Empowering and equipping churches and leaders to create lasting and transformational health.
Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Advantage, notes that “organizational health trumps everything.” Not only have we found his argument to be true in the church to a high degree, but we have also found it to be true for the leaders of the church as well. Outside of the work of God through the Gospel, health is the most important factor in the effectiveness of pastors, staff, and ministry leaders. Outside of the work of God through the Gospel, the most important factor in the effectiveness of a church is the health of the church. Health trumps all.
Health does not happen by accident; it takes intention and action. You may not be the most dynamic pastor or staff member, but you can be the healthiest you can be. Health trumps it all. Healthy leaders are thriving leaders. Healthy churches are thriving churches, and God wants his children and his churches to experience lasting and transformative health. Health in every area of our lives is part of the promise of an abundant life. Health is not easy, but it is essential.
Outside of the work of God, health is the most significant factor in the effectiveness and longevity of a leader. Healthy leaders are thriving leaders, and health is one of the few things in the life of a leader that they can have some control over. We often think of health in terms of physical health but that is a limited view. We think of health in terms of the great commandment, heart, soul and mind. Jesus calls for people to love God, love others, AND love yourself. Of those three areas, we break leader health down into 7 categories: spiritual, emotional, physical, intellectual, vocational, relational, and foundational/other.
Unfortunately, in faith based leadership, especially church leadership, health is often not valued. Instead, there is a great value on overworking, overcommitting, burnout, and production. Church workers are the biggest violators of the sabbath commandment, and setting boundaries for personal health is unwelcome in most ministry settings.
Leader health is essential. An unhealthy leader will either cause the ministry they lead to be unhealthy, they will burnout, or they will have a moral failing. Health trumps all. The good news is that anyone can be a healthier leader today than they were yesterday.
Habits of Healthy Leaders
Health is hard, health is tiring, health is messy. Creating a culture or lifestyle of health requires habits for health. Habits shape us more than our thoughts or our intentions. We have identified seven primary habits for healthy leaders.
There are 7 habits of healthy leaders:
- Healthy leaders are praying leaders.
- Healthy leaders are teachable and life-long learners.
- Healthy leaders engage in self-care and sabbath.
- Healthy leaders do conflict well.
- Healthy leaders have high self-knowledge.
- Healthy leaders have boundaries.
- Healthy leaders embrace & dispense grace.
Healthy leaders are praying leaders.
It seems cliche and perhaps even a bit obvious, but the reality is that few leaders really make prayer a priority.
Prayer is the most important factor in the health and effectiveness of a leader.
We often tell God our plans and ask (or expect) that they would be blessed rather than to look the Holy Spirit, ask what the Spirit is doing, and join the spirit in that work.
Prayer does not always change things, but it always changes us.
In being praying leaders, we find greater dependence on God and less dependence on ourselves and others.
In being praying leaders, we are better able to hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit.
In being praying leaders, we make room for God to push our agenda out and allow us to see the Kingdom agenda that Jesus has for us.
Prayer is not a great work. It is the greater work.
Prayer moves us to a place where our reliance is on Jesus.
What you love is what you pray for. What you pray for is what you love.
Prayer does not always change things, but prayer does change us.
Healthy leaders are teachable.
The most important quality in a leader or employee is teachability.
With teachability, anything is possible. Being teachable is not the cultural norm, nor is it easy. It can come naturally after time, but not without years of intentional effort.
To be teachable means that you have an openness to learning and growth. This means:
- You have a posture of learning
- You embrace curiosity
- You recognize that you can be wrong
- You know how to apologize
- You recognize that God is not finished with you yet
- You want to become better and are open to learning new things
- You have a desire to do what is best and right, not what is convenient and personally beneficial
Healthy leaders are teachable, but they are also life-long learners. Life-long learners are those who realize they never arrive and can continue to learn and improve. Life-long learners not only embrace new learning (teachability), but they pursue greater learning, knowledge and wisdom. Healthy leaders are open to learning, always trying to learn and pursue continued learning and growth.
