Health and growth for the pastoral leader must be intentional; the reality is that health and growth will not happen haphazardly in the life of the pastoral leader. Through some recent events in my life this has become more and more evident. Some main topics that have become clearer to me to aid in personal health are:
In order to be healthy, maintain personal health, or become healthy, you must be intentional. Much of this comes down to expectations and where those expectations stem from: Are they people-driven or God-driven expectations? Many pastoral leaders fall into the trap of, “If I don’t do this, it won’t get accomplished.” Who’s driving your expectations right now? Is it God or someone else?
What we think about dramatically impacts what is important to us. The Christian leader must make a conscious effort to praise Jesus and keep his/her life focused on Christ. A helpful tool to keep you focused on Christ is to use Lectio Divina on a daily basis. This practice of meditation on scripture will help keep the thoughts in line with scripture. Another idea is to carve out time in your schedule to communicate and listen to God; hearing God’s voice minimizes the impact of the world. Perception is huge; never underestimate perception (Philippians 4:8)!
Communication is the key to our relationships. The communication theory states that: Most conflict in communication will result in the packaging of the communication, and not the content. Ninety percent of what people hear will be the packaging of the communication, and many times the content in the communication will be lost due to inappropriate packaging. When communicating, ask good, open-ended, questions that will allow the person to share what is going on. Three categories that are helpful to use are: (1) Thoughts, (2) Feelings and (3) Behavior questions. These categories aid in understanding the situation and the person and multiple levels. Communication is a huge part of the pastoral leadership role and therefore this practice is vital to success and personal health (Ephesians 4:29).
The marriage relationship has the ability to help you in your calling or bring great hindrance. A main factor in marriage is trust; trust builds a healthy foundation for the marriage and other aspects of the relationship will be built on trust. The pastoral leader needs to look at the marriage relationship as a covenant within the biblical concepts. Take time to remember that love in the marriage is never conditional, and the focus should not be on self. When the focus of the marriage relationship is on Christ and serving the spouse, marriage will be an enjoyable bond. Something to ask yourself is: “Am I spending more time with the church or with my family?”
It may seem peculiar to have a piece about conflict resolution in a post on personal health, but in reality conflict is all around us. Many pastors, over time, have come to disregard conflict for a lack of personal health. Conflict resolution encourages reconciliation in relationships and reconciliation is necessary where hurt, pain, or damage has been done (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). First you must address conflict issues within your own life—conflict with family, siblings, their relational world, or possibly the work place. After self-conflict has been managed, then a path will be made where it’s possible to obtain conflict resolution within wronged relationships (Matthew 18). It’s important to remember that avoiding conflict will not make it go away. If you have a broken leg, it will not heal itself by only taking Advil. It’s amazing how addressing conflict helps you in life.
This isn’t an all-inclusive list of the many areas that can create a foundation in your life. You need to figure out what will sustain a healthy lifestyle; the key is to create a sustainable life that will not burn out. The benefits of focusing on these areas, combined with the personal health and understanding of the entire person, becomes clearer and more straightforward for you. It’s essential to remember that none of this is possible without intimacy, and a personal relationship with, God. If your relationship with God is non-existent, or dying, that relationship must be the primary concern.