One of the most crucial jobs of a pastor is setting the tone for the ministry he/she will do alongside the congregation: how will we work together toward God’s vision for this church? Two aspects of this task are preparation and self-management.
A minister can prepare perfectly, but if she/he fails to manage her/his own anxiety, things can go off the rails quickly. Conversations take a negative turn, committees get mired in minutiae, and processes get abandoned. Here are a few thoughts, then, on self-management:
- Wring out your anxiety sponge on a regular basis. Make the calendar your friend by scheduling self-care appointments (for example, coffee with a friend or a massage). Celebrate affirmations and progress, however small. Find joy or humor somewhere…anywhere.
- Humanize the “other.” If you are running up against a particularly prickly personality or faction, pray for him/her/them. Say to that person’s directory photo, “you are a child of God.” (Cheesy? Yes. But a helpful exercise – sort of the reverse of putting someone’s face on a dartboard.) Engage difficult people rather than avoiding them, seeking to understand them and channel their passions productively.
- Create and lean on a network of partners. We all need commiseration partners, those folks who affirm that we are not crazy or wrong. Commiseration partners could be colleagues who receive venting and respond in a professional way as well as good friends and family members who only half-jokingly offer to punch that nemesis in the throat on your behalf. But there are also:
- Prayer partners – those who pray with and for us.
- Common goal partners within the congregation – laypeople who are allies in the ministry at hand.
- Staff, deacons, or other lay leaders who can be trusted implicitly – voices that can assess the situation from the inside and help with informed decisions.
- Reality check partners – anyone willing to say “I hear you, now what will you do about it?”
- Professional support – therapist, spiritual director, coach, etc.
Ministers who engage in solid preparation and good self-management model those practices for others, paving the way for mutual trust and respect and progress toward God’s mission fulfilled.