Being a Christian leader is a high calling. But in our demanding culture, it has become more and more challenging. A Barna Group Poll in 2021 found that 38% of pastors had considered quitting full-time ministry.
To thrive (and not just survive) as a ministry leader, it’s critical to develop healthy habits to reconnect to God and to one-another. These habits will transform your perspective, reconnect you to your purpose, and leave you ready to share Jesus with a hurting world.
1. Prioritize time with God.
When things get busy, how often do we allow our time with God to take a back seat? Church meetings, care visits, and pastoral reports are all important, but forgetting to prioritize our time with God can jeopardize ourselves and the ministries we are called to. No one will see the time that we spend in prayer or reading Scripture, but the evidence of our growing faith will be obvious to the watching world. Martin Luther is famous for saying, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Whether three hours or thirty minutes, create space to refresh your soul by spending time with the Lord. If you have been in a particularly challenging or demanding season, consider a spiritual retreat to reconnect with God.
2. Your family comes next.
A leaders most important ministry is to their families. Neglecting time with a spouse or children often happens without even noticing it. The Bible is clear that not only are our families our primary responsibility, but investing in family first is a qualification of Christian leadership. (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-13) A Godly marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for us and is the foundation for lasting ministry. Deuteronomy 6:7 reminds us of our duties as parents, employing us to teach God’s commandments “diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
3. Cultivate community.
We are all created to thrive in the context of community. 1 Corinthians 12:12 says, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” Jesus’ ministry is marked by deep connection to community and Paul had many close friends that lived and traveled with him regularly. Find a community within your church or with other leaders and then commit to being honest and open with them.
4. Set healthy boundaries.
God’s Word is full of boundaries and guidelines for living. Staying within God’s boundaries allows us to experience freedom, peace, and contentment. Likewise, as ministry leaders, our boundaries should feel less like obligations and more like gifts to be cherished. Boundaries can include limits on our availability and our accessibility to our congregations. It is also important to set boundaries around relationships to protect our marriages and around our public speech (especially social media) to protect our reputations and integrity.
5. Learn to say “no.”
Many Christian leaders feel a call to vocational ministry because of a deep love for Jesus and people. The dark side of this wiring is that we can feel compelled to answer every pastoral call and maximize every ministry opportunity. Saying yes to everything leaves leaders drained and exhausted. Instead, look to the example of Jesus who regularly pulled away from the crowd to pray. Jesus did not heal every sick person or eat with every sinner, but instead focused his attention on a few. Find freedom in knowing that God will help guide your steps and that saying “no” can leave you free to be fully invested in the opportunities God has given you.
6. Foster healthy ministry culture.
Healthy culture is a core part of sustainable ministry and leaders carry the responsibility to set and maintain culture. By modeling servant leadership, communicating clearly, and keeping people accountable, we can develop ministry environments where everyone can thrive. Healthy cultures will lead to fruitful ministries that multiply.
7. Lean on people around you.
The phrase “if you want something done right, do it yourself” is a shortcut to burnout in any field—especially ministry. Instead of trying to do it all ourselves, God has provided each of us with people top lean on. Our greatest calling is to make disciples and to equip them to do the ongoing work of ministry. Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” In the early church, we see this clearly as the apostles appointed others to oversee the sharing of food in Acts 6. Learning the habit of leaning on those around us will help our ministries grow exponentially.
8. Seek trusted mentors.
Finding a mentor is essential for all christian leaders. Mentors who are a few steps ahead will help encourage us when we are succeeding, point out pitfalls they have encountered, and will point us back to Jesus when we’ve gotten off track. Many leaders struggle with the feelings of isolation, fearing that “no-one can understand” their situation. A mentor can help to step into the gap and provide safe space for us to feel understood.
No doubt, Christian leadership includes unique blessings and opportunities. No matter what we are facing, healthy habits can help us to experience years of fruitful and fulfilling ministry.
If you are ready to break through the barriers that are holding you back from your God-given potential, download our ebook 7 Practices for Overcoming your Leadership Struggles.