This Leadership Health article is also available in Spanish. Este artículo también está disponible en español.
My profession as a psychologist allows me to listen to and be part of the most extraordinary and bizarre, happy and sad stories of leaders in my community. After years of clinical work, I asked myself, what does facilitate the success and longevity of a leader in ministry? In this limited space, I want to share only four basic principles in relation to this question.
Maintain a Healthy Sex Life
We live in a highly sexualized world. While it’s easy to talk about what is wrong in sexual matters, I have read very little on what is good and needed in this area. Solomon guides us wisely when he exhorts us: “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun … for this is your lot in life” (Eccl. 9:9, NIV). The most spiritual thing a healthy leader can do is not to fight that much against sex, but rather to have an active and mutually satisfactory sexual life with his/her spouse.
Maintain an Active Recreational Lifestyle
After treating dozens of pastors, it’s evident to see that the vast majority of them have no structured recreational activity. Very few enjoy themselves regularly for personal pleasure. Their lives are ministry oriented because the immense gratification it brings. However, when leaders get burned out by the overwhelming demands of church, they have no other activity that fulfills them. This creates an inability to experience pleasure and it leads them to depression. I’ve learned that investing time in fun activities makes me a lot more effective in my job.
Maintain an Inquisitive Intellectual Life
I always tell my students that I started to learn after I graduated. Having to give answers to real problems made me aware of how outdated and difficult to understand was the material I learned from college and seminary. This deepened further when I started to teach. If I don’t keep up with the advances in science or philosophical/theological currents that affect my peers, I become irrelevant. The antidote is reading. My basic goal is to read two books a month.
Maintain an Active Physical Life
With the passing of the years, I’ve proven the saying “those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness”. I won’t be able to escape from this even if I use a spiritual excuse for inactivity. My wife taught me that the best exercise is the one I enjoy. Walking for 45 minutes in the morning has given me time with God, his creation and with myself. It has also made me healthier.
By: Dr. Marcel Pontón, associate clinical professor from the University of California Department of Psychiatry in Los Angeles and associate adjunct professor of pastoral counseling at Fuller Seminary in Southern California
Translated by: Rose Mary Davidson, a Foursquare credentialed minister living in Santa Clarita, Calif.