Caring for the Inner Pastor
What practices keep your soul fueled for ministry?

Dallas Willard has written about the importance of soul care for those of us in ministry. He says,

The call of God to minister the gospel is a high honor and a noble challenge. It carries with it unique opportunities as well as special burdens and dangers for members of the clergy as well as their families. These burdens can be fruitfully born and the dangers triumphantly overcome. But that will not happen unless the minister's "inner person" (2 Cor. 4:16) is constantly renewed by accessing the riches of God and His kingdom in the inner person.

Willard's words are beautifully optimistic, but how exactly does a minister "access the riches of God and His kingdom in the inner person"? I don't recall that class being offered in seminary. Perhaps that's why spiritual directors are becoming so popular, but a good spiritual director can be difficult to find. It's not as easy as putting a personal ad in the paper:

SWM (Soul Weary Minister) seeks SMF (Spiritually Mature Friend) to help my inner person access God's riches and experience triumph in my soul. I like long prayer walks in the park, guided sabbatical retreats, and reciting the daily offices. My turn offs are elder board meetings, church budgets, and Mrs. Clark's mystery casserole. Please respond quickly, my soul needs urgent care.

Because the pastor's soul is a vital component of ministry, and caring for it can be a challenging responsibility, we'll be tackling the subject in an upcoming issue of Leadership. What keeps our souls fueled for ministry? What bleeds them dry? And what can we do to maintain our soul's health and vitality? These are questions many of us might ask a spiritual director, but they are also questions pastors should be asking each other.

So, we are inviting you to share the practices you engage to keep your soul healthy and equipped for ministry. Tell us about the practice, how it nourishes your soul, and why other pastors should consider it for themselves. Be sure to include your name, your church, and your city. We'll be compiling the list of soul-feeding spiritual practices in the spring issue of Leadership.

Displaying 1–10 of 15 comments


February 22, 2007  8:06am

I find that exercise outside, alone is the best way for me to recharge. Some of my best prayers are said on my bike. It also allows great alone, quiet time to develop illustrations and points. Preaching to trees is quite handy, they don't criticize or nothin! I also find that avoiding pastoral sermons, articles and books that tell me how horrible my life should be as a pastor or about how horrible other pastors who are "really" serving God have it, drains me and does nothing beneficial for me. Jeff Weddle Rhinelander Bible Church Rhinelander, WI

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Jim Martin

February 20, 2007  2:57am

For me, soul care is critical to my life before God as well as my ministry. What has been particularly helpful is being intentional about this. I journal, read my Bible, and read something else to help shape my heart and mind. What is also helpful is having a life outside of ministry. I've been blessed through the years to have friends who were not part of our church. That has a way of reminding me that I am still a normal human being and not just a minister. I also work out four days a week at a nearby gym. That has been incredibly helpful to my emotional/physical and spiritual welll being.

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Larry Wishard

February 19, 2007  11:21pm

For me personally, the soul care I have used for 35 years of preaching about 100 sermons per year is this. 1. I get up before dawn. 2. Sit down with a cup of coffee or tea. 3. I journal and thank God for all the special people in my life. 4. I read a chapter of the gospels and take it personal. 5. I read a chapter of the Psalms and connect with the writers emotional and worship spirit. 6. I write our my prayer needs and wants. Larry Wishard

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Anne Alexander

February 19, 2007  2:22pm

Missionaries need soulcare too. In many cultures nationals have never seen this modeled, and don't understand a sabbath rest. To be honest, I don't really either. But spending time feeding my whole person (intellect thru reviewing books for publishing; spirit thru scripture, myth, silent / quiet retreats and excursions into nature; desires thru occasional nice meals out; emotions thru good movies, novels and sharing with friends) seems essential to balance. Sometimes the quietude enforced by handwork (cross-stitch, knitting) helps me listen to God. What I long for is a good prayer partner with whom to be accountable, as I am somewhat isolated. Hsinchu International Church, Taiwan

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February 19, 2007  8:40am

Thank you for this post. I think we definitely have a need for leaders today who focus on their inner being.

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mike rucker

February 19, 2007  5:51am

does anyone other than me find it highly ironic that every time i pull this article up on outofur, it has a pop-up ad next to it for the HAGGARD School of Theology? God sometimes works in ways that are not so mysterious, i suppose... mike rucker

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Adam Lehman

February 19, 2007  1:05am

Let us not forget the most important refresher of them all: being in the will of God. When we are offering our bodies to God and allowing Him to do exactly what He wants with them, the sense of fear, adventure, and faith will refresh us for sure. I understand that this precedes being in a position of ministry, but i think that we forget to be sure to earnestly seek what God would have for us. Often times, we are too focused on reading the right books (or blogs), planning the next great program, or preaching a life-changing sermon.

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Brian Owen

February 18, 2007  8:27pm

Monthly meetings with my spiritual director have been invaluable in helping me stay connected to God and discern His activity in my life. He helps me step back and notice the activity of God in the intimate details of my life. I often leave our sessions with a fresh sense of hope, with greater attunement to God's will, and with a clearer perspective on what God is doing in me and through me. Sometimes we are far too close to the details of our lives to notice the fingerprints of God. Meeting with a spiritual director helps me pay more attention to the Spirit's work in my soul and notice things I might overlook. Though finding a spiritual director is difficult, it is worth the effort to locate one. The hunt may become easier in the near future as an increasing number of evangelicals are receiving training and supervision in this lost art of soul care. Brian Owen Campus Crusade for Christ Irvine, CA

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kyle king

February 18, 2007  8:01pm

Individually, i will have a cup of steamed milk or hot green tea. ill turn on some monk music in the background and prayerfully meditate on some psalms/lamentations of scripture. Communally, i will meet with a group of pastors each week. each tuesday morning we study the bible together, drink coffee, and pray. (we all preach through the NT together at our church plants/sites, chapter by chapter, week by week.)We call it teaching pool. Being around other pastors weekly is a great way for me to get recharged. I would recommend reading Oswald Chamber's biography for more direction. It is called "Abandoned to God."

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February 17, 2007  8:00am

Sustaining the soul is not hard but it does take intentionality. I have to do it on purpose if it will be done. A thriving soul has many identifying markers, but one is that a thriving soul does not get it's affirmation from the work it does. For me to gain my approval and affirmation from my ministry would be to serve for myself. rather I seek to serve for the sake of Christ, because of the love of Christ, from the mercy of Christ. It is sort of the Matthew 5, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for Righteousness, they are satisfied. Satisfaction is found by not by those who seek it but by those who seek righteousness.

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