At the Methodist Conference this year Aian Fergusen gave me a little book entitled Pastors Summit - sustaining fruitful ministry. After five years of Summit meetings and hundreds of hours sifting through and reflecting upon the resulting data the team identified five themes essential to surviving and thriving in ministry. I will cover these five areas in two blogs.
1. Spiritual formation
How are we doing in our walk with the Lord? Psychologist Diane Langberg points out that pastors are called to be lambs before they are called to be shepherds. The book defines spiritual formation as 'the ongoing process of maturing as Christians both personally and interpersonally.' Paul wrote to the young pastor Timothy to 'train yourself to be godly' (1 Tim. 4:7) and 'watch your life and doctrine closely' (1 Tim. 4:16).
The Summit discussions revealed three primary ways for pastors to attend their spiritual growth:
a) undivided worship: pastors should make time in their schedules for extended time of personal worship, take regular breaks from worship and preaching responsibilities, and learn to give up a measure of control of worship services to others.
b) re-establishing and maintaining spiritual disciplines: 'Spiritual disciplines are activities intended to improve our relationship with Christ and other believers.' Pastors ought to invest time in the spiritual disciplines without feeling guilty about it and resist the temptation to give in to the tyranny of the urgent. 'To do their jobs well, pastors must keep first things first and nurture their own souls.'
c) accountable relationships for spiritual direction: Spiritual direction is 'an accountable relationship in which one person helps another person grow spiritually.' 'Church members look to their pastors for shepherding, but most pastors have no one to shepherd them.'
The Pastors Summit identified three main areas in which pastors need to be more mindful of how they care for themselves.
a) attending to self-care: Almost all the pastors who took part in the Pastors Summit acknowledged that they seldom took time to look at their lives as a whole rather than in isolated segments.
b) safe relationships.
c) Review of calling: Most pastors don't usually question their initial calling to vocational ministry, but Summit participants attest to the fact that many regularly question their particular callings. One participant advises, 'I have found that it is not profitable for me to question my calling unless I open up to some other people. I can't get the answer personally, on my own.'
To be continued ...