Don’t do it alone

This is part two  on the topic of social self-care as a pastor. Here are some ideas for connecting with other pastors in the community:        
1. Make use of and promote Board of Pensions and denominational resources for clergy wellness.
2. Make available clergy and educator support groups and clergy spouse support groups.
3. Contract with local resources to provide confidential therapy services for clergy, educators, and their families.
4. Encourage ―Facebook or other online support/interest groups.
5. Write boundary expectations into calls and covenants for clergy and educators whereby the congregation agrees that their spending time with spouse and family is expected, days off are protected, and participation in the activities and leadership within the local community is encouraged.
6. Either in the church‘s call or the presbytery‘s budget have funds available for clergy/educators recreational activities or hobbies.
7. Form a pastoral care team and/or have a designated pastor-to-pastors and chaplain for spouse of clergy or educator.
8. Be creative in sponsoring clergy and educator retreats and outings (cruises, fishing contests, golf matches, tickets to concerts and civic events, tours or trips).
9. Arrange for corporate contract membership fees for the YMCA, YWCA, or a health club within the bounds of presbytery.
10. Sponsor health fairs and wellness contests for clergy/educators and their families.
11. Form a mentor-colleague program with means for accountability to make sure  contacts are being made. (Don‘t forget retired pastors and ministers serving in a setting other than the local congregation.)
12. Develop a ―First Call‖ program for new clergy retention and wellness.
13. Sponsor annual clergy, clergy/spouse, and educators retreats.
14. Consider sponsoring quarterly district luncheons.
15. Acknowledge clergy/educators‘ anniversaries, birthdays, ordination dates, etc.
16. Sponsor continuing educational workshops and courses for clergy/educators that have nothing to do with congregational ministry (beginner‘s golf or tennis lessons, foreign language series, ―how to‖ water ski, fish, snow ski, bowl, sail, or bird watch – use your imagination!)
17. Make sure spiritual resources are available and their use encouraged by clergy/educators and their spouses.
18. Sponsor movie/theater/concert groups.


Most pastors understand their call to ministry as extending beyond just the activities of their local congregation. In a parallel fashion to having responded to an inner-sense that moved them to enter the ministry, so they develop an interest in some particular aspect of their call that extends beyond their particular congregation. It may be an ecumenical or even inter-faith ministry in the community, a national issue about which they feel passionate, or an activity in their denomination‘s work.
In support of the vocation of pastors, what if the presbytery occasionally lifted up and celebrated these many trans-congregational ministries of their pastors? A first step in support would be simply to have conversations with the pastors about a particular area of ministry in which they feel most passionate. Even the opportunity to name that for someone else and share what they are doing in that area would feel good.
A second step would be to provide a venue by which that area of ministry might be celebrated. That might begin by collectively celebrating the many areas of ministry in which people are engaged. You might say at a public gathering, ―In our conversations we have learned that the clergy of our denomination, in addition to their work in their congregations, are engaged in the following areas of ministry. And then have the body participate in a litany that named and thanked God for having called pastors to participate in these areas of ministry. If the numbers were not too great, it would be good to name the pastors even as you identified the areas. For example, ―John Smith, Ellen Jones, etc have devoted their gifts in a ministry to feed the hungry.‖ To which the body would respond, ―We thank God for their efforts on behalf of the least of these, our brothers and sisters.‖ Then proceed to the next area of ministry to be identified. If it was a large presbytery, you might want to break the recognition down into geographical areas and celebrate one area at each meeting (See the adaption of Psalm 111 Litany of Celebration).

A third step would be to invite a group of clergy with a similar focus to develop a short presentation to the body about their work. Simply drawing them together to talk about their similar efforts would have its own value. The public presentation might stimulate others who might be interested in that area as well. All of this would be a presbytery‘s way of nurturing the larger sense of call among their clergy.

