Effective ministry requires healthy self-care, experts say
July 20, 2006
By Deborah White*
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (UMNS) — Taking care of yourself is essential for effective
ministry, professionals in health and wholeness told leaders of the United Methodist
“Your ability to serve others is totally dependent on your ability to
function and be healthy,” said Suzanne Hawley, site director in the Department
of Preventive Medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.
She was co-leader of the Healthy Leadership Training Event July 12-15, along
with Judy Johnston, research instructor at the school.
“If we don’t engage in effective self care we can burn out,” Hawley
cautioned. “Some of us feel guilty that we’re not doing enough — even
if we are burned out. We are not meant to be in a continuous state of guilt.”
Hawley and Johnston guided leaders in the United
South Central Jurisdiction during a servant leadership self-care covenant workshop
intended to help them take steps to improve their own health.
“We are here to put tools in your hands so you feel you can move forward
in this pursuit of life,” said Johnston, who wrote the curriculum for
the workshop. Johnston and Hawley have presented the same self-care workshop
to many clergy in Kansas and have trained leaders to give the workshop to church
“Self-care ties directly to servant leadership,” Johnston said. “Servant
is taking time to listen to your own inner voice and others around you.”
|A UMNS photo by Debbie White
Morning exercise starts the day for those attending the Healthy Conference Leadership Training Event.
Hawley gave tips about time management, emphasizing
the art of delegating. “Every
time you say yes, you have to say no to something else.”
Johnston, a registered dietitian, emphasized taking small steps to improve
For example, healthy steps could include adding fruit to breakfast, storing
cut-up fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator, reducing the size of portions
or using low-fat cooking methods.
She urged participants to drink eight 8-ounce
glasses of water per day and to put money in a jar every time they refrain
a can of soda. “You
need tangible evidence. You won’t creep back to old habits.”
Johnston also recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity and seven
to eight hours of sleep. She warned participants to stay away from second-hand
She told participants to think of one aspect of physical, mental/emotional,
social and spiritual health and choose one specific step they could make to
improve. Participants broke up into groups of people with similar goals and
worked with a partner to develop plans for self-care covenants. They wrote
the names of people who could hold them accountable, including other participants
in the workshop.
Keys to success in self-care, Johnston said, include
taking one step at a time, setting a specific and measurable goal, writing
the plan and getting
social support. “Concentrate on the positive,” she said.
“We have taught this to clergy in Kansas to amazing response. This is
something we all need,” she said. “This forces you to take the
time for you.”
*White is associate editor of Interpreter magazine, published by United Methodist
News media contact: Debbie White or Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470