Over at LeaderWorks, we’ve been talking about awkward questions for church leaders. Many of them are about money (no surprise there!). Who should be able to see the giving records? How to address the pastor’s compensation? What about retirement?
But as I rolled out this series, I heard from a friend with another awkward question. Here’s his comment:
I really enjoy your articles and the work you are doing with LeaderWorks. I think the information that you provide is really insightful and helpful. I have a suggestion for you for a possible subject or topic for clergy that perhaps you would think about. As I travel around the Province, one of my observations is the growing number of seemingly overweight and unhealthy clergy. I have actually been worried about this for some time. I know how hard these folks work and how little time they have for themselves. However, I think they need to be made aware of the importance of the physical component of their work which I believe correlates to their spiritual well-being. Sometimes it comes down to the simple analogy of the flight attendant telling the passengers to put on their oxygen mask first before helping others.
This isn’t about judgement. It’s about putting our finger to the (rising) pulse of a problem. This isn’t just a problem for Anglican pastors, either, as this excellent testimonial from Christianity Today makes plain.
The Bible is clear about how we ought to care for our bodies; pastors aren’t excused. We bear the image of God, and we were fearfully and wonderfully made. The ‘sacrifice’ of ministry is no excuse to neglect the stewardship of our physical selves. In fact, doing so leads us into a dangerous gnosticism, living out in our habits the heresy that our ‘spiritual’ selves are purer or nobler than our ‘lowly’ bodies.
All of us fall into bad habits, especially under the pressures of full time ministry. When we do, we usually need someone we love and trust to guide us back to health. And, given the nature of the vocation, sometimes that conversation will come from your church’s leadership—a fellow staff member, a senior warden, Vestry member, or other leader. That’s an awkward conversation, but (from my experience) that’s where grace flourishes.
Take some time this week to read the eight ways for church leadership to help pastors get and stay healthy.