The year of 2020 was difficult for everyone across the world. Certainly, people experienced various obstacles in all different fashions. Some have encountered extreme financial strains, others have walked through medical trials, and everyone has faced a level of mental difficulty. The pressures of this year will be remembered by all that faced them. While no one has been exempt from this reality, those that work and serve through the local church have experienced the pandemic in a unique way. While trying to navigate politics, injustices, and a viral pandemic personally, church leaders have been tasked with leading others through these, as well.
This has been so difficult for many within the church, that many foresee a great exodus of church ministry leaders in the coming months. Through burnout or impossible odds, many will move into new callings. 2021 has taught the world many things, but two have been magnified personally. Humankind is created to be relational. There is a global groaning for community like never before. Secondly, the emphasis for mental or emotional health has never been more apparent in the 21st century. No matter if you are new to ministry or a veteran of decades with the local church, this post will walk through three steps to strengthen or establish a better emotional health.
TAKE AN HONEST SELF-ASSESSMENT
Take a look inward and determine your areas of needed growth, unchecked blind spots, or even strengths that have been neglected over time. Compare the last year with the previous year. What has changed? How is your personal faith or family life? A few years ago, engineer Destin Sandlin made the “Backwards Bike” famous. He took a fun tool that he’d used for 25+ years and decided to figure out how to ride it differently. This new “toy” stretched his mental abilities and reinforced a determination to learn. It is possible that within your self-assessment, you will do the same. Maybe the first part of your year will be focused on thinking new thoughts about a ministry you’ve been leading for 25+ weeks, months, or even years.
MAKE A PLAN
It is so important to create a personal devotion plan and time in prayer. I would state this is more important today than ever before, and I would say the same tomorrow. Having a plan for this is so essential to seeing success in your personal walk with the Lord. I would also encourage you to plan time in silence. Two to three minutes in silence a day could provide a direction for a lifetime.
Orfield Laboratories in Minneapolis houses studios that eliminate 99.99% of sound. In these rooms, one is left completely alone with his or her thoughts. Reports say it is so quiet that an individual can hear their heart beat and lungs expand. The noises, and lack thereof, are so abnormal that the longest anyone has lasted is 45 minutes inside of a room.
The point is, there will be moments in your ministry that you not only need to think new thoughts, but you also need to hear new directions from the Lord. Genuine listening is an act of submission. As a ministry leader, one cannot move forward until they know who to follow. Are they following the Lord or personal leanings? In order to achieve the ultimate calling of the Lord, schedule time in devotion, prayer and silence. It will be these moments that will provide clarity and health.
Identify a friend, co-worker, spouse, or even someone with your ministry network. Humanity is meant to empower one another within God-given purposes. God has called all followers to encourage each other and love one another, as communities worship Him. The Small Group Network provides many opportunities (SGN Huddles, Facebook group, Communities of Purpose, Conferences) for this to happen. On a personal level, this partnership largely saved my time in ministry. The encouragement and support received upon joining, gave me exactly what I needed for the season of ministry I was in. Find your person(s) that will celebrate with you and mourn with you. Find your encourager and idea-sparker. We are all truly, Better Together.