As I write this, it is the beginning of September. As a pastor of a church, in many ways this is the beginning of the ministry year. After a couple of months of a relaxed schedule, things are just starting again.
As the ministry year starts, I’m reminded of how I need to intentionally remain healthy in every area. Healthy ministry doesn’t take place by accident. I have learned from past experiences, as well as from hearing from others, that there are certain things that need to take place to keep me going.
Here are six things that I do that help me to keep my pastoral ministry healthy.
- I have switched my ministry style from hours-oriented to goals-oriented. At one time, my attention was on how many hours I put in at the office. I would try and fill my time to keep myself busy. I have moved toward a goal focus. I set goals for what I want to accomplish each day, week, month and year. I work as long as it takes to accomplish the goals I have set for myself. It is interesting that I’m actually getting more done and in less time.
- I have started observing a sabbath. My sabbath isn’t exactly Sunday, nor my day off (which is Monday). Sunday morning is the most exhausting part of my week. There are things that I want to get done on my day off as well. So I observe sabbath from Sunday noon to Monday noon. I take time off online activities, household chores and so on. It has been a very positive experience.
- I read devotionally. I read between two and four books a week. Much of my reading is for gaining knowledge, but I also read to feed myself spiritually. In addition to reading from the Bible each morning and night, I also read a couple of pages from Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. I know that isn’t devotional for many, but I enjoy it. When I arrive at the office, I read a couple of pages from the Church Fathers and from another devotional-type book. I can’t feed my congregation if I’m not feeding myself.
- I see a pastoral counsellor. I once thought that a person had to be really messed up to see a counsellor. That’s why I only went to see them in a crisis. But coming back to pastoral ministry after three years away, I wanted to do it right. I started seeing a counsellor to keep me healthy rather than to cure illness. Just having a skilled listener to unload ministry and personal issues has been very positive.
- I try to exercise regularly. I have some health issues, mainly sarcoidosis. I need to exercise regularly to keep it from getting worse. Even if I wasn’t sick, I find that exercising regularly helps me physically and emotionally. My main activity is walking. I love going for walks with my dog, listening to podcasts. This not only exercises my body, it also exercises my mind.
- I have taken up a hobby. A number of years ago, someone challenged me to take up a hobby that wasn’t related to what I do for work. It took me years to find something but I eventually rediscovered building model airplanes (WW2 era). It is something for me and it really helps me to relax.
I have no intention of being a pastor who burns out. These are the things that I do to keep my ministry healthy. What do you do?