Spiritual Health: How do I get there? For all pastors and ministry staff and lay leaders, listening and discerning go hand in hand.  One without the other is futile at best and frustrating at the extreme. Listening for the spiritual need rather than the voiced concern requires that as the leader you are at a place of spiritual healthiness.  This is the challenge.  We all go through seasons of healthiness and being unhealthy spiritually.  What are some of the key elements of spiritual health?  What are some of the exercises that promote spiritual health?  What are some of the challenges to being spiritually healthy?  These are some of the questions that I began to ask and that I now would like to try and answer. 

Being spiritually healthy is modeled by the Disciples in Acts 2.  They were first totally submitted to the Holy Spirit and focused on the ministry that Christ had prepared them for.  Everything else took a back seat to their calling to live as Disciples of Jesus Christ.  This even meant giving up their personal agendas to meet the Heavenly agenda of their calling.  Instead of organizing their time and energy around their career they organized their careers around their calling.  For pastors and staff people this is easy but for lay leaders this seems to be a challenge or is it?  The text in Acts 2 suggests that the church met daily in the evening after everyone had been at work.  Work seems to be assumed and ministry was the next priority.  The first century believers did not have the many distractions that we have like blogs, email, television, telephones, cell phones and radio. The church also had a vested interest in making sure that the basic needs of eating and living essentials were taken care of.  Reorganizing our time around ministry can be inconvenient if our focus is on earthly agendas rather than heavenly agendas. The questions that we must ask about all of activities is, “Will this be beneficial to someone seeking a relationship with Jesus Christ?” or “Will this help someone to grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ.”  These two questions will assist us in choosing the activities that should be most important to us.  Our priorities must be in the right order also if we are going to be spiritually healthy.  I look at the list in simple terms. 

  1. God
  2. Self
  3. Family
  4. Career
  5. Ministry

These priorities are my own and not necessarily what the latest survey would agree with.  We begin with our relationship with God.  Prayer, scripture reading, meditation, reflection and times of silence are all ways that we cultivate our relationship with God.  We speak to God and find time to listen to God speaking to our hearts. Setting a specific time and place each day to meet God is just as important as the other appointments on your schedule.  Being intimate with someone demands time and attention.  We want to cultivate our intimacy with God because God is not a spiritual bellhop to respond to our immediate request.  God is a loving parent who wants to be in relationship with us.   

Taking time for you includes exercising, setting and evaluating goals, pursuing a hobby or just being with yourself.  Evenings in quiet room, sitting on a bench by a lake or taking a prayer retreat are possible ways to take care of you. All of this and more is necessary so that you are physically, emotionally and spiritually ready to then help, take care of and minister to others.  Many people feel guilty about taking time out for themselves but it is essential have “me” time so that your reservoirs are full before you start pouring out to other people.  Being married, having children and working for other people all demand that we give of ourselves.  Our goal should always be to give out of our abundance rather than scraping the bottom of the barrel. Henri Nowen talks about this extensively in his book “The Wounded Healer.” Our priority after taking care of ourselves is our family.  This is the fruit of our intimacy with God.  We should be sharing what God is speaking to us in the family and spending time with the family so that they can see what God is doing through us.  Showing up five minutes before the recital and leaving immediately after the congratulatory hug is not attending your child’s recital.   To be at the soccer game physically but emotionally you are still at the job is not an effective way to let your family know that they are important to you.  Working in ministry as a lay person and as clergy demands that the barriers be discussed openly and honestly.  I will be at my child’s open house even if it means rescheduling the trustees meeting. Education is a high value in our family and the people who share the ministry with us have their boundaries also that need to be discussed so that everyone is honored in the process of doing ministry as a team.   

The next two priorities do not need a lot of explaining.  You need a career to pay the bills and ministry is what God called you to do.  In discerning our God Given purpose we should ask the question, “How is my calling and ministry connected.”  Rosalyn Satchel is an example of how our ministry is also our career.  She is the executive director of the National Center for Human Rights Education.  I know her as Roz, one of the most dynamic preachers of our generation.  Her sermons have always included a call to social justice and they been scripturally and theologically sound.  While we were in seminary together I always knew that she was going to be a great pastor.  God may still have that in the plans but to see her living out her ministry in the marketplace and not compromising her call is simply amazing.    While talking to a group of Life coaches who work with pastors we were discussing that everyone should have connect their ministry gifts and calling to their secular career.  Because this is so difficult as coaches we have ask the questions and provide the context in which our ministry team can discover their gifts and calling rather than us directing them into what we see for them.   Spiritual Health is affected by our entire being and everything that we experience.  Here are just a few quick ideas that can assist you to maintain the right focus and to be spiritually healthy. 

  1. Plan time each day for personal prayer, quiet time, and a weekly time for personal worship.
  2. Cultivate a positive outlook and attitude.  Guard against negative people and their attitudes. 
  3. Cultivate a passion for other people around you to be spiritually healthy.  The more you care about other people’s spiritual health the more you will realize the areas that you need to address for yourself.
  4. Memorize scripture as often as possible.  A systematic method of memorizing scripture will allow you to incorporate the Word of God into your life starting with the internal reorganizing and evaluation.
  5. Have an accountability partner.  He or she should be able to be honest with you and you have to be willing to be transparent before them. 
  6. Take a Sabbath day on a consistent basis and a Sabbath rest once a quarter to rejuvenate.

William T Chaney JrPastor

West Baltimore UMC

5130 Greenwich Ave

Baltimore, MD 21229