Napping on the Job

This week’s link encourage the use of naps in your life:

5 Reasons Why You Should Take a Nap Every Day by Michael Hyatt

‘Nap rooms’ encourage sleeping on the job to boost productivity by Today.com

Think even smaller small group

I have been reading a book by Michael Mack entitled The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership. In this book Mack offers a lot of great insight on how to do ministry in small groups. He sympathizes for the small group lay leader who has 13-20 people in his group yet he alone is responsible for planning the group, calling and praying for his members, preparing the materials and food, hosting at his house, teaching and facilitating the group and all of the other administration tasks associated with this ministry. Not only does Michael suggest to expand the the leadership team to help delegate tasks and share responsibility for each small group, Mack goes further and suggests that each leader should really focus in on only two to four others.

Mack is not the first or only ministry leader to think of this idea. Robert Coleman in his books The Master Plan for Evangelism and The Master Plan for Discipleship, noticed that Jesus “made disciples” of only twelve disciples. Sure there were hundreds of causal followers but Jesus spent the majority of his time with  twelve. Looking even deeper in the Scriptures, Coleman shows that Jesus even focused more on three in particular. Mack agrees. Imagine if in each small group of 15-20 people, there was a leader (or shepherd) for every three or four people?

Imagine sharing life with a respected elder or someone even slightly further along the journey then you…Imagine having weekly time with a few other close friends who also love Jesus. Not only would you be able to dig deeper into the Word together, get personal attention to life’s struggles and questions, intimate prayer, but also serve God together and evangelize together! That is an amazing picture of ministry and small groups!

It reminds me of my days in Campus Crusade for Christ (or Cru) at Ohio University. This ministry is built on Coleman’s ideas. There is a weekly large group meeting for worship and teaching but the majority of the ministry is in smaller group ministry teams and Bible Studies through-out campus. Even more, as a Bible Study leader and leader on some other teams, I had the opportunity to do some one-on-one training/mentoring, we called it “discipleship.” I loved it. I meet with an older student who was discipling me. Then I also meet two younger students individually and discipled them. It is interesting now to think about it, but part of what I was doing as I discipled these young men was spiritual formation life coaching, which is something I still do today. In fact, I’ve made a career out of counseling and coaching.  

Don’t be a lone ranger

As a pastor, it is easy to go it alone. It is not uncommon for pastors to feel lonely and not have any true friends. This pattern needs to end. God created you to be social creature. Yes you have a calling to be a pastor. Yes, you are called to high things, but you are also called to do this life together with friends. You are not made to be alone in this journey.

 Pulpit & Pew’s 2001 national clergy survey asked pastors how often in the past year they had felt “lonely and isolated in their work.” About 17 percent said “very often” or “fairly often” and another 51 percent said “once in a while.” Only 32 percent said they had never felt lonely or isolated.

Loneliness and isolation were the single greatest predictor of overall job dissatisfaction. Generally, those who had the highest levels of loneliness were the most likely to be dissatisfied in their ministry, while those who reported little or no loneliness had the highest levels of job satisfaction.
Another Pulpit & Pew study also found a strong link between loneliness and clergy dropout. In that study, researchers interviewed ex-Catholic priests who had left the priesthood within five years of ordination. They found that isolation and a lack of close friendships were one of the most important reasons the former priests cited for quitting the ministry, second only to celibacy.
 Here are some ideas to get you started in finding some social care in your life:
1. Don‘t burn your former bridges. Keep close phone and/or Internet contact with best friends or close family members.
2. Seek new friendships in social and community settings that fall outside of the boundaries of your local congregation. You will not develop outside of church friendships without actively placing yourself in social situations where friendships may develop.
3. Form cordial and friendly relationships with church members but be judicious about divulging too much personal information. Other church members get jealous of the clergy and spouse‘s ―in church relationships. Also, many a clergy family has felt betrayed by a close friend when church conflicts surface.
4. Seek other clergy (along with clergy spouses) for support and fellowship.
5. Make it a priority to have some personal, outside of church interests, hobbies, sports, or goals. Pursue your passions!
6. Therapy is good for the soul. Don‘t neglect your emotional self, especially if you are in pain.
7. Become part of a clergy (or clergy spouse) support group, lectionary study group, spiritual formation group, book club, etc.
8. If single, date outside of your church‘s membership.
9. If married or in a relationship with a significant other, have a set weekly ―date night.
10. Take all of your vacation time and study leave and make sure it‘s away from your local community.
11. Your calendar is your friend. Schedule your recreation as you would your church committees. Take your weekly days off. On those days,―Thou shalt do no church work! (Eleventh Commandment)
12. If married, make a list of future goals and activities that you would like to experience together (e.g. hiking in the Andes, skydiving, kayaking the Amazon, picnicking in a secluded meadow, bird watching, gardening, etc.).
13. Seek out someone to be your pastor and/or spiritual director. What other creative suggestions can you add? Share these strategies with other pastors and spouses. Be willing to contact your presbytery committee on ministry if problems arise. 


