Spiritual Management of Self

Many religious leaders claim to be too busy to rest.  They have too many needs to attend to, too many meetings, too many people demanding immediate attention.  Observing this inclination in our own lives, and in our students and leaders, we are led to believer that the toughest job confronting most spiritual leaders is to lead oneself, to achieve the necessary balance and rhythm between one’s public ministry and one’s spiritual ministry (32).

Managing the Congregation, by Shawchuck and Heuser


~ by Dave Smith on May 4, 2009.

6 Responses to “Spiritual Management of Self”

  1. Maybe Catholic priests are on to something. It’s too hard to be a pastor and father+husband.

    And no, I’m not joking.

  2. Interesting point Ben.

    I think you are right under the Catholic model of pastoring, where the priest does it all if not the majority of the pastoring.

    In following Eph 4, building up the body for works of service and delegating, I wonder if it is more manageable to pastor with a family…and that the issue is thinking we need to do it all vs. God doing it, thereby forcing us into the pastor rat race eliminating the pause button.

  3. Is it possible to do what you just described? Sure it is.

    I’m not sure priests do everything with respect to pastoring or not… do’nt have enough knowledge to make a judgment about that.

    But I do know what it’s like to be the child of a pastor… and how easy it is for the work of pastoring to consume a person. Even Paul seems hints at the idea that it’s better to stay single if you’re going to devote your life to ministry.

    Obviously, I’m not saying celibacy is the only way or anything like that. But as Protestants, we never even consider it. And maybe we should at least give the idea a place in the conversation.

  4. Thanks Ben.

    I sometimes forget you were a PK.

    Just learn from your experience and not to down your dad…

    What are three things he did really well in juggling the pastor/father role and what are three things you wished he would have done differently.

    As a pastor/father, your insight here would be most valuable.

  5. Overall, I think my dad did a really good job of making time for us. He was always there when we needed him.

    However, he inevitably ended up being over-committed. It’s difficult to be a full-time pastor and full-time dad. So, he had choices to make:

    1) the job
    2) the family
    3) himself

    Because he was so committed to others, he opted to neglect himself. And he fought a two-year battle with cancer, which was largely due to the lifestyle he lived as the result of these commitments.

    In my honest opinion, Dave, it’s very, very difficult to commit yourself to taking good care of all three things… and frankly, it’s hard to blame my dad for opting to neglect himself. Thankfully, since his illness, he’s made enormous cutbacks in his schedule and become a very good delegator. And I think he’s more fulfilled now in his ministry than he was when he was working 70 hours a week.

    Oh, and not to mention, he ran a small business on the side and still does today.

    So, here are three things I would honestly recommend:

    1) Don’t simply assume and take it for granted that you can be both a minister of the church and a husband and father. Think it through! The demands that will be placed upon your life will be enormous, and you need to be prepared for that in advance. Being in ministry is hard. Being a husband is hard. Being a father is hard. Now add those up and do the math. Or, in biblical language, count the cost.

    2) Draw clear boundaries.

    A. Establish with your employer what is expected of you on a weekly basis. Agree upon how many hours are reasonable based on your life circumstances. Personally, I would argue for a 40-45 hour work week for pastors, with exceptions being the tragedies and crises of life that pastors must inevitably deal with.

    B. Learn to say “No.” You are one person. You have limits. You have responsibilities outside of church. You have to be able to say “No” to people, and that’s a learned behavior.

    C. Take time off, and don’t feel guilty about doing so. And again, I think you should do this while negotiating with your church at the beginning of your service. Personally, I like the way the PCUSA does it. You get at least 2 weeks off per year (which increases over time), and every 4 years (I think 4 is right), you get a 2-3 month sabbatical (a time for professional development, i.e., attending a retreat/conference, going to a monastery, spending a week away with your spouse/kids). You can’t give of yourself if there’s nothing left to give.

    To conclude, I wouldn’t say that these general points are optional. We could disagree about the length of the sabbatical, but I would argue that the sabbatical itself is necessary, not optional. I’ve seen too many pastors ‘burn out’ in my short lifetime. And ‘burn out’ causes people to leave ministry.

    So in short, I would agree with your opening post, but I would probably end up with some pretty radical conclusions that won’t go over very well in a lot of churches.

  6. Very helpful. Thanks for your honest thoughts here Ben.

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