Lillian Daniel sparks an interesting conversation about clergy self-care in her article at Out of Ur, What Clergy Do Not Need. Lillian’s point is that the “self-care talk” given at ordinations has become a joke, a cliche. What we as clergy need, she asserts, are deep relationships with fellow pastors and with God.
Further, Daniel states: “My hunch, based upon my own experience in times when I have not taken care of myself, is that what I was missing was not within me already. I was lacking something, but it was not something that a lecture in self-care would fix.”
Here’s my comment in response to her post:
While the “self-care talk” may have become a cliche, that does not invalidate serious conversation about the need of pastors to pay attention to their own emotional, spiritual, and physical signals.
Self-care should not imply “self-reliance,” but rather recognition that I as a pastor need to mind my schedule, my commitments, and my relationships — the one with God included. Only we can do that for ourselves.
Blaming the pastor in need of physical, emotional, or spiritual renewal is not productive or helpful. We have too many instances of self-imposed failure to add failure to care for self to that list.
The answer lies not just in ourselves but in community with others. While community with fellow pastors is welcomed, my own faith community has most often provided the support, encouragement, and prayer I need. My approach is not to circle the wagons with fellow pastors, but to allow my own community to care for me, as I care for them.
I had another opportunity to experience that communal care this past summer when my brother died. I found being on the receiving end of care a difficult and humbling experience. I am trying to allow my own faith family inside my emotional and spiritual fence so that they can exercise their care for me in a shared call to “bear one another’s burdens.”
What do you think? Do pastors need each other, or is our own church family a place of healing and care? Who watches out for your emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being? This should be interesting, and with hundreds of clergy leaving the ministry each month, this is a conversation we need to have.