Friday, August 5, 2016

Self-care is not selfishness.

Yesterday I was privileged to speak at the summer meeting of the Church Relations Council (CRC) at Campbellsville University. For several years I have served on this council and just agreed to another three year term. I love CU and their emphasis on the gospel of Jesus Christ. If there was ever a time when Christian higher education was important it is the time in which we now live.

The CRC meets twice a year to update us on what is happening at the campus and to seek our input on how the university can improve. We hear numerous reports from the heads of various schools in the university, but the report I most enjoy comes from students who have been involved in mission trips. A lot of people criticize this younger generation, but they should see how many of students from CU go on mission trips every year and hear how God used them to make a difference in people's lives.

I was asked several months ago to be the keynote speaker at this particular meeting. Because I was speaking primarily to pastors and university and church leaders I decided to speak on the important of practicing good self-care. As I explained in my presentation, self-care is not selfishness; it is stewardship of a valuable resource God has given In my message I shared my own story of how I allowed my life to get out of balance and the lessons I learned from that experience.

During the break several of those in attendance told me the message really hit home with them. They admitted they often struggled to keep the various elements of their lives in balance, and some could identify with some of the struggles I had.

Many of us in Christian leadership do a much better job of caring for others than we do in caring for ourselves. Clergy have a very high rate of burnout and depression, and this is one reason we see half of all seminary graduates drop out of the ministry within five years after graduating from seminary.

I understand the desire for pastors and church leaders to want to make a difference because I share that desire. However, I've also learned I'm not going to save the world tomorrow. Ministry is supposed to a distance event, not a sprint, but many of us go at it as if it's a 100 meter dash and then wonder why we struggle physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

I wrote The Healthy Pastor: Easing the Pressures of Ministry to help church leaders enjoy a healthier life and ministry. Ministry is challenging, and we'll never eliminate all the pressures associated with it, but we can take steps to ease those pressures. I made the book available at the meeting and several copies did sell after my message.

Enjoying a healthy, productive ministry is a choice any of us can make. No one can force you to become overwhelmed by ministry and your other responsibilities. We can get control of our calendars and our lives if we choose to do so. We can take our days off and our vacations. We can make time for our families if we decide to do so. We can deepen our spiritual lives if that is what we need to do. Eliminating many of the pressures of ministry simply requires a decision on our part to do so and then setting the boundaries that are needed to remove those pressures.

We had a great meeting at CU with good worship and exciting presentations. The school expects a record enrollment this fall, and it excites me to know the impact the school will have on these students.

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