Caring for Vocation and Self

SONY DSCBy Rev. Kyle McDougall, Resident Minister, Central Christian Church, Lexington, Ky.

As a young clergy person in transition to my next call, I’m excited and a little bit scared. Moving to a new town where my husband and I know no one is pretty stressful. In a situation like this, I assume that it will be easy to let the work of the church take up most of my time. But, entering into this new call I want to set healthy boundaries so that I continue to love my vocation while also taking care of myself as a wife, friend and Christian. As a couple, my husband and I have discussed how we intend to make friends outside of the church. We’re leaving behind our friends and family but we both understand that meeting people outside of the church is going to be important for our mental and spiritual well-being. We plan to continue enjoying hobbies together, and apart, in order to make our relationships flourish and last.

Going forward, one thing that is extremely important to me, and my ministry, is time off. Too often I’ve witnessed my colleagues coming in on their day-off, canceling vacations, and making excuses not to take their sabbaticals. It wasn’t until recently that I was mentored by a senior minister that was and is, very intentional about his boundaries. EVERY Tuesday from the moment he started as senior, he was off. He understands the importance of time away and so do I. Time off isn’t only necessary for rest and relaxation, it allows for the heart and the head to gain a new perspective on the situation, the church, and in some cases the world.

Another practice that is exceedingly important for healthy ministry is participation in a clergy group. A group like this can be ecumenical or denomination-specific. It can be gender exclusive or not. It’s up to the group. But this group HAS to be a safe place where you can cry, laugh, scream, share, complain, and lift each other up. Where you can give and receive advice, counseling, and love. I was part of such a group and my number one priority in my new call is to find another. Ministry can be an isolated profession, but it doesn’t have to be.

Accepting a new call is the perfect opportunity to ‘fine tune’ and evolve your ministry into your perfect balance between ‘work’ and personal/family time. It gives you the chance to set the tone from the beginning. Now, I understand that some of you have been in the same congregation for years, so mid-course corrections are fine too! Honestly, the church is much better off if you’re taking care of yourself. This allows you to be at your best for the church. This balance looks different for each and every one of us – a lesson that took me a while to learn. I kept attempting to do what everyone else was doing, but now I am trying to find my own niche. As my ministry evolves, how I balance my life will evolve with it.



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 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.