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This topic is adapted from PursueGOD Network YouTube channel. This is part 1 of 5 in the Self-Care for Pastors series.

Self care is the pursuit of physical, mental, and emotional health. It is the ongoing development of the whole person, including the spiritual, emotional, relational, physical and intellectual aspects of life.

Self-Care Is Not Selfish

Doesn’t the Bible call us to deny ourselves? That verse is often misunderstood. The Bible does not call for self-abuse. In fact, the old life we are called to deny may have included slothful or obsessive activities contrary to self-belief, such as inconsistent sleep, excessive work, or an unhealthy diet. Self-denying self care may include activities that are a good stewardship of the personal resources God has given us, like getting to bed on time, saying no to work, or healthy diet and exercise.

Why Pastors Neglect Self-Care

Studies show that nutrition, physical exercise, and other forms of self-care are at lower levels for pastors than for the general population. One reason is that the pastoral role can place unrealistic expectations on those in ministry – expectations which pastors don’t handle well. Another reason is that pastors often don’t recognize the fatigue and stress that come from caring for others. We allow ourselves to get depleted. A third reason is that pastors tend to spiritualize away the need for self care. They considered it a lack of trust in God or a low spiritual priority to invest in self care activities.

Identity and Self-Care

Identity issues are often central to how we understand and practice self care.

  • Personality. Pastors need to get comfortable with how they are wired. For example, introverts and extroverts need different things to stay fresh.
  • Family of origin. Pastors need to be aware of sinful patterns learned by growing up in their family. This may include attitudes about work, food, or relationships.
  • Role / person distinctions. Pastors need a mature sense of “who am I?” When we confuse our core self with our ministry role, we allow pastoral duties to absorb the rest of life. For example, do you have a spiritual life apart from your job? Do you have friends outside of your ministry? Do you have hobbies and interests outside of your official duties?
  • Comparison to others. Pastors need to understand and accept their own strengths and struggles, without falling into the trap of comparing themselves to other pastors.

[Related: Pastoral Identity and Vocation]

[Related: What’s Your Meyers-Briggs Temperament?]

Everyone needs limits. Everyone needs healthful rhythms. No one else can or will watch out for the best interests of you and your family like you, Self-care is not selfish, but a necessary element of staying fruitful over time.

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. When it comes to serving God, someone said, “I would rather burn out than rust out.” How do you respond to that quote?
  4. How would you define “self care”? Give an example.
  5. Read Mark 8:34. How does Jesus’ call for his followers to deny themselves (NLT: “give up your own way”)  relate to personal self care?
  6. How do unrealistic expectations affect pastors’ self care?
  7. How do pastors spiritualize away the need for self care? How have you done this?
  8. How does personality affect how a person approaches self care? Give a personal illustration.
  9. How does family of origin affect how a person cares for him or herself? Give a personal illustration.
  10. How well do you do at separating your sense of self from your work? Why is this distinction crucial to healthy self care?
  11. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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