How are you? No, really, how are you?
Maybe you work full-time, in or out of the home. Maybe you are caring for your family, your children, and/or your parents. Maybe you are trying to serve and meet the needs of your neighborhood and community during this pandemic. Maybe you are trying to manage the constant onslaught of political disarray and social unrest. Maybe you are just trying to make it hour by hour, day by day. Maybe everything already mentioned and more is your "new normal." In the midst of whatever you are weathering, how are you?
Wherever you find yourself in this strange season, there's no doubt your various roles and responsibilities are taking a significant toll on your emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. Have you felt it? Is there anything you are feeling weary of or doubtful toward? Is there anything that just feels life-taking? Maybe you've felt the urge to just say no to everything and cancel all your current commitments. Maybe you are weary, or you have doubts. Even in a season where much has been taken away from us, we can still find ourselves carrying too many burdens and showing signs of burnout.
This is especially dangerous if you’re leading others right now. In doing the research for our book, Leading Small Groups that Thrive, we found that the majority of group members indicated their leader's spiritual and emotional health were critical. To write it another way: the majority of group members look to their leader to be spiritually and emotionally healthy. Not perfect, mind you, but healthy. In a time where everything has been flipped upside down, church small groups might be one of the few stable and life-giving spaces available, and group members want these to be healthy spaces led by healthy leaders.
This also means that wherever you lead or have influence, you must take care of yourself in such a way that you can continually thrive and grow through the ups and downs of pandemic life. This means that your health isn't just a good idea for you, but for everyone else around you. This also means there's more impetus than ever before to take an honest look in the mirror. This begs the simple but extremely important question, "How are you?"
Without adequate support and rhythms, you open up yourself to burnout, which ultimately hinders you and the people you lead. Your health left unattended is a slippery slope to burnout. The opposite is equally true: with the right support and rhythms, you can create space to exhale and examine the quality of your spiritual and emotional health. Focusing or refocusing on your health prepares you for the ongoing work God has for you as a leader in this season. Plus, it's just a good idea to take care of yourself. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of this truth.
One of the greatest biblical examples of leadership burnout comes from Exodus 18. Moses, the great leader of the nation of Israel, was visited by his father-in-law, Jethro. It was the first family gathering since the mass exodus from Egypt. During this family reunion, Jethro quickly noticed that Moses was headed toward a major breakdown and this crash and burn moment would affect the entire nation of Israel.
"Moses's father-in-law said to him, "What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone" (Exodus 18:17–18, emphasis mine) Even though Moses had great intentions, he was headed straight for disaster. His pace was not sustainable, his burdens were too much for one person, and he wasn't utilizing his resources.
As you reflect on Moses' example, ask yourself where you are right now spiritually and emotionally:
Is your current pace sustainable, or are you wearing yourself out?
Are you getting enough rest, exercising regularly, and eating well?
What burdens are too numerous or heavy for you to carry alone?
What resources or rhythms are available to you that you are not utilizing?
When we lean into the support and rhythms available to us, we create space to care for our souls. This attention to care creates favorable conditions for spiritual and emotional growth and might be all the difference between surviving and thriving in this current season.
It can be done; we can lead well and care well for ourselves at the same time. In fact, finding ways to engage in spiritual and emotional self-care fuels your influence and leadership for those around you.
At The Perch, we’d love to help you take care of yourself during this season. Join us for an upcoming workshop at The Perch, such as Election Season Soul Care, take a personal retreat day at The Perch, or use our Soul Care Guides.
Jason Sniff, (M.A., Baylor University), is Pastor of Small Groups at Eastview Christian Church in Normal, IL. He has been in and around ministry for over 10 years and spent much of that time in developing leaders, ministry, and equipping groups to impact the world around them. Prior to officially working in and on ministry, Jason spent 13 years in higher education at various colleges and universities counseling, discipling, teaching, and training college students to take their next steps. Jason is co-author of Leading Small Groups that Thrive.