Recently, I was speaking to a group of children and family ministries pastors about leadership and the church’s culture for leadership success. When I stated that flourishing congregations have organizational cultures that help their leaders personally and professionally, and that boards play an instrumental role to equip, support, and empower its staff, the reaction was mixed in that many affirmed the support of their boards and others not.
As I reflect on this, I think it could mean that flourishing congregations do take seriously pastoral well-being and self-care. The well-being research literature seems to bear this out. Bloom (2017) uses the language of pastoral burnout and gives a number of suggestive recovery experiences to avoid burnout:
Physical relaxation. There needs to be some time every day when you are completely physically relaxed, when your muscles have no tension in them. Bloom suggest at least 15 minutes daily.
Detachment. It isn’t in your mind. You’re thinking about something that you enjoy, something that’s pleasant. Mental detachment means that work is not a part of your thought process. Pastoral leaders need to experience a period of detachment every day — a minimum of 15 minutes.
Restorative niches. The term “restorative niche” describe some activity that you really enjoy, but that also requires some level of skill or mastery. For example, a restorative niche might be walking, or knitting, or some sports activity. Like a hobby, a restorative niche is something you want to do, but isn’t just something that would be nice to do if you have the time.
Spiritual disciplines. The research finds that certain kinds of spiritual disciplines are important for avoiding burnout, such as mindfulness or contemplation.
Try it, you might like it!
In Building A Discipling Culture: How to Release A Missional Movement By Discipling People Like Jesus Did, Mike Breen provides a guide to help pastoral leaders move the focus of the church back to discipleship. The book challenges those young in the Christian faith who require discipleship, to mature Christians wanting to be more deliberate about discipling others.
The book is divided into three sections. The first section raises questions and identifies a framework to develop a discipling culture by way of “Huddles.” These are composed of 4-10 people that a disciple maker is willing to invest in, to meet regularly with, and provide access to his/her life. In the second section, Breen begins to create a language to help create a discipling culture, giving attention to what he calls “LifeShapes.” The language of LifeShapes establishes a foundation for creating a strong discipling environment in which each shape symbolizes different key elements of discipleship and spiritual growth.
The final section provides the reader with a way to apply the discipleship process: it gives an explanation for huddles, how the formation of huddles should work with the content of the book, and examples of a huddle in action. For some, the second and final sections might be too prescriptive in nature, but the “theory” of the book is worth the consideration.