As a ministry leaders, we minister from the inside out! This means that it is from our inner self that we truly minister to, lead, and love people. In other words, your doing as a minister comes out of your being (integrity, character, spiritual vitality, etc.). Jesus talks about this in Mark 15:18 when he said, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” Here Jesus uses the word heart to mean your emotional and spiritual center. Thus your emotional and spiritual health directly impacts your ministry. The problem is that many Christian ministry leaders today are unhealthy – emotional and spiritually!
During my 40 plus years in ministry, I served as an associate pastor under five senior pastors in three different churches. As a director of two associations of churches, I interacted in some capacity with with over 75 churches and their senior pastors, associate pastors, and ministry leaders. As a seminary professor, I have seen countless young ministers come through my classes. So, I have some experience in relating to full-time, part-time, and volunteer ministers in a variety of churches – large, small, urban, rural, established churches, and new church plants.
One of the things that I have learned from my own life and interacting with these ministers is that emotional and spiritual health just doesn’t happen. No different from your physical health, it must be intentionally pursued and protected. If you neglect your emotional and spiritual health, they both will continue to deteriorate. If you intentionally attend to and nurture them, however, they will become healthier. So, how to do you pursue and protect your emotional and spiritual health? Here are five traits of how healthy ministers nurture their hearts.
- They connect with God daily
This is the single most important thing that you can do to nurture your emotional and spiritual health. Ministry is both demanding and busy. Early morning and late night meetings press in on your time. Preparation demands are constantly there. The unfortunate result is that it becomes easy to push time with God to the margins of your life. Therefore, you must aggressively protect your daily time with God. You must schedule it as if is (and it truly is) the most important appointment of each day. When I was pastoring churches, I hardly ever came into the office until after 9:00 am. I used the time before then to spend time with the Lord. This was not sermon or Bible study preparation time. It was time for me to commune with, listen to, and learn from God each day. I publicly let the church know that this was the most important part of my day, by letting them know that “the time I spend with God is the best preparation for the time I spend with you.”
- They are secure in how God created them
God created you as a unique person made in his image. No one else has your particular personality, gifts, talents, and experience. Other people may be similar in some of these areas, but no one is exactly like you. So, embrace and feel secure in how God has created you and allowed you to have your unique experiences. You may have the tendency to dislike who you are and/or wish you had a different gifts or talents. I love music, however, I must admit that I have zero musical talent. I cannot sing on key. I have never got the hang of playing an instrument not matter how hard I have tried. I am musically challenged! Sometimes, I lament the fact that God created me without any musical talent. When I do, however, what I am really saying is, “God, you made a mistake! You did it wrong.” God created each of us to minister for him out of who we are, so we need to embrace and be secure in how he has created us.
- They are not threatened by someone who is better
When I was in Junior High, my baseball coach said, “No matter how good you are, there will always someone better.” That truth has stuck with me all these years. You may be a great at what you do, but there will always be some who is better. So, what happens when that someone better becomes a part of your ministry team? It is easy to become threatened by them. Once in a leadership conference I heard Bill Hybels say that there were several people on his church staff that were better preachers than he was. He realized that his primary giftedness was not preaching, it was seeing the big picture and casting vision. So he used those who were better that he was at preaching to preach often. However, he said that he was always the one to cast the vision.
- They accept feedback from others
When you start to become unhealthy emotionally and/or spiritually, you start to become defensive. Deep inside you know that you are unhealthy. God’s Spirit speaks to your spirit and lets you know that something is wrong. One result is that you do not like people giving you feedback. Healthy ministers, however, seek feedback. They know that receiving input from others motivates them to grow. It pushes them to become better in areas where other see their “growing edges”. Healthy leaders surround themselves with people who will give them honest and constructive criticism concerning their life and ministry.
- They practice self-care
True self care is never selfish! Unfortunately ministers are one of the worst groups for not taking care of themselves. They have a tendency to overeat and under exercise. They work long hours and often do not take off time to re-charge. As the old adage goes, they “burn the candle at both ends”. The result is that they are depleted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They are often like the prophet Elijah after defeating the prophets of Baal – totally spent (I Kings 19:1-18). If you are going to remain healthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually you must take care of yourself. A great question to continually ask yourself is, “How long can I keep up this pace?” Can you truly keep going as your going for the next 20, 30, or 40 years?
If we are going to effectively minister over the long haul, we must attend to your emotional and spiritual health. What are some suggestions that you have for keeping healthy emotionally and spiritually? Reply and share. I’d love to hear from you.
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