The most important person in your ministry is . . . you!
I know, it sounds kind of self-centered doesn’t it? Certainly not the attitude a pastor should be taking! Here’s what I mean: as a leader in the church, if you don’t choose to take care ofyourself, you won’t be a leader in the church very long.
Ministry is difficult…very difficult. After all, the Bible says we (as believers) are in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12), and who better to take out than the “leaders” in that battle?
With that in mind, the person you need to take care of first is yourself. And that requires being intentional. Doing it on purpose…with a clear plan.
There’s lots of ways to plan self-care – find one that works for you. For me, I’ve tried to keep it simple and base it on a little verse that you’ve probably heard of that talks about Jesus. It’s Luke 2:52 and it goes like this:
Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.
The best way I know to protect myself and keep from stagnating is to grow. I need to constantly be evaluating my own personal growth & health, and this little verse covers all the areas, including:
- Mentally – am I growing in knowledge & wisdom? What’s my plan to do this? The single greatest way I’ve grown in this area is through reading. At first it was overwhelming – I tried to read everything all at once and ended up reading very little. Then, early on in my ministry, I committed to reading just 1 chapter a day. It’s amazing how many books you can read in a year (about 25 if each book averages 15 chapters). Reading keeps me up to date, thinking and challenged. I read on children’s ministry, leadership, business and, the last few years, technology (Fast Company & Wired magazine are great for this).
- Physically – the older I get the more I realize the importance of my health. If I am not actively & regularly engaged in exercise, I can’t possibly be at my best in ministry, plain & simple. Nor will I be able to engage with my family as I ought to – they will more than likely get my scraps, when I am tired and rundown. I must have a plan and be willing to set aside time to exercise, to be careful what I eat, and to get the sleep I need. You are fooling yourself if you think you can ignore your body (or, as the Bible calls it, your “temple” – I Corinthians 6:19-20).
- Spiritually – I love that the verse says that Jesus grew “in favor with God”. What an inspiration – and aspiration! Here’s what I’ve learned though – we ministry types can live and breathe “spirituality” so much that our own spiritual lives, our own faith walk, becomes part of our job. Don’t let that happen. Your spiritual growth should be fresh & new & invigorating every day. Don’t let writing that VBS lesson become your devotions for today. Don’t let prepping the talk for Kids Church become your time with God. Sure, any time in the Word is great, but make sure you are being intentional about YOUR time in the Word & in prayer. My ministry should naturally flow from my time spent with God, not vice-versa.
- Relationally – our ministry should be all about relationships. Ministry happens best through relationships. We need to grow in our ability to build relationships as leaders. We also need to have healthy relationships in other areas. As men & women we should have deep and meaningful friendships with others outside of our ministries. As spouses & parents we need to have healthy relationships within our families (that’s a whole book, so I’ll just mention it here).
Growing personally and being healthy in all these areas must be a priority for any children’s ministry leader. It is so hard because of the demands of ministry. But here is what I would challenge you to do: create a plan to keep yourself healthy (what I’ve mentioned here are just a few ideas to get you started), commit to it in terms of your time, energy and resources (commit to at least 6 months), and see how things change. You might need to create some accountability if this has been an area of weakness for you.
I think it is pretty safe to say that, if you stick to your plan to take care of yourself, then those around you – from your family to your friends to your ministry colleagues – will benefit from your commitment.
Stay connected to KIDMINLeaders.com to read the rest of this series from Greg Baird.