Dec 16, 2008

Celebrating Successes - Clergy Self-Care

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by Rochelle Melander , Harold Eppley

If you are like many spiritual leaders, your ministry may feel like an endless to-do list. You may work through your days always thinking, "So what's next on the agenda?" You preach a great sermon on Sunday and then wake up on Monday to start a new one. You get through the Advent-Christmas season of activities only to realize that Lent looms around the corner. You complete a successful Bible study and someone asks, "When does the next study begin?"

Because of the nature of their work, many spiritual leaders rarely take time to savor their accomplishments. Making time in your schedule to express gratitude for the blessings you have experienced and to celebrate your accomplishments can bring joy and a renewed sense of purpose to your ministry. Here are a few ideas to consider that might help you do so.

Connecting with Yourself

  • Make a list of the activities and experiences that bring you joy and are potential vehicles for celebration. Your list can include activities you might do alone or with others and range from short to long, inexpensive to costly. Try to come up with as many as possible. Examples include a bubble bath, a massage, a trip to your favorite bookstore, a night at the movies, a nap, a hot-fudge sundae, a dinner gathering with friends, a pool party, a ski trip, or a walk in the park.
  • Make a list of occasions that you might choose to celebrate in the next year (alone, or with colleagues, parishioners, family, or friends). Include both big accomplishments (such as completing your stewardship drive) and small ones (such as preaching a good sermon or finishing a month of shut-in visits). Here are some other suggestions:

    * Celebrate the date of your ordination anniversary (or the anniversary of your beginning to work in your current ministry setting or the anniversary of your baptismal date).
    * Count up the number of baptisms, weddings, or sermons that have been a part of your current call or lifetime in ministry. Decide on a number that you want to celebrate and when you get there—do so.
    * Celebrate the beginning and end of church seasons.
    * Celebrate the beginning and end of Bible studies or other classes.
  • Schedule at least one celebration for each of the next six months in your calendar. Write down what you will celebrate and how you will celebrate it. Contact those people you want to include in your celebrations. If any events need extra planning, use a calendar to make notes to yourself about when to follow through on those plans.

Connecting with a Partner

  • With a colleague, talk about the role of celebration in your life and ministry. (Is it something that comes easily? Why or why not? Do you celebrate often? Why or why not?)
  • How does taking time to reflect on or savor your accomplishments affect your attitude toward your life and ministry?
  • Share three accomplishments from your ministry.

Connecting with God 
Let your devotional time take on a celebratory tone this week. Thank God for blessing your life and ministry. Share with God those life and ministry accomplishments for which you are most grateful. Be creative in the ways you express your gratitude. You may use one of these ideas or come up with one of your own:

  • Write a psalm of praise.
  • Dance your praise to a favorite hymn or song, using scarves or other tools of expression.
  • Paint a visual expression of your praise.
  • Build something from clay, wood, or even sand that reflects your gratitude.
  • Bake bread and share it with others in gratitude to God.
  • Light candles or incense during your prayers.

No matter how busy you are, take time to celebrate some accomplishment in your work this week. You can celebrate alone or with friends, family, or parishioners—just celebrate. Enjoy yourself, and thank God for blessing your ministry.

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Adapted from The Spiritual Leader's Guide to Self-Care by Rochelle Melander and Harold Eppley, copyright © 2002 by the Alban Institute.