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A Guide for Becoming Healthier, Happier and Longer-Lasting Christian Leaders: Part 1

Brent HooverBrent Hoover

This is part 2 in a 3-part series.

The Rare and Blessed Path of a Healthy Leader

There are basically two lifestyle paths on which you can walk until the end of your life. The first path is the broad one ‒ the one most ministers are on ‒ the path of unhealthiness. It is the lifestyle of super-busy ministers who have little time for caring for their own fitness or for developing close relationships with their family or friends. They rarely slow down and enjoy the special moments of life. 

Twenty years from now if we were to meet one of those who had gone down that path he might tell of ministry achievements ‒ a large church or a large number of people who were touched by his ministry success ‒ but in his family there will likely be a level of brokenness and even resentment because they were never as important as “the ministry.” This leader will likely be experiencing issues in his physical health. Emotionally, he will probably be lacking deep joy and be feeling lonely because there was little time for real friendships in his busy ministry life.

On the second path, the narrow path, are those who know that their family, body, and ministry are gifts from God to be wisely cared for. In the midst of life’s challenges, they have learned to rest spiritually, to exercise, and to enjoy some especially close friendships. They take time to make their spouse and kids feel special. They are far from perfect but they are on a healthy path. And their health has kept them strong to lead others well. 

The Choice

The choice you are facing is this: will you go to the “fitness center” for ongoing preventative care, or will you need to go to the hospital’s “critical care center?” This is a vivid metaphor for leader care. Many Christian leaders today are burnt out and are in need of critical care. Indeed, an effective leader care ministry needs to care for any minister who has hit the wall and needs restoration. But the vast majority of leaders could avoid that if they would often go to the “fitness center” to focus on their personal wellness.  

Though it takes commitment, focusing on your own leader care will help you avoid the pain, suffering and loss that days, or months, of burnout or a health crisis would bring. And it would help you become a healthier, happier and longer-lasting Christian leader. 

Here are two models (fitness centers) for investing in your personal leader health. These will help you make a significant shift in your life paradigm. The first one focuses on five key areas of a healthy Christian leader’s life. The second model focuses on the four areas that often cause issues in a leader’s life. Reflect

about your life and consider how it could be better if you made a few adjustments in these areas. 

Health Focus Basic Care Plan Notes
Christ
  • Weekly Day of Rest and Recreation
  • One 8-hour daytime period of no work, phones calls or meetings. Instead, spend time resting, with family, or doing an activity or sport you love!
 
  • Monthly day of Spiritual Renewal.
  • Choose a day each month to focus more deeply on your love for Jesus. Go to a city park or to a local natural area. Meditate on Scripture, hike, reflect, write, sing, study. Go alone or with a friend.
 
  • Yearly 5-7 Day
    Spiritual Life Retreats
  • Plan months ahead for a special time of retreat to draw close to Lord. You can go alone or with others.
Community
  • A Friend in Christ
  • Develop a special friendship with someone that you can meet with for transparent sharing of life together every month at least.
 
  • Spouse Connection Time
  • Write in your calendar a 1-hour café time or walking time or date time that you will spend with your spouse each week.
 
  • Children Connection Time
  • Beyond normal dinner and homework help, plan a special time with your child each month.
Character
  • Daily Walk for Health
  • 5,000 to 8,000 steps a day. Enjoy moving more!
 
  • Eat for Health
  • Eat a plate that is half vegetables and fruits, half protein and healthy fats. Cut out juices, sodas, fried breads, extra rice & oily foods.
 
  • Fitness / Sports Training
  • Do 4321 ‒ a ten-minute HIIT workout ‒ High Intensity Interval Training. Do body weight fitness training. Play a sport each week.
 
  • Get an Annual Physical and Design a Wellness Plan
  • Get to know numbers: blood pressure, good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, and triglycerides. Meet with a health coach to design a plan. 
Calling
  • New Testament Calling Project
  • Read through one book of the New Testament and ask the Lord, “What is your calling on my life at this point?”
 
  • Yearly Personal Coaching
  • Meet with a friend and talk about your life call, barriers, and develop a plan.

The Paradigm Shift: Your Health Is Worth It

The first and most important step towards becoming a healthier, happier and longer-lasting leader is embracing the value of your own holistic health ‒ meaning healthy in body, in soul and in relationships. This is a major paradigm shift for most people. You must believe that investing in your own leader health is worth it, that God desires it, and that your family and church or ministry team would be happy for you if you did it.

Leader Care ‒ New Priorities, New Realities

As you consider your own health as a Christian leader perhaps one of the biggest changes in thinking is realizing that God does not call people into ministry for the primary purpose of meeting the needs of other people. He calls us first into an intimate relationship with Himself. The God of the universe has called us to Himself. Just as Jesus did with His disciples so He desires to reveal more of who He is to each of us. The tasks of ministry should never supersede a face-to-face intimate relationship with God. This is the source of all Christian leader health ‒ living in union with Him.

If this is your priority it will show up in how you plan your ministry life each week, month and year. There will be time for seeking God in worship, prayer, solitude and meditation on His Word. Retreats will be a regular part of your yearly schedule. Solitude hours will be a part of your normal work week. Investing in your own spiritual health will show itself to be a priority to others. Perhaps the biggest sign that you have accepted this paradigm shift will be the joy of God in your heart as you know, without a shadow of doubt, that you are on the path of knowing more and more of the depths of who God is. 

In addition to this personal walk with Christ, a Christian leader who walks the path of wellness also has to focus on the relationships God has given him or her – one’s spouse, children, friends and colleagues. The integrity and health of a leader’s life will be reflected in their closest relationships. And when it comes to long-term joy and love (yes, these are among our deepest God-given needs and should not be ignored), an investment in the people in our own family is the wisest of all things to do. 

Making this paradigm shift in your identity and priorities as a minister will lead to a focus on the quality of your own spiritual and relational life. This is true leader care and it starts with you. 

In Parts 2 and 3, we will discuss how to go about pursuing greater physical health through four key areas of focus.

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