Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

The Minister and Self-Care

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A minister is hired to provide spiritual nourishment for the congregation, but what happens when he needs spiritual nourishment? Ministry involves talking to people about their problems, but who does the minister talk to when he has a problem? Ministers encourage people who are feeling down, but where does a minister turn when he is feeling down? Ministry can be lonely and difficult. Ministers must receive the self-care they need so they will be properly equipped to lead the congregation.

A church should expect to be guided by a spiritually and emotionally healthy minister. If this is the expectation, then what is your congregation doing to ensure that this happens? Attending to the spiritual and emotional health of the minister is not only the Christian thing to do, but it is also the best thing for the congregation. A healthy minister is going to lead better, counsel better, teach better, and deliver better sermons.

Self-care begins with the minister. Every minister must take it upon himself to be in God’s word daily, have an active prayer life, seek out mentors and others to converse with, and balance his time wisely. Because ministers spend each day preparing classes and sermons, they sometimes neglect their own spiritual needs. A minister should set aside time outside of his typical study for spiritual nourishment. The minister should have times throughout the week when he reads the Bible, although he is not preparing a lesson. This should be combined with prayer and a balanced schedule that allows time for family and rest. If a spiritual or emotional need arises, then the minister should seek help. He may seek it from a mentor or professional, but he should also feel comfortable enough to take his need to the elders of the congregation.

What can congregations do to help promote the spiritual and emotional health of their minister? A church first needs to recognize that their minister is human. He is a person with spiritual and emotional needs. A minister is not a superhero. He has needs just like everyone else. Acknowledging this is essential. There is a temptation to put leaders on a pedestal and ignore their weaknesses. This is an unhealthy expectation and it can do much harm. We do not help ministers when we refuse to recognize legitimate needs they may have.

A church needs to make sure its minister is getting some kind of spiritual nourishment. This is much easier in our technological age. Ministers can listen to sermons and classes online. They can connect with other ministers on social media and via video conferences. However, there is a vast difference between listening to a sermon online and being a part of a community with a teacher who is present in the room. Churches recognize that members need much more than a recorded message on a screen, so why try and pass the same off to ministers as spiritual nourishment? Churches should provide time off for ministers to go and sit at the feet of another minister or teacher. Churches should encourage and even offer financial assistance for ministers to receive the spiritual nourishment they need. 

The idea of Sabbath is found throughout the Bible. Human beings were designed to need a time of rest and reflection. Ministry is a unique vocation. A week off is not an adequate amount of time to rest from ministry. There are several reasons for this. Often, ministers still receive calls, texts, and emails while they are away. Rather than let these requests pile up or try and find someone to address them, many ministers will go ahead and handle them while on vacation. Ministers plan sermons and classes in advance. A good minister will want to set with a sermon or class as long as he can before he preaches it. A week away from preaching and teaching usually means that the minister is thinking about next week’s sermons and classes the whole time he is away. It is because of this and many other reasons that ministers often struggle with burnout. They never receive the rest they need and they keep pushing themselves until it all falls apart. What churches should do is offer their minister a sabbatical after so many years. If a minister has ministered at a congregation for seven years and they want to make sure he is there for another seven years, then they should allow him a paid sabbatical. A sabbatical is not a vacation. It is a time of focused rest to draw closer to God and return refreshed. 

Churches need to understand that the minister is not an employee. He is a member of the congregation. He is under the care of the shepherds of the congregation. If he is not being spiritually taken care of, then the elders are responsible because the minister is part of the flock. The best thing a congregation can do for a minister and his family is to befriend them. Treat him and his family like family. Often, ministers are living away from their extended family. Be a mother and father to the minister and his wife. Be a grandparent to their kids. Make sure the minister and his family do not spend a holiday alone. Include them in your family activities. This alone will greatly bless the spiritual and emotional health of the minister and his family.

What is suggested above will not only bless the minister, but it will also bless the congregation. You cannot have a healthy church without a healthy minister. The spiritual and emotional health of a minister is not a minor thing. It is not something churches can ignore. It is our Christian duty to help all those in our midst and this includes the minister.

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