Pastoral ministry is hard work, and often stressful. We have the privilege and responsibility of accompanying people through their most vulnerable circumstances. Our parishioners have expectations of us, and look up to us for guidance and moral example. It is easy to succumb to the burdens of ministry, and to put ourselves last on the list of those who need care.
To be healthy and happy leaders, we need to be intentional about our own attitudes and self-care. I offer here ten things that pastors can do each day to have a better day. This is not a complete list, but just a few ideas I want to share with you.
- Start your day with happy thoughts. Research shows that for every negative emotion, we need three positive emotions to overcome an overall negative point of view. When you first wake up in the morning, think of someone or something that makes you happy, remember a joke or a funny occurrence. Say, “thank you” for a new day, and a good night’s sleep. Put a smile on your face first thing and it will go with you the rest of the day.
- Schedule time for exercise or play. Take a walk or hike. Play a game with your children. Go to the gym. Find some way to get your body moving for at least 10 minutes. Do this three times a day and you will have exercised for 30 minutes. This will make your body and your mind stronger, and make your feel better.
- Greet everyone you meet with a smile. Whether it is your family, a stranger on the street, a parishioner, or a co-worker, smile and say “hello.” Take at least one minute to talk with each person at work and at home. Let them know they are important to you, and you will be important to them.
- Listen more than you speak. In prayer, listen to God more than you talk to God. Listen to other people who are sharing themselves with you. Be intentional about giving them your undivided, undistracted attention.
- Listen to yourself. Be aware of how you are feeling emotionally and physically. Do you need a break from what you are doing? Are you thirsty or hungry? Are you able to focus on what you are doing or the person you are visiting? Being aware of your own emotional and physical needs helps you do what you need to take care of yourself, and be more in the moment.
- Eat well. Healthy meals and snacks make for a healthier, happier you. Make good choices about what you put into your body. When eating, be mindful of tastes, textures and smells, and avoid eating too fast. Really savor your food. You may find that you eat less and enjoy it more.
- Set healthy time boundaries. A 40-50 hour week is enough for any pastor. When you over-function or overwork, you set a poor example for your staff and parishioners. Hold dear your family and alone time. Keep Sabbath. When you go home, be home. Let go of the concerns of the workday, and be present with your family, God, and yourself.
- Let others own their own problems, and make their own choices. Be present for others, but you are not called to fix others or dole out unsolicited advice. Give it only when it is requested.
- Trust your staff and volunteers to do their tasks. Give encouragement, but don’t micromanage. Ministry is a communal affair. Even Jesus called people and equipped them to share in his ministry. He loved them even when they made mistakes, and he trusted them enough to send them out on their own. Micromanaging not only takes too much of your energy, it also disrespects the gifts and skills of others.
- End your day with gratitude. Just like you start your day with happy thoughts, finish your day by giving thanks to God for your life, your family, and your call. Name specific things and people from your day. Go to sleep with gratitude in your heart, and good thoughts on your mind.
What do you like to do to have a great day? Post your thoughts so that my readers and I might learn good habits from you.
If you want someone to help you have the life you want, contact me. I am committed to helping congregational leaders be the people God created them to be – whole, happy, and exceptional.