“I was so busy I forgot to eat lunch.”
“I want to take better care of myself, but I feel guilty when I do.”
“I don’t know anyone outside my church, and I don’t know where to look for friends who won’t censor themselves because I’m a minister.”
Can you relate to any of these statements? Many ministers seek coaching because they realize their work pace is unsustainable and their support networks need beefing up. It’s no wonder that self-care is a common theme in clergy coaching. Ministers are under pressure (from themselves as well as from others) to be available to church members constantly . . . while also preparing for programs or sermons, envisioning fresh ways to attract and engage newcomers, and representing the congregation to the community. Health, family, and personal time often take a backseat.
Coaching provides a safe space for the person being coached to vent frustrations about unrealistic expectations. From there we explore which roles really do belong to the coachee and which ones can be delegated. We talk through strategies for performing the claimed roles more efficiently and effectively, and I encourage the coachee to identify whom they will contact and when about the pieces to be delegated. We delve into what self-care itself looks like for the person being coached based on her personality type, family situation, and interests. I ask the coachee to name how she will hold herself accountable to her new plan. And then we celebrate (!) when she takes her days off, schedules coffee with a friend, or says no to a task she doesn’t need to own. If guilt at taking time for self-care persists, I challenge the coachee to point out how her health and well-being benefit others – her church, her family, her friends.
I’ve found that people (including me!) are more consistent about self-care when they are affirmed in their need for it, create a strategy for attending to it, have a place to share their joy that they are prioritizing it, and can reflect on how it contributes to their wholeness as pastors and people. If you could benefit from conversation around self-care, I’d love to talk with you.