How can a pastor best take care of himself in ministry? Rev. Michael Glodo provides practical advice for pastors, reminding them of the importance of living by the gospel.  

Be a Follower of Christ

I think the first and most important rule of how a pastor can take care of himself in ministry is to be a Christian. Because the first calling the first obligation of any minister is to be a follower of Jesus Christ. And that means not just the gospel being what we say, and what we preach, and what we advance, but means the gospel is something we live by in our own lives. Someone once said, “Before we’re ever called to be a shepherd, we’re called to be a lamb.” And God doesn’t call us to sin in order to serve him, whether through overwork or neglect of important relationships. Yes, there will be sacrifice in ministry, but not sin. And this is not just for oneself, but also for one’s family, and one’s most important relationships, spouse and children. I think it’s easy for pastors to start to think of their children and their spouse as lines on their ministry resume, and they are not. They’re souls entrusted to that pastor as family members to shepherd as well. And so, shepherding the family is the first place where shepherding should take place.

Be Aware of Occupational Hazards

God doesn’t call us to sin in order to serve him, whether through overwork or neglect of important relationships.Be aware of occupational hazards: overwork, family neglect, but also the spiritual ones, the spiritual occupational hazards—such as worshiping the praise of people, and even works righteousness. So be cognizant, and practice certain metrics as an important part of taking care of ourselves and ministry. The Lilly Endowment has spent millions over the last 10 or 15 years getting at some of the factors that help in this regard. Having a spiritually growing life, which is what I’ve already mentioned, collegiality—that is, having a relationship with peers. Now, as a Presbyterian, I can have relationships and collegiality with my fellow elders at the local church level, but sometimes it’s ministers in the community, or even seminary classmates that we’ve kept in touch with over the years—but, having relationships beyond just the pastor-parishioner relationship. Embodiment’s important. You know, a lot of Christian ministers don’t live lives that look very rich and happy and full, and they do it under the excuse of serving and sacrificing for the Lord. But really, as Christians, we believe, first of all, that God made us as material beings, and that creation is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. So we should be embodied in a Christian life where we read literature, listen to music, enjoy the created order of things. Emotional intelligence is critical too: being able to read people and understand how we come off to other people. Having the right balance of agency and accountability, meaning, how much freedom and how much accountability do we need to function the best, and then having sufficient resources to do that. Often we serve beyond what we’re being asked to do, just because we think that that is what the Lord wants.

Develop a Sense of Thick Cruciformity

‘Thick cruciformity’ is learning how to live daily by self-divestiture in order to receive life.I can sum all this up, maybe, in the umbrella, if you will, of what I call ‘thick cruciformity.’ Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow me, if anyone wants to have life, he must take up his cross” and follow Jesus. And so, ‘thick cruciformity’ is learning how to live daily by self-divestiture in order to receive life. And that means not a voluntary martyrdom, but it also means not self-preservation as our highest interest. So if we can develop this sense of thick cruciformity, a thick gospel, where, as we divest our self-interest and look to the interests of others, and in that way, we see the life of Christ for us—that is, live by the gospel, not just live proclaiming the gospel—[then] we’ll have a sense of well-being. [Then] we’ll be the best at taking care of ourselves, and also those closest to us in ministry.