Recently, I found myself returning to a required reading from a seminary course on leadership entitled, Leadership Handbook of Management and Administration, edited by James D. Berkley. I must say the prescribed title is not very exciting or appealing. However, the value of the content is undeniable. As I continue to lead, I have a greater desire to learn from those who are further along in their leadership journeys. I love their wisdom and stories of their experiences, but most importantly, I respect their faith that has been proven.
“Responsibility to Self,” a chapter written by Bill Hybels, caught my attention. Amazingly, some leadership books rarely address the importance of self-management or self-care. Immediately, I recognized Hybels’ name and his work as founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Willow Creek has influenced and served as a model to many churches. With my curiosity piqued, I reread the chapter that I had read years before.
In the chapter, Hybels proposes that leaders must ask themselves several questions. One of these questions is, “How am I doing spiritually?” (pg. 87). So, how are you doing spiritually? Unfortunately, sometimes we become so occupied with how the women in our churches are doing that we forget to check on our own spiritual condition. Do you have a desire to read Scripture? How is your prayer life? Are you enthusiastic for the Lord? Answers to these questions can serve as indicators of how we are doing spiritually. And, by asking a few questions, God may reveal some needed changes.
Another question is, “How am I doing physically?” (pg. 87). As I see it, now Hybels has begun to meddle. Now, for you exercise buffs, you love this question. For the rest of us, we tend to hang our heads. Certainly, even I, recognize the importance of proper sleep. Then, there is the needed commitment to exercise and good nutrition. These necessities often get sidelined when we travel at break-neck speeds trying to change the world for the sake of God’s kingdom. So, how are you doing physically?
I find the third area of self-care that Hybels addresses the most intriguing. Spiritual wellness and physical fitness are familiar concepts for leaders. But, what about emotional wellness? Hybels argues that many overlook this aspect of wellness. He introduces the concept of IMAs (Intensive Ministry Activities). “An IMA may be a confrontation, an intense counseling session, an exhausting teaching session, or a board meeting about significant financial decisions.” (pg. 89) And, the list goes on, doesn’t it? IMAs are encounters that leave us feeling drained of energy and vitality. Unfortunately, these examples are the very things that are ongoing aspects of women’s ministry. Hybels gives several indicators that provide evidence that you are running on emotional fumes. Do you have a desire to escape? Do you want to avoid family? What are your attitudes toward prayer, Bible study, etc.? How are you doing emotionally? (pg. 89)
Typically, it is easy to determine the steps we need to take to refuel spiritual and physical reserves. However, what can we do about our emotional wellness? Unfortunately, according to Hybels, restoring these reserves is not a quick fix. It takes time. He suggests doing something unrelated to ministry in order to maintain a balance between what he calls the eternal and the earthly. In addition, Hybels advocates intentionally returning to your primary spiritual gifts to renew your energy (pgs. 90-92).
Women’s ministry leader, how are you doing? Spiritually? Physically? Emotionally? Your answers will help determine your longevity in service. Will you take a few minutes to ask yourself the above questions? Do you need to make any changes?
1 Timothy 4:16: “Examine yourself and examine your life. Then change whatever you can change that will lighten your load and help you prevail in your calling.” – Bill Hybels’ paraphrase in Courageous Leadership.
Stephanie Edge is the director of women’s ministry at Poplar Heights Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., and a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier. She graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity. Stephanie also completed a Masters of Theology and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Stephanie currently is an associate professor at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and an adjunct instructor of women’s ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She has a passion for God’s Word and ministering to women.