Every Friday morning I meet my mentor. This is someone who’s a member of the church but not employed by them. It’s a chance for me to talk over the week I’ve had, both at work and at home, reflecting on what’s been good or bad, and sometimes to let off a little steam. At the end of our time together he then prays for me, giving thanks for the good or praying for my needs and concerns. It’s a really helpful time and I look forward to it each week.
One thing which I’ve noticed him say on a number of occasions is that I need to look after myself. This is nearly always in relation to looking after myself spiritually and this is off course the priority. But he’ll also regularly say something like this; “you must look after yourself physically, get some exercise,” etc.
I don’t think this is an area we talk about much in ministry. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a conference or read an article which has suggested those of us in ministry need to look after ourselves physically. There’s a multitude of stuff out there about staying spiritually fresh but I haven’t seen a lot looking at the physical side. Having thought about this a little, I want to suggest three simple things we need to do to stay physically fresh in ministry.
1. Sleep Well
If you’re anything like me, you’re a bit of a night owl who likes to burn the candle at both ends. This inevitably ends up with me waking up exhausted and struggling to really function the next day. I need to remember that I’m not at university anymore and staying up ’til 4am playing Fifa is now a luxury I no longer have. I need my 8 hours if I want to be effective the next day, as well as to avoid becoming grumpy with those around me.
I find the reason I tend to stay up late is because I find it’s the only time I have in the day to do what I want to do, so I try and justify it as being ‘my time’. We all need to have some down time to indulge our hobbies but staying up half the night to do so doesn’t help anyone, least of all you.
Others stay up into the wee hours working, often justifying this by seeing themselves as being some kind of martyr making sacrifices for the Lord’s work. Again, this is actually counter-productive, and it also raises some questions about your time management.
2. Eat Well
I love to eat and there is barely anything you could put in front of me that I wouldn’t eat, such is my love of food. But with a dodgy sleeping pattern, I often find myself skipping breakfast in order to get to work on time. I’ll then skip lunch too in order to try and keep on top of the work I need to do and so I’ll often find myself not eating anything all day until my evening meal. Again, this isn’t really helpful or healthy and I know that I function far better if I’ve had a good breakfast in me at the start of the day and can then take the time out for lunch later. So basically, keep stuffing yourself with food. Don’t worry about any potential weight gain as we should also…
3. Exercise Well
Exercise; you either love it or you hate it. My motto has always been, “No Pain, Good!” But whether you love or hate exercise, none of us can deny that it’s good for us and it makes us feel better. I try and get down to the gym 2-3 times a week and work really hard. I can’t say I always look forward to it but once I’m done, I never regret having done it. I find it’s the best way to work off any stress I’m feeling and I come out feeling really good. If I can get down to the gym before work, I find it really sets me up for the day and gives me a head start. It almost feels like cheating to turn up top a staff meeting at 9.30am having already done an hour and a half in the gym. I’