What clergy health looks like

Healthy churches are much more likely to have healthy ministers. There’s a chicken-or-egg question involved, but the influence likely goes both ways. Here, then, are some thoughts on what clergy health looks like.

Taking care of self:

  • Tends to own discipleship/relationship with God. A spiritual leader must continue to be formed by and connected to God.
  • Knows when to call it a day/week. There is always more ministry to be done.
  • Takes all vacation/professional development time. Those who can’t go on vacations take staycations. Those who can’t attend conferences plan their own reading or planning weeks.
  • Attends to physical and mental health. Sometimes being healthy means tending to literal health by getting regular checkups, seeing a counselor as needed, and taking the advice (and the medicine!) prescribed by healthcare professionals.
  • Asks for personal and professional help as needed. Requesting help is a sign of self-awareness and strength, not shortcoming.
  • Asks for what he/she needs materially to be able to focus on ministry. Just wages offer freedom from the resentment and financial panic that distract from ministry.
  • Has a peer support network. Isolation in ministry is the shortest path to burnout.
  • Has a pastor. Many ministers who worry about gossip and politics look outside their denominations for a pastor.
  • Has a life outside of church. All work and no play make for a tired, frustrated, dull minister. Make a friend. Find a hobby. Become a regular somewhere.
  • Protects his/her family from the fishbowl effect. A less anxious family makes for a happier home.

Leading well: 

  • Continues to feel called. Ministry isn’t just a job and a paycheck.
  • Enjoys the challenge of ministry, even though not all ministry situations are pleasant. It’s a great feeling when gifts are being well-utilized.
  • Doesn’t own issues/initiatives that shouldn’t belong to him/her. The triangle is my least favorite shape.
  • Addresses conflict in a timely fashion. Conflict that isn’t addressed festers and then explodes.
  • Sees the pastoral needs behind conflict. When people are behaving badly, they are usually acting out of their hurt.
  • Identifies the line between being someone’s pastor and being someone’s friend. It’s very hard – if not impossible – to be both.
  • Is transparent. Vulnerability breeds trust.
  • Knows and owns strengths and weaknesses. Weaknesses can’t always be shored up, but strengths can always be built upon.
  • Keeps learning and growing. The church is evolving, and so must her ministers.
  • Is able to see when good ministry has been done. Even at the end of a hard or seemingly unproductive stretch, it’s helpful to reflect on where God was at work.
  • Mentors, supports, and thanks leaders. Ministry is not done in a vacuum.
  • Acknowledges when it’s time to move on. An appropriate level of challenge breeds effectiveness.

What would you add or remove from this list? What specific commitments do you need to make to your own health?

Creative Commons image “Resting” by Erich Ferdinand is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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