Ministry was fruitful. Dying programs were ending, new programs flourished, and the congregation was growing. On good days, I believed I was an effective leader.
Yet there were days I wondered: Am I doing enough? Is the ministry vital? We’re growing numerically, but what about spiritually, and how can I measure that? How can we cultivate a leadership team, and connect with the community in new ways?
Alongside the challenges of ministry are those of one’s personal life, and within a year and a half it felt like there was more life happening than I could handle. I was a newlywed. We purchased our first home. My husband was laid off, then began working in the Middle East. My father died. My husband and I began our struggle with infertility. Then, I was told I was moving to a new appointment.
There is the kind of anxiety that can push us forward to the next right step, and then there is the kind that can push us over the edge. I reached the edge and was holding on tight.
If you are struggling with self-doubt, loss, anxiety or depression, I am here to say many leaders are challenged in these ways. You are not alone. There is abundant life waiting on the other side. Abundant life is the promise from our God, not just in the hereafter, but here and now.
I learned to work through my anxiety, and truth be told, sometimes it is a daily struggle. A supervisor recently told me, “You are an exceptional leader.” But I wondered, “So why I am struggling with this? Why can’t we accomplish more? Why is change not happening faster?”
The struggle is real, and different for everyone. Here are some practices that have helped me live into the abundant life:
- Find a Counselor. Identify someone who can help you process your feelings in a non-judgmental way. Employees of GNJ have good behavioral health benefits. Make an appointment today. In an emergency, call 911. You are worth it.
- Worship the Lord. Find time to worship and pray. Worship revitalizes me. When the sound of praise band or choral anthem washes over me, I am reminded that I am a beloved child of God. How do you make time for regular worship and daily prayer?
- Exercise Daily. I exercise nearly every day and enjoy weights, elliptical, barre and zumba, but what I really love is swimming, because I get to leave my phone behind. Find an exercise you enjoy and release some stress.
- Invest in Key Relationships. For me, the relationships that have little to do with church remind me that there was life before my leadership in church, and there is life outside it. My relationships with my husband, family, and friends ground me. What life-giving relationships do you invest in?
- Connect with Colleagues. My GNJ Mission and Resource Center colleagues provide direction, affirmation, and LOTS of laughs. What colleagues do you have who support you in ministry and life?
- Take Sabbath. Take vacation. Take a day off (or two!). You and all those who come in contact with you will be extraordinarily grateful. Trust me.
- Engage in Mission. Serve and remember how many ways you are blessed and how those you serve impart a blessing to you.
These are spiritual and self-care practices that have worked for me. What helps you live the abundant life?
Prayer: Jesus, give me the grace today to know that I am a beloved child of God. Help me believe that I am more than enough. May I take the next step and live more fully the abundant life. Amen.