the emotional well-being of your pastor. This is perhaps one of the contributing factors to the resignation rates of pastors. This glimpse “behind-the-scenes,” if you will, should encourage you, I hope, to be in constant intercessory prayer for your pastor. Pray that the Lord would give him peace and the energy he needs to minister faithfully word and sacrament to God’s people each Sunday.