Being teachable and a life-long learner is not just a part of healthy leadership; it is at the very nature of discipleship.
A disciple is one who learns from, follows, and is a pupil or apprentice of Jesus Christ. Following Christ, a disciple has key markers, including a desire both to learn from Christ and to teach what has been learned, a desire to imitate Jesus in all areas of life, and a desire to multiply disciples and become more like Christ.
As one church frames it: our goal is to look more like Jesus everyday.
To be teachable and to be a life-long learning, you must have humility!
Healthy leaders are teachable and are life-long learners.
Healthy leaders do conflict well.
No one loves conflict.
If you do love conflict, please see a mental health professional!
In church organizations, one of the biggest detriments to organizational health is conflict handled poorly or not at all. Conflict avoidance is never really effective in the long-term. Conflict can destroy organizations and relationships. Conflict can also be an incredible teacher and opportunity.
When it comes to conflict, most of us have a fight or flight instinct. We need to push past both of these. Instead of fight or flight, we need to engage.
Dealing with conflict does not mean we have to excuse bad behavior. It can mean having to set some boundaries in spite of any resolution to the conflict that might occur.
We often make conflict about truth, fairness, or justice. In reality, conflict is primarily about relationship.
Conflict is hard, but it can also have great value. We learn in the midst of conflict. We find and dispense forgiveness and grace in the midst of conflict. Conflict can deepen relationships.
In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus gives us specific, detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to deal with sin and conflict in the church.
- Talk directly to the person.
- If that does not bring resolution, have a third person come in to help bring resolution.
- If that does not work, bring it to the church leadership.
- If that does not work, then the relationship may be permanently altered/end.
The goal of conflict resolution is not winning, administering justice or deciding who is right and wrong. Conflict resolution is about restoration; it is focused on relationship. Conflict that is resolved is an incredible chance to learn and to deepen relationships.
Healthy leaders embrace conflict in a healthy way.
Healthy leaders have high self-knowledge.
Self-knowledge may be the most underrated of all skills needed for healthy, effective leadership.
Self-knowledge is not a helpful leadership tool. It is the tool box!
Knowledge is power. Self-knowledge is exponential power.
Self-knowledge takes a lifetime to achieve and is often learned in painful ways. We learn about ourselves through experiences, intentional learning, and in relationships. Self-knowledge can also come through a variety of tools such as inventories, mentoring relationships, and other educational opportunities.
Self-knowledge happens more easily when we are vulnerable, authentic, humble, and teachable. Self-knowledge includes growing in emotional intelligence, an essential skill for all leaders
We are all created in the image of God, each of us unique. Our personality is often our greatest asset and our greatest liability, a double-edge sword. The more self-knowledge we have, the better we can leverage our strengths and gifts for good. The more self-knowledge we have, the better we can name and manage our weaknesses.
The more self-knowledge you have, the more effective you will be at leading others and the more effectively you will lead yourself.
Healthy leaders know who they are and who they are not.
Healthy leaders have boundaries.
Setting and enforcing boundaries is a critical but often ignored part of healthy ministry leadership.
Ministry leaders struggle deeply with boundaries.
Boundaries are a natural part of love.
As parents, we have boundaries for our children because we love them. We know this, yet we struggle to set boundaries when it comes to ministry work. We struggle to set boundaries when it comes to our own self-care convincing ourselves that it is selfish. We struggle to set boundaries in our ministry work; we struggle to set boundaries for our self-care and it is a tragedy. It is unhealthy.
We are called to love God, love others, AND love ourself. Boundaries are an essential part of love.
It is not easy to set boundaries, especially in ministry. Church going Christians often get angry when someone sets a boundary with them, but it is an essential part of leader health, and it is ultimately an act of love.
The word ‘no’ may be the most important word in a leaders vocabulary.
Healthy Leaders Engage in Self-Care and Sabbath.
Self-care is essential to healthy leadership. Sabbath is an essential part of self-care.
