Do We Take Care of Ourselves Just to Be Effective?

I spent quite a bit of time last week talking about clergy self-care with my colleagues at the American Baptist Churches Ministers Council Senate meeting in Green Lake, Wisconsin. One of the issues that came up is whether we pray and take care of self solely for the purpose of being better ministers.

Anne Dilenschneider wrote an outstanding piece in the Huffington Post a couple of weeks ago, Soul Care and the Roots of Clergy Burnout. She says, “The witness of spiritual directors over the centuries is that the leader’s need to ‘make a difference’ — the need to find personal significance through effectiveness — must be set aside in order to be ‘made different’ — the deeper need to discover one’s renewed identity through relationship with God.”

I think being effective leaders is critical. It’s a big part of the work I do with clergy. But it’s not the most important thing. Our own relationship with God and our experience of God’s love apart from what we produce is far more important.

What do you think?

2 replies on “Do We Take Care of Ourselves Just to Be Effective?

  • Margaret Marcuson

    Marcy, thanks for this thoughtful comment. Your last point, about our fear of losing the affection of our congregation if we do what God is truly calling us to do, is a very important one.

  • Marcy H. Nicholas

    I am reading your book, Leaders Who Last, with three other clergy woman. And on that day that we met, you posted this to your blog, and I shared this with the other clergy. And we had to really ask ourselves: Do we prayer–in order to be more effective, to keep us going, so we can do the work of ministry or do we prayer–to deepen our relationship with God, Jesus, Holy Spirit? Do Christians in general attend worship so they can “get through” the week or do they worship, so they can give worth to God, to focus on God only not on their well being for at least an hour? This idea of soul care to make a difference or soul care to be made different has been a real epiphany, sending me further on a path that I have been traveling since my new appointment. Think about it: Do we do what we do in ministry to please the congregation and do we keep pleasing the congregation or do we have the courage to say, “You know my ministry is not really about you or me. It’s about what God wants of me in this time and place.” (Of course, I’m being extreme here to make a point, for God wants us to be in relationship with others and care for others. But the question is what kind of care?) We get anxious because we might lose the affection of our congregation when we focus more on what God is calling us to do, so we fall into the trap of the quick fix, make people happy so they don’t get mad at us and we’ll deal with God later.


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