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This topic is adapted from PursueGOD Network YouTube channel. This is part 3 of 5 in the Self-Care for Pastors series.

Ministry involves a great deal of thinking and analysis, whether in teaching or leadership roles. To maintain a healthy mind involves continuing to reflect and learn in order to not fall into an intellectual rut.

Keep Your Mind Fresh

A healthy pastor will find opportunities to reflect, learn, and explore creatively and imaginatively. Reading or listening to books or podcasts is an important aspect of this, but there are also other ways to engage different aspects of the mind – including creative activity. It’s stimulating to intentionally explore authors and topics outside of your familiar theological camp. Listen to and read from a variety of subjects outside of church work or theology. Here are some practical steps to keep your mind fresh:

  • Set aside dedicated time for reflection.
  • Pursue informal education – less structured ways to learn and be stretched.
  • Pursue non-formal education – methods that are structured and intentional, like a reading plan.
  • Pursue formal education – a degree or certificate program through an educational institution.

Establish Protective Boundaries

To stay fresh mentally, you need to live in a way that is planned and intentional versus reactive. To have time to learn and reflect, you will have to set boundaries. Don’t make yourself the answer to everyone’s problems. Take a weekly day off for rest, recreation, and meditation. Use your vacation time to actually take a vacation, and spend some time reading something different from what you read for work. The temptation is turn all relationships into ministry, or only respond to relationships that further your church goals.. But you need relationships that will refresh you, where you don’t feel like you’re “on the clock.” Include people who can stimulate a different perspective on things.  

[Related: Workaholism in Ministry]

[Related: Foundations of Spiritual Formation]

Pastors use their minds almost constantly. Don’t let intellectual fatigue hinder your ministry. Set boundaries so you can pursue ways to keep mentally fresh.

[Related: What Is Self-Care?]

[Related Series: Spiritual Formation for Pastors]

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. What does mental fatigue feel like or look like for you?
  4. What do you like to read or listen to that is not directly related to your ministry work? Explain.
  5. Why is sermon or lesson study not enough to stay fresh mentally?
  6. What are some reasons why pastors don’t grow intellectually?
  7. What is the best time in your schedule for reflection, and why?
  8. Who can you have conversations with who will refresh you intellectually?
  9. Who can you have conversations with who has a different perspective on issues than you do?
  10. What practical, simple step can you take to create time for reading, study or reflection?
  11. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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