Spiritual Renewal For Ministers

Spiritual Renewal For MinistersI would like to propose that ministers are the most effective when they are spiritually renewed and refreshed.  Anyone disagree with that premise?  Didn’t think so.  The question then is what practices bring spiritual renewal to those in ministerial leadership?  Providing care for others is imperative in ministry but unless we care for ourselves, both spiritually and physically, the well from which we draw on to offer care grows dry.  Methodist minister and educator Edward P. Wimberly’s book “Recalling Our Own Stories-Spiritual Renewal for Religious Caregivers,” gives three big ideas on spiritual renewal for ministers.  To Wimberly, spiritual renewal is not an emotional high at a retreat weekend, or a renewed committment to personal holiness, or a fresh commitment to read the Bible more often (although each of these certainly brings renewal in their own way).  The renewal Wimberly speaks of is much deeper and cuts to the core of the psychological self.  Here are the ways Wimberly says we can find spiritual renewal as ministers. 

  1. Remember Your Call:  God calls men and women every day to ministry of various types.  Student ministers, deacons and elders, Sunday-school teachers, and even occasional volunteers should be able to name how they felt called to the ministry they do.  When did God call you to ministry?  How did you hear God’s voice?  What were your original motivations for getting into ministry?  These are all questions Wimberly suggests we ask ourselves in seeking spiritual renewal.  Remembering and reflecting on why we got into ministry in the first place is spiritually renewing because it takes us back to a place where God lit a passion in our hearts to serve.  Have you ever attempted to identify your call story with the call story of someone in scripture?  Moses had no sense of personal identity until he met God on a mountainside.  Paul had the wrong sense of call until blinded by God’s light in an earth-shattering encounter.  Samuel didn’t recognize God’s voice until a mentor helped him identify it.  Esther had no sense of her unique gifts until a relative told her how she could serve God’s people.  The list goes on of characters in scripture who God called in unique ways.  Feeling burnt out?  Frustrated with a situation in your ministry context?  Take some time to reflect on God’s call in your life.  Remember how you felt when God called you initially.  Be renewed through allowing God to affirm your call again each day.  A high sense of call is vital to spiritual health for ministers.
  2. Explore Your Life Story:  We all have a unique story that contributes to how we care for others.  What’s your story?  Pastors, youth ministers, camp counselors, and other types of ministers are given countless opportunities to provide pastoral care for those in the flock.  It becomes important over time to periodically reflect on our ways of providing care, and acknowledge our own weaknesses and strengths in care giving.  We are unable to effectively care for others without a strong sense of where we’ve come from and who we are.  Consider your family story.  Are there overarching narratives in your life that contribute to how you relate to others?  Do you always act like a victim at church because you have always been the victim in your family?  Do you feel obligated to please everyone all the time?  Perhaps you had to play the peacemaker among siblings growing up and it is now rubbing off on how you deal with the parents of your youth group.  Identifying our stories and the themes they contain is crucial to renewal both personally and spiritually.  According to Wimberly, some common issues ministers deal with include perfectionism, workaholism, feeling a deep need not to repeat the mistakes of a past generation, too much self-sufficiency, and the need to control everything.  Do any of these speak to you?  Exploring our own stories helps us identify our weaknesses so that we can begin working on them.
  3. Be Accountable To Others:  I recently learned that a colleague of mine had a father who was in ministry.  The man would meet once a monthRecalling Our Own Stories with other ministers in the area for accountability.  The conversation wasn’t anything you normally hear at a minister’s shindig.  No one discussed how many butts were in seats last Sunday, how the weather was, or even how the local sports team was doing.  The collegiality that these pastors had was MUCH deeper than these superficial topics.  According to my colleague, “When they gathered, they focused on two things: (1) what are you celebrating (i.e. what’s going well)? and (2) what are you up against (what challenges are you facing)?”  We should all find a small group or even a single friend that we can make ourselves vulnerable to.  It is rare that I share my weaknesses with anyone in ministry, whether they are at my local church or not.  This may be a personal flaw, but I believe that most of us are guilty of trying to be lone-rangers when it comes to our own spiritual health.  Who is holding you accountable to live out your call?  Who is holding you accountable to working on personal weaknesses and character flaws? 

What would spiritual renewal look like in your life?  In your ministry?  In your community?  Ministry is about bringing restoration to a broken world desperately in need of God’s love.  Evangelism is about the restoration of sinful humanity to a right relationship with a forgiving God.  Social-justice ministry is about the restoration of God’s justice and reign in our present time.  Worship on Sundays is about restoring our view of God’s honor and glory and rightly giving thanks for all God has done.  Ministry is restorative to souls, to families, to entire cities.  There is a caveat though.  Ministers cannot effectively bring renewal to others and be the ”salt of the earth“ without first being renewed themselves by God’s grace and love.  Remember how God called you to ministry.  Explore your own story and learn from it.  Make yourself vulnerable and accountable to other ministry professionals. In doing these things, I pray God gives you a fresh sense of spiritual renewal.   

 

 

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