How To Finish Well

Clayton King

What do church leaders and second graders have in common? The answer may surprise you.  And I figured it out at my son's elementary school.

It was the annual "Fund Run." My 8-year-old was going to run for 25 minutes, along with over 100 other second graders, to raise money for a charity.  But because of rain, the Fund Run had to moved inside to the gym.  So instead of 100 kids running in a giant circle around a large field, they ran in a small circle, around cones, in a small gym, while friends and family and teachers watched and cheered them on from the sidelines.

The Big Race

I sat with great anticipation (and fear) as the gym filled with people. I knew that this was going to be awesome. There was no way I would leave without being thoroughly entertained by my son and all his friends unleashing their pent up energies from a week of school. And the tight confines of the small space guaranteed that there would be carnage. And fun. And laughter.

It was a rollicking good time! Twenty-five minutes of screaming and running. And falling. And crying. And drama. Every parent can imagine the wonderful scene.

The minute someone yelled "Go!" every single kid took off at full speed. That's because second graders have no concept of time. They weren't thinking that they had to keep it up for 25 minutes. They could only think about running faster than the kids beside them. It was a dead sprint. For the first two laps. Then a little boy fell, right in the middle of traffic. It was like a NASCAR pileup. Children were falling all over one another and loving it.

Then fatigue set in. Their precious little bodies couldn't take it. They weren't conditioned to sustain such speed. By the second lap children were sitting down. Some were doubled over.  Others were crying. Moms and dads and teachers were attending to some of them. One little girl just laid down as if to say, "I'm not getting paid to do this. I quit."

Then after a few minutes, they all evidently caught their breath and the race was back on.  Full speed sprints. Laughter and screams of delight. For one whole lap. Then again, as if on cue, hands were placed on hips, heads were lowered between knees, and little pockets of rest-ers began to form around the circle. This cycle continued for -- you guessed it -- 25 minutes.

I had a blast. I cheered for my son and all his friends. I even tied one little boy’s shoes for him.  

The Lesson For All Of Us

But I also learned something. The Fund Run reminded me of how many leaders and pastors do ministry. Or even how many Christians try to live. It was so obvious I almost missed it.

We are just like those second graders. We have no concept of how long our race will last.  We don't pace ourselves. We watch everyone else in the race and focus on beating them.  We lose sight of the goal. We forget the finish line. Competition with another person becomes the driving force. And it burns us out. Really fast.

Then we end up sucking wind.  We have no endurance.  We stop in midstream and cause all sorts of chaos, crashes and pileups. We have a meltdown and those who love us the most come to our aid. But before we can really rest we remember all the other people out there who are still running and we become intimidated by how far ahead of us they are by now. So we jump right back in before we are ready. At full speed again. Another sprint that lasts a very short time, and then it's right back to gagging and coughing and heaving and falling down.

This is burnout. And it's killing marriages and ministries. It's also killing ministers. And it needs to stop.

It's cute when second graders do it. It's stupid when adults do it. And deadly.

Pace yourself. This is not a sprint. It's a marathon. The goal is to finish well, not to finish fast.

A post from teaching pastor Clayton King

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