As ministry leaders, we have the unique opportunity to nurture the holistic health of those we lead. Yet, at the same time, we can exhaust ourselves fighting for the health of those around us and leave ourselves on the edge of burnout. As a result, we find ourselves in situations where:
- We can become emotionally incapacitated because of the sheer amount of pain and suffering we are exposed to regularly.
- Because of the eternal implications of our work, we can justify workaholism, minimal sleep, a lack of self-care, and a schedule that limits our ability to invest in our families.
- In order to project an ideal image of ourselves to those we lead (and those that lead us), we fail to work out the hurts, habits, and hang-ups in our lives.
- Because much of our work revolves around spiritual disciplines, we can neglect prayer, studying scripture, and worship in our own lives.
With all that in mind, let’s ask the question–How’s your soul? For many of us, we can recognize that something may be off, but we’re unsure of how to identify what’s holding us back. Below are five questions we can ask ourselves to assess the condition of our souls.
How well are you known?
Whether we have a platform and influence that reaches 5 or 5,000 people, we each have plenty of people that know who we are. However, being known by many people will only amplify the pressure and tension we already face as leaders. What if, instead of striving to expand our platform, we invested more energy to ensure we are truly known? Along with sharing our personal and professional achievements, it is vital for our long-term health that we have people in our lives to which we can be authentic. How many people would you say know the “real” you?
When was the last time you laughed?
Though it might seem trivial, laughter is one of the best ways to boost your mental and physical health. Laughter releases endorphins, strengthens the heart and lung muscles, and rapidly increases our oxygen intake levels. Professionally, laughing together can help foster community in the teams we lead, and being comfortable with people laughing at us is indicative that we’re not operating out of insecurity. Though our work is serious, Jesus was clear that He came to allow us to enjoy life with abundance (John 10:10). Seasons of stress, anxiety, and depression will significantly diminish our desire and ability to laugh and enjoy the little moments around us.
When was the last time you felt fully rested?
Ever since Loverboy gave us the 80s pop anthem, it has been easy to live in the reality that we’re all “Working for the Weekend.” Here’s the challenge–so many of us operate at such an unsustainable pace and pressure that, by the time our days off roll around, we have nothing left in our tanks to enjoy them. Instead of working to rest, we need to embrace the philosophy that we must work from a place of rest. By giving ourselves routine soul-filling opportunities to recharge, we will have even more of ourselves to invest in the organizations and people we love the most. Rest truly might be as simple as letting yourself take a nap without self-shaming. Rest might be spending time in nature or spending quality time with your family away from screens. Rest might even be active–like working out or cooking for friends. For others, it may be essential to schedule intense times away from the pressures of leadership, emails, and our phones–to be filled up so that we have more to offer when we return to reality.
When was the last time you were really off work?
Similar to the last question, it is natural for leaders to struggle to unplug–but that doesn’t make it okay. An inability to take time off can reveal a number of things, from a lack of trust in the teams we lead to, even deeper, a fear of having to confront who we are apart from our work. Regardless of social norms and expectations, it is not imperative that you are accessible at all times. What are some practical steps to protect your time away from work, both on vacation and when you return home each evening?
When was the last time you experienced Jesus personally?
For ministry leaders, the totality of our work centers around helping people find hope and freedom in Jesus. We schedule weekly programming, write compelling messages, plan events, and invest in marketing, among countless other things. In doing so, it can become challenging to be in a worship setting without constantly evaluating, and spending time in God’s Word can be reduced to sermon preparation. Our personal prayer life might pale compared to how we pray over others. It’s one thing to share all the compelling reasons why people should follow Jesus, but it’s another for a leader to invite others to follow them as they follow Jesus. What is one step you can take to nurture your relationship with Jesus more deeply?