Five Themes of Resilient Ministry

fullsizeoutput_abeThis week, I am spending time in reflection about what it means to be a pastor, what ministry is all about, and what it means to be the church. Earlier this week I shared some insights from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together about the church and from Dallas Willard on the nature of ministry in a consumer society. Today, I want to turn my attention toward pastoral ministry.

In their book Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving, Bob Burns, Tasha Chapman and Donald Guthrie outline five themes of resilient ministry that I have found valuable as I reflect on what is most meaningful in my life as a pastor. They write:

After seven years of studying our [pastoral] summit participants (including their marriages, families and ministries), we learned a lot about what it takes to survive and thrive in ministry. Five themes, each with multiple factors, stood out as the keys for pastors to remain resilient in fruitful ministry for a lifetime.

In chapter two, the authors introduce those five themes, so here they are in summary form.

Theme One: Spiritual Formation

The study reveals that focus on personal spiritual formation within the life of the pastor is incredibly important to pastoral resilience. “In our work with pastors, we have come to define spiritual formation as the ongoing process of maturing as a Christian, both personally and interpersonally” (19, italics mine). This is not something that has been attained, but is an ongoing process in which leaders give attention, as any disciple of Christ should, to their ongoing growth with God. Along with this, the authors emphasize that pastoral resilience arises when this emphasis on spiritual formation is not only persona, but interpersonal. That is, spiritual formation must involve others and, though this can be a problem for pastors to find, must involve safe places for vulnerable disclosure.  They quote Diane Langberg, who says “Before you were called to be a shepherd, you were called to be a lamb” (21).

Theme Two: Self-Care

As pastors take steps to live out self-denial with intentional spiritual growth, they must also give attention to appropriate self-care. “The idea of self-care involves the pursuit of physical, mental and emotional health” (21). The work of ministry is very demanding in terms of time, life issues, and the sense that it is a 24-7 role. However, in the midst of those stresses, we cannot lose sight of taking care of ourselves through meaningful physical exercise, good sleep and eating, activities outside of the church, and some life-giving hobbies. As someone once said to me, “The best thing you have to offer to the church as a pastor is a healthy you.”

Theme Three: Emotional and Cultural IntelligenceRead More »

Gary Hamel – “Manage Differently NOW” (LS09)


Gary Hamel, the Director of the London School of Business and author of the book The Future of Management, spoke on the topic: “Manage Differently NOW.” There was a ton of material from Gary’s session, but it all related to what he sees as the most important question for us to consider as leaders:

“Are you changing as fast as the world around you? Are you in the vanguard or the back guard?”

Gary emphasized that in order to move to the vanguard, we need to move away from being crisis-driven and move toward being opportunity-driven.

You can read more detail about three of Gary’s ideas for making this change below. Suffice it to say, his insights really challenge the prevailing way of approaching organizational management. A lot of his ideas echo thoughts that I encountered in the book, The Starfish and the Spider.

To do that, he suggested us to do the following:

  • Conquer denial. This involves moving from moving from dismissal of the problems to confrontation of the problems. We have to face the facts and listen to the renegades or dissidents at the periphery of the organization who are innovators.
  • Generate more new thinking/strategic options. This means we have to have a willingness to experiment and take risks. It also means we must change the process for generating ideas to be more participatory and involving a much broader group of people
  • Move away from a top-down organizational leadership. Because the diversity needed for leadership rarely exists in one person, we need to provide organizational structure for our organizations that is less hierarchical and involves more people.  This means that the leader today is more focused on mobilizing, connecting, and supporting others.

Where does your church or organization sit on the continuum between the vanguard and the back-guard of responding to our changing world?