 This is part one, I will post part two next week.
                 

Testimonial Monday

I was struggling with time management, stress and achieving major life goals. Alex helped me by teaching me tools and applications on how to deal with stress, now as a result I have been able to focus on priorities, what’s really important and how to deal with stress!
As an extremely busy person I especially love the fact That we don’t have to talk or hang out everyday but when we do get together we can pick up right where we left off.

-Nate T., Central Ohio

Family, make it a priority

Whether you are a family of two adults, have children, or even if you are single and relate to a family from a distance, it is important that you evaluate the enjoyment level  in your relationships. While spontaneous fun is a wonderful experience of grace, most of us need to be intentional about making space for experiences of fun. Having fun with others socially  is a healthy medicine!
A healthy exercise for any family configuration would be to set aside some time to brainstorm together a variety of fun experiences in which you might participate together as a family in the near future. Be creative even in this brainstorming experience. Depending on your family, you might want to order a pizza, pop some popcorn, or go to an ice cream parlor and order some sundaes as the setting for this family idea generating experience.

Setting up your family calendar is the next step. It is easy for the creativity and excitement of the brainstorming to fall into the background if you don‘t identify at least a couple of dates that you can set aside to begin to experience those fun ideas you just shared. If you have mature enough children, it might be helpful to give them to an important role or responsibility in pulling off the experience. Even if it is not a significant task, in your eyes, it will make them feel even more a part of the process! For example, if you are planning a game night with the family, maybe allow the children to be the ones that got to organize the games and plan the evening. If you are going to a movie, allow the children to choose the movie. Set the date in stone. Stepping outside the seriousness of our lives and  sharing in laughter and pleasure can be a good glue for family bonds.
Often times hard working individuals, because their work, draw out their “other-directed” and serious-side and they forget how to play. Remembering how to play is an important trait to develop and it is a good witness to your spouse and family. Couples, whether they have children or not, need to be intentional about finding couple time when they can play together.When your life is very demanding and the children need a lot of attention, it is easy to neglect the time for other priorities, like work. Sometimes we can even hide behind our busyness and avoid dealing with issue that if faced immediately can be easily resolved. In addition, even if everything is going along well, couples need to have some fun and some private time together on a regular basis.I recommend that couples have a regularly scheduled date night.

You might get season tickets to a theater, sports event, or concert series. If you know it is on your calendar and you have paid for it, there is a better chance that you will set aside the time. Sharing a meal away from family and obligations can be an important time to focus on each other. Of course nice restaurants can be special but picnics or grabbing a Subway sandwich can be an less expensive and often just as fun. You could add to the spice of the event by deciding that at different times one of you would plan the evening for the other and make it a surprise.
We talked a lot about the importance of family time today, but now it is time to execute a plan. In today’s exercises, you formulated some ideas for family fun time, now within two weeks, you should not only commit to an action, but actually DO it. Make your family important, spend quality time with them and let them know how you love them. Make it a priority. (Accountability to the established goals).