Why Self-Care Is Essential for Good Leadership

If you take good care of yourself, you'll take good care of the people who depend on you. (Photo by John Fornander on Unsplash)

If you are in crisis, please call 800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org. You are not alone.

Did you know that an estimated 300 to 400 doctors will kill themselves this year?

One doctor commits suicide in the U.S. every day. This is a rate of 28 to 40 per 100,000, which is more than double that of the general population.

This is the highest suicide rate of any profession.

Doctors who commit suicide often have untreated or undertreated depression or other mental illnesses. They are so busy helping other people get well, that they don't have time to help themselves get better.

This trend can also be seen in ministry. Pastors and other church leaders get so busy helping others that they neglect to care for themselves. And the result can be devastating.

Several friends I went to college with have fallen into the deep, dark grasp of depression/anxiety and have ended their lives. Over the years, there have been several times when I have also fallen into the depths of depression and have wondered if I would ever get better.

Thankfully, I made it out alive.

And one good thing about my depression is that I have been able to help others stay out of its grasp.

The first time I slid down into the depths of depression was nobody's fault but my own. I simply didn't lead myself well. I worked way too many hours. I didn't go on vacation. I carried the ministry instead of sharing the ministry. I had no margin in my life. And eventually it caught up with me. I slipped into clinical depression. Thankfully, by the grace of God and a doctor who helped me find out what my problem was, I was able to recover.

I am now much more diligent to guard my schedule, be aware of when I am getting extremely tired and adjust so I can maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Self-care is good leadership because without it, you will crash, burn and forfeit your ability to lead.

Some who are reading this right now are exhausted. You have given and given and given, but haven't had or made the time to get into Jesus' presence and Word to re-fill your spirit. You are in a dangerous spot.

Self-care is the starting point for leading a healthy, balanced life in ministry. And it is biblical. Check out this verse where Paul is talking to a young man in ministry:

"Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Tim. 4:16, ESV).

Notice how Paul said to first watch how you live. Why? Because you are sharing the gospel with kids and families. As you live out the gospel in a healthy manner, you will model for kids (especially your own kids) how to balance ministry and life.

Here are a few lessons I learned the hard way when I went through major depression:

Have margin in your life. Make sure as you lead others, you leave margin in your life that will enable you to lead your own family first and foremost.

A practical way to do this is to put it on your calendar. Then when people ask about seeing you or having you do ministry work for them, you can say you already have an appointment during that time. The appointment is your family or time for yourself.

Realize that you can't effectively care for others if you're not first caring for yourself. Look back at 1 Timothy 4:16. It says to first care for yourself. And then out of that will flow healthy ministry to others.

Understand that you can't save the world. That job has already been taken. You are simply a messenger sharing the Good News.

Learn to say "no." As I mentioned earlier, put down time on your calendar to care for yourself and your family. That way, when someone asks for that time, you can share that you already have an appointment.

Jesus didn't heal everyone. He often slipped away from the crowds to spend time with His Father. Most in ministry are people-pleasers. We are wired to say "yes" any time there is a ministry need. Follow the example of Jesus and learn to say no at times.

Recognize when you are getting tired and make adjustments. Be self-aware. Know the warning signs that are pointing you toward burn-out. Know when you need to pull back and take some extra time off.

Have two to three people who speak into your life. People who know you. People who can see when you are getting tired. People you've given permission to call you out when you become unbalanced.

Pace yourself so you can finish strong. My prayer is that you will be able to say what Paul said at the end of his ministry:

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, and I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7, MEV).

Are you struggling?

Have you been so busy leading and helping others that you haven't adequately led yourself well?

Do you feel like quitting and walking away from the ministry where God has placed you?

Do you see in your life some of the things I mentioned?

Get some help. Reach out to someone you trust. Talk with someone who will be honest with you about where you are at. You don't have to go at this alone.

Be the leader God has called you to be and start with the person He has called you to make a top priority—yourself.

Self-care is good leadership.

If you need more help or tips on self-care, be sure to get my new book Lead Well. It will give you the tools you need to care for yourself well.

Dale Hudson is a ministry builder. As a children's pastor, he has helped build some of the largest and fastest-growing children's ministries in the country. At Cross Church, he led the children's ministry to double in size. At Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, he helped the church grow from 8,000 to 16,000 in four years with the majority of the growth coming from reaching unchurched families.

For the original article, visit relevantchildrensministry.com.

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