Pastor, how do you stay strong for the long haul? These personal practices for pastors will help you thrive for a lifetime of ministry.
Of all the factors that go into the making of a healthy church, the pastor's personal health, growth and well-being are at the top. Healthy churches have healthy pastors, and growing churches have growing pastors. There's a one-for-one correlation.
So, pastor, how can you "run with endurance the race that is set before [you]"? (Heb. 12:1b). Forty years of experience have shown me nine habits I must maintain in my personal life if I'm going to keep growing and remain healthy:
1. Walk with God. Your personal relationship with God is the most important resource you bring to your ministry.
Whenever a member of my church asks, "Pastor, how can I pray for you?" I always answer, "Pray that I walk with God and hear His voice."
This one practice is so important, it may trump all the others, combined.
In spite of His divinity, Jesus knew this was so important, He practiced it Himself.
Mark 1 records a day when Jesus expended incredible energy in ministry. After preaching the sermon at the first synagogue of Capernaum, casting a demon out of a parishioner, healing the hostess of His luncheon and laboring from sundown till midnight healing and casting out more demons, Mark 1:35 says that instead of sleeping in, Jesus sought time with the Father.
" In the morning, rising up a great while before sunrise, He went out and departed to a solitary place. And there He prayed" (Mark 1:35). Jesus believed that close connection to the Father was more important than bodily rest.
Walking with God, knowing Him well, hearing His voice and gaining His perspective on things are so important they ought to be in your job description. Schedule time with Him every day. Embed it in your calendar, so only the greatest emergency can keep you from it daily.
2. Nurture your family. Your family is your first ministry. The most important person for you to love and care for in your church is your spouse (Eccl. 9:9). Second only to her are your children.
If I can paraphrase 1 Timothy 3:4, "If you lose your family, you lose your ministry."
One nice thing about the pastorate is that you can work anytime. Which also means, you can work all the time. But don't!
Use the flexibility of your schedule to be at as many games and performances of your children as possible.
And schedule special times with your family like you do with the Father. Book those times six weeks out so nothing gets in front of them. Put thought and effort into family time.
What would fill your wife's emotional tank? What speaks her love language?
What does your son need exposure to? Where can you help him?
What would delight your daughter? How can you teach her how a man should treat her?
What kind of vacation is age-appropriate for the whole family? What can you afford that will broaden their world, deepen their love for God, bond you together and build a lifelong memory?
Pastor, your ideal schedule is: mornings with God, afternoons with the church and evenings with the family. This won't be able to happen every day, but it's a great blueprint.
3. Develop a Few Healthy Friendships. As iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another.
Friends are different from church members. Friends are peers who don't have a horse in your race. Everyone needs two or three close friends. Hopefully, one of those close friends is your spouse, and the other two are members of your gender.
Cultivate a few friendships with other pastors. If you made a good friend in Bible college or seminary, hold onto that friend. Over the decades, it will prove worth the effort to stay in touch.
Your best match will be pastors of churches your same size, but not in the same city. Like all humans, pastors have a tendency to compare and compete.
Those who pastor churches of similar size will likely be experiencing problems similar to yours. Pastors who live an hour or more away from you won't be competing for the same congregants you are.
In times of need, you want a friend who does not have a horse in your race.
If you're a staff pastor, you'll be able to find friends in your congregation. For the senior pastor, finding a peer in your church who sharpens and inspires you is rare. It can happen, but at some point, it's likely that this friend will have an opinion about your performance or a personal need that requires your professional services. At that point, he or she will switch from being a friend to being your employer or customer.
4. Maintain Your Health. Your body is the only tool you have with which to do ministry. Keep it in shape!
Being in shape enables you to think better, work better, sleep better and feel better. Long before there were neighborhood fitness clubs, the apostle Paul recognized the crossover that comes from disciplining your body: "I beat my body," he says, "and make it my slave," so I won't be disqualified from the prize" (see 1 Cor. 9:27).
Saying no to excess food and yes to exercise builds your willpower. Willpower is a weak mechanism, but it can be strengthened by practice. Exercise yours!
For the rest of this article, visit pastormentor.com.
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