That Which Gives Life

The Ministry Life Choices Initiative (MLCI) will assist those in years 1-5 of ministry with developing habits and practices for sustainable ministry. The relationship will span the first few years of theological education and the introductory years as a congregational minister. The MLCI is a ministry of the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in partnership with Lexington Theological Seminary.

The MLCI blog series, launched January 15, 2014, is designed to promote conversation surrounding issues related to clergy health and well-being. The blog seeks to include and incorporate writers from a wide variety of ministerial contexts, seminaries and demographics.

This summer, the series will offer reflections from five ordained Disciples pastors on how it is that they stay alive in ministry. These pastors have been at it a while, and they serve varying ministry contexts.



Clergy Health and Well-being: That Which Gives Life
by Julie Richardson Brown, LTS Advancement Associate, M. Div., LTS, 2002

“Even Jesus, Julie, went up and away to the mountain to pray.”

She said it to me often during my first 5-10 years of ministry. Well-versed in scripture, she knew both the truth of the statement and how difficult it was for me to pay attention to that truth. I was, then, it seems, set on outdoing even the Energizer bunny.

But even Energizer batteries eventually wear out. It might take longer than any other battery on the market, but they do. And when that happens, you need either new batteries or a really good charger. Either way, what’s true for those Energizer batteries is true for us—for clergy—and we far too often neglect what’s true.

We cannot offer the life of love that God created us for, and that Jesus invited us into, without our own lives first being filled. And while there are many parts of ministry that are life-draining, there are also many that are life-giving. Sometimes getting a boost is as simple as spending your workday doing that which is life-giving.

What makes your heart sing? On the days when you feel like maybe it’s all for naught, do that one thing until you remember the melodies that led you to this call in the first place.

Sometimes, though, it’s okay—and even necessary—to walk away for a while. To spend some time doing things not directly related to your work so that you can keep doing the work. Sometimes you have to retreat—in whatever form that makes sense to you—so that you can return refreshed.

I know. I know how hard it is to walk away. I know how it can feel like the salvation of the entire world is resting on your shoulders. I know how difficult it can be to separate yourself from the cries of need. I know.

But y’all? We’re kidding ourselves if we think we really can’t be done without. Because we can. And what’s more, sometimes we need others to do without us so that we can all move forward together again one day.

This summer I’ve asked five Disciples pastors to reflect on how it is that they find life again, how it is that they reboot, recharge, and renew. They are involved in varying ministry contexts and have been at it a while—all of them. And they are still at it, engaged in vibrant ministries and ticking and thriving. I look forward to what they’ll have to say. And I invite you to check back every week or so, to learn from their reflections.

Blessings–now go do something that brings you life!