Self-Care SignCaring for any group of people can be mentally, spiritually and physically taxing. Many church leaders, however, tend to deny themselves the care they need. This is a mistake. You cannot be an effective help to others if you do not protect yourself against the normal stresses of spiritual leadership. Self-care is not a selfish pursuit but rather a necessity for doing the best work you can in your faith community.

Physical Health

One of the first signs that you are overextending yourself without proper relief is physical illness or fatigue. Even if the labor you are doing is mostly emotional or spiritual, it can take a drastic toll on the body. Maintaining your physical health starts with building good habits:

  • Adequate sleep
  • Nutritious diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Medical checkups

When you don't take care of your body, every other aspect of your life is bound to suffer. This includes your ministry. Maintaining good physical health and taking the time to heal if you do get sick allows you to be a better leader for your congregation. In this way, self-care is a ministry itself.


Everyone needs to take regular breaks. You cannot work every waking hour of the day and expect to thrive all the time. Finding downtime is easier for some people than others. If you find it difficult, you may have to actually schedule it in. Block out periods on your daily calendar that are just for you and your family. Treat your time away from work like your most important meeting until it becomes a natural habit.

Many preachers will express the importance of a weekly sabbath day from the pulpit but neglect to observe one themselves. If this describes your experience, it shouldn't surprise you when members of your church report that they feel overworked or exhibit signs of burnout. Such a situation is an opportunity for you to lead by example. Since the days you hold worship services are likely to be your busiest days at work, choose another day during the week and make sure your whole faith community knows that this is the day you take for rest. It is also important that you take at least one sabbatical or vacation a year. Time away from your work to relax is essential to leading authentically.

Social Support

One of the reasons you sought a career in ministry is probably so that you can offer people the support they need to live abundant and spiritually fruitful lives. You need social support just as much as the members of your church do. It's a good idea to have a spiritual adviser who is not a member of your congregation. He or she may not even be a member of your denomination, and that's ok, too. You don't have to agree on the details of your religious convictions in order to benefit from his or her counsel.

You may also consider joining a local pastors' group. It is likely that such a group already exists in your city. If not, it should be fairly easy to form. Contact several spiritual leaders in your community and invite them to meet together on a weekly or monthly basis to offer support and share resources. Having a safe space to share your concerns and get feedback on issues you are all facing can be mutually beneficial.

Ministry demands a lot of your emotional labor and time. If you are not careful, you can find yourself overindulging in unhealthy foods, becoming sedentary, working through breaks, staying late at the office to catch up on paperwork or isolating from others. Your life doesn't have to be that way, though. It is not only in your best interest to take care of yourself but also in the interest of the people you serve.

Category: Aid Health and Wellness

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