As we look to have a conversation around bi-vocational ministry, a good start is taking the time to look at four key areas in the life of the minister: God, Gal/Guy (marriage), Guts (personal health) and Grit (professional work). These are called “the four G’s of the minister,” a framework first introduced to me by Wes Barry, my church planting coach.
Today, we will start off by taking a closer look at the “Guts” of a bi-vocational minister: his or her personal health.
In the first post of this series, we briefly discussed the demands of ministry overall. When you begin to add in the extra demands of earning income outside of the church and care for your family, the amount of spinning plates we have to keep spinning seems to multiply everyday.
Among those spinning plates is the plate of the pastor’s personal life, their “guts.” The care of spiritual, physical, and mental well-being of the pastor is just as important, if not more important, of all the other spinning plates.
As I embarked on the journey of bivocational ministry, I did not spin this personal health plate very well. I quickly found myself in a place of loneliness. Church planting can often be a lonely place for planters, but the added stress of needing financial support was growing daily. While focusing on all of my spinning plates, I was letting my spiritual and physical health go by the wayside. I had reached a point in my health where I was the unhealthiest I have been in regards to physical activity and weight.
Depression and loneliness were not only affecting my personal life, but my marriage, my family, and my ministry. Something had to change.
My Turning Point: F3
In December 2014, as we began to set up for Sunday worship in the local coffee shop, I came across a flyer for a group called F3, a peer-led men’s workout group that focuses on Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith (for more information visit f3nation.com).
What attracted me was the free aspect. I showed up for the first workout in the area, along with 99 other men, on January 3, 2015 and haven’t looked back since.
I have lost 70 pounds, ran three half marathons, ran a 200-mile team relay race from Columbia to Charleston, completed other races and endurance events, and I am currently training for a triathlon sprint.
Not only have I turned my physical health around, but I have gained a support system of men that hold me accountable in all areas of my life and treat me like one of the guys, seeing past my identity as a pastor. I am no longer lonely or depressed.
Put simply, F3 was used by God to save my ministry and my marriage. I am fully convinced if I did not change my physical life, I would have walked away from church planting.
A Case for Health – The Guts of the Minister’s Life
The physical health of the bi-vocational pastor is of utmost importance. In fact, I’d argue that, outside of the relationship with God and our spouse, the most important thing we can focus on is our health, because it is a driving factor in everything else we do.
Taking time in the formation of our busy schedules (more on this coming soon), we must carve out time to take care of the bodies God has given us.
For me, that comes at 5:00 AM most days. Even on Sundays you will find me spending time with my F3 brothers at our local Starbucks as we run or ride our bikes and then spend time over coffee as the sun rises. This alone has shaped how I am on Sunday morning when I arrive for church.
On top of physical activity, comes what we put in our bodies. Our diets are just as important as our physical life. We as clergy spend countless hours thinking about how we fuel ourselves spiritually and theologically. Yet, we often fall short on focusing on how we fuel our bodies.
Think about it, if someone were to give you a choice between good gas or bad gas for your car, we would all choose the good gas. The same has to be true when we look at fueling ourselves, as it affects everything else we do in life and ministry.
We must spend time focusing on the “Guts” aspect of our life if we are going to make it through the stress and demands of bi-vocational ministry.
What About You?
I could go on at length about what health looks like for me these days. However, every person who reads this piece needs to prayerfully consider what a commitment to personal health would look like for them.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but here are just two suggestions: F3 and FIA.
If you are a guy and need some accountability in this area, head over to f3nation.com and see if they have made it to your city. If you are woman, you can head over to fianation.com to check out “Females In Action” and see what is offered near you as well.
What is important is you make a plan, get accountability, and get to work. For those who want to have further conversation, my Twitter link is in my bio. You can also reach out in the comments below!
Phillip Wilson is the lead pastor and planter of Trinity Church Summerville in the Diocese of the Carolinas and also a Financial Specialist at Pinnacle Financial Partners. Phillip has a B.A. in Youth Ministry from Charleston Southern University and is a current student at Trinity School for Ministry. He is Married to Karey and they have two children, Sanders and Allie. Follow him on Twitter: @philliprwilson.