The biggest violators of sabbath are those who work in ministry.
Sabbath is a matter of obedience.
God rested on the 7th day. Jesus honored the sabbath, rested, and took time away to pray. Sabbath made the top ten list of commands, so Sabbath is a matter of obedience. Sabbath is a rhythm of rest (one every seven) where we rely on God and realize we depend on God. God does not depend on us.
Sabbath is where we take a day (24 hours) to avoid doing our regular vocational work, connect with God, and do only those things that give us life. It is a time to disconnect from the busyness and noise of the world and reconnect with God. It is a time to step away from email, messages, and devices.
Sabbath is a part of self-care, but it is not the only part of self-care. Leaders must proactively and intentional establish rhythms, routines, and practices around self-care. Self-care includes taking care of your spiritual, physical, and emotional health. It includes regular physical activity, healthy habits, and sleep. Self-care means practicing the spiritual disciplines outside that which is part of your work. Self-care includes engaging with counseling and activities that bring you joy and rest.
Sabbath and self-care are essential parts of leadership and discipleship.
Sabbath is not a suggestion; it is a command.
Healthy Leaders Embrace and Dispense Grace.
Grace is essential to healthy leadership.
Grace is easy to understand, but takes a lifetime to live out.
Leaders must show grace to others, but leaders must show grace to themselves. Leadership always involves mistakes and failure. Few leaders show themselves grace. Few leaders allow grace to become personal.
The more personal grace becomes, the less personal everything else will feel.
Simply put, grace is unmerited favor. Specifically, grace is God’s unmerited favor. No matter how we or someone else performs, we are always loved and accepted by God. We are always God’s son or daughter whom he loves and with whom he is well pleased-in our best moments and our worst moments.
We tend to judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their words & actions.
Leaders tend to be harder on themselves than anyone else.
Grace requires love. Grace requires patience. Grace assumes the best in people, situations, and in ourselves.
Grace does not mean ignoring consequences or boundaries.
Grace does mean letting go. Grace requires trusting God.
Grace reminds us that our leadership is never about us.
The main focus of Pastors4Pastors will be on self-care and overall health. It is not intended to be professional counseling though some emotional support will naturally be a part of this initiative. While the focus is on self-care and health, professional support, advice, and mentoring may naturally be a part of the Pastors4Pastors initiative. We do not want to be one more task on a to do list or another appointment in an already busy calendar, but to initiate and provide transparent, authentic, empathetic support.
Pastors4Pastors is open to all pastors, church, and ministry staff (full and part-time).
We will equip and empower pastors and ministry leaders in finding lasting and transformational health using:
-Pastors4Pastors Network Groups
-The habits of healthy leaders
-A self-care inventory that addresses 7 areas of health :Spiritual, emotional, physical, intellectual, vocational, relational, foundational/other
-Self-care toolkits throughout the year
-Other tools specific to the needs of the pastor/ministry leader as appropriate
Health Retreats: We equip leaders, staff, pastors, and congregations for greater health in one day, one and a half day, and two day retreats with additional features available. Participants will be empowered to lean into healthy practices as they discover ways to pursue their mission well.
Pastors4Pastors: We coach, encourage, and support any ministry staff for greater health and renewed passion for the mission of God. Through our groups of loving and supportive ministry leaders, participants will be able to share their struggles and joys as well as receive practical help in challenging contexts. We examine 7 areas of health: spiritual, emotional, physical, intellectual, vocational, relational, foundational/other. Discover more here.
Local Ministry Support Groups: We connect you with other ministry leaders in your area for a robust and consistent opportunity to develop healthy practices together. If you do not have a group in your area, we also provide models, support, and resources to form health, local ministry staff support networks.
Seminars: We offer content-rich learning opportunities for churches, ministry leaders, and congregational leaders ranging from 1 to 4 hours that cover topics such as habits of healthy churches, leader health, conflict in the church, and healthy leadership principles and models.