In 52 BCE, Julius Caesar stated, “Experience is the teacher of all things.” This statement rings true for me 2069 years later.
I’m entering into my tenth year of vocational church ministry. I still feel like I’m early in my ministry calling. I’m learning new things every day. I don’t feel full of wisdom necessarily when it comes to most lessons in ministry, but there are a few things I’ve learned over the past decade.
I preface this post by saying please don’t take this as Gospel truth or views that represent CBF, my church, or anyone else. This is all just my opinion. But, here are some questions, as well as my brief responses, church starters ought to consider themselves:
1) Is there a time when a church starter should just encourage people to move along [to somewhere else]?
In short, YES. Absolutely! Separation isn’t necessarily negative. There are people who leave, and that’s okay! While I generally try to strive for reconciliation as the ideal goal in the midst of church conflict, sometimes it is not the best choice in reality.
Some people are bullies and mean and toxic and detrimental to the work of the church. Some people treat membership like a secular contract and leave as soon as they get a better offer. Consumer mentality is a painful barrier to dedicated church community. I once heard someone use the phrase “blessed subtraction” to refer to people who leave the church, and then in turn the church moves forward in a more healthy direction.
2) How can setting personal and professional boundaries help create healthy ministry?
I care so much about my people and my church that I often find it hard to stop working. One more email. One more text. One more call. Creating boundaries for myself protects not only my family and me, but also models healthy life for the church. Would we encourage our church members to work 80-90 hours a week, to neglect their families for their jobs, and work work work until one is burned out? Of course not.
I’ve realized if I don’t set boundaries, I never stop. It negatively affects my family, my church, and me. What can we do to set healthy parameters in ministry?
Schedule out work. Put beginning and end times to tasks and stick to the schedule. Get a text, email, or call during family movie time? Wait to reply until the next scheduled text, email, or call time.
Take Sabbath seriously. For me, Sunday morning is the furthest experience from Sabbath. I’m locked into a job, preaching, teaching, setting up, taking down, visiting with visitors, and talking with members. During Sunday morning I’m in pastor mode. I find time Sunday evening and Monday morning to renew, rest, relax, and slow down the rhythm of life to spend time in the divine ground of being.
As a church starter, I’ve also realized the importance of creating systems so that all the work doesn’t fall to me. Shared leadership and responsibility not only enhances the work of the church, but helps take the stress and pressure off me. I try to listen to other church members and join their ideas, rather than feel the need to implement all of mine.
3) What are some ways ministers can practice self-care?
The answer to this question is directly related to #2. Without boundaries, it is hard to practice self-care.
For me, the most challenging aspect of self-care is first remembering to take care of myself. I spend most of my time caring for my family, my church, my yard, the cars, the house, the dogs, my neighbors…and then every once in a while I remember to care for myself too!
What do I do when I remember self-care? Exercise. Relax. Read a book on something that may not have a ministry label—this is part of being a lifelong student of the world. Eat foods that give my body energy. Enjoy a thought provoking film. Watch a show that makes me laugh on Netflix. Go for a walk. Stare at the sky. Sit in the grass. Watch insects in the mulch. Listen to birds. I try to remember I am one part of a much bigger life system in the universe.
What have you learned in your ministry experience? Whether you are fresh out of seminary or close to retirement, share your experience with someone else. Don’t keep your valuable wisdom locked up!
The themes in this post came out of the CBF Church Starts Podcast “Most Common Mistakes of Church Starts, Part 2, featuring Kyle Tubbs.” Subscribe to this bi-weekly podcast in iTunes or TalkShoe.
Rev. Kyle Tubbs is a CBF Commissioned Church Starter and a Leadership Coach with the CBF Coaching Network. You can find more about Kyle and the church he pastors by visiting http://www.peacewilco.com.