I know that now Christmas is gone the last thing you want to be told is to consider giving another gift. I also know that the gift I am going to recommend you give is very self-serving: it's one of the books I've written.
One of my concerns is the well-being of pastors, especially bivocational pastors, but I also have great concern for those who are fully-funded as well. I have shared several posts in this blog about my own struggle with depression in my earlier ministry and its causes. I know first-hand what can happen when pastors do not maintain healthy balances in their lives and ministries. I know what it does to the pastor, to his or her family, to the church, and to others around them. It's not pretty. I also know the pain of working through depression and the amount of time it takes to defeat it. As we've often been told, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The Healthy Pastor: Easing the Pressures of Ministry was written to be that ounce of prevention. It's not easy to maintain a healthy balance between life and ministry, but it's easier to do that than to deal with the effects of allowing your life to get out of balance. Pastoral ministry in both bivocational and fully-funded churches is full of challenges, stresses, and strife. There is no way to avoid all that, but we can be proactive and ease those pressures that goes along with ministry.
The very first chapter addresses the pressures that the families of ministers often face. I started there because there have been too many horror stories of pastor's families falling apart while the minister was doing "God work." I begin by identifying some of the common stresses these families face and then share some ways those stresses can be reduced. Each chapter in the book follows that same formula. In all, there are fourteen different stresses experienced by many pastors that are addressed in the book.
If you are the spouse of a ministry leader I encourage you to give this book to your spouse. Read it together and talk about what you took away from each chapter. The chapter on the family begins by talking about how lonely the spouses of ministers often feel, and there is even a piece from Bill Hybel's wife about her own experience with that loneliness as their ministry was beginning. If this resonates with you, be honest and share that. It may well be that your mate never knew that was what you were feeling. Begin to discuss how you can make changes to enjoy a more balanced and enjoyable life.
If you are the ministry leader, give the book to yourself. I am a big proponent in investing in ourselves, but this will also be an investment in your family and church as well. A healthier minister will have a healthier family and a healthier church. Everyone benefits.
Finally, if you are a judicatory leader you may want to consider giving this book to the pastors in your district. As you well know, many of them are struggling with various pressures brought about by their ministries. A number of judicatories have given copies of my book The Healthy Small Church: Diagnosis and Treatment for the Big Issues to every pastor in their district to study, and I honestly believe this book is just as important to the health and well-being of our ministers and churches.
As I begin a new year of blogging I invite your comments and questions. If there is a topic you would like me to address in a future post, please pass that on to me. I've often said that I would like to see this blog become a community where those of us in bivocational ministry can share our thoughts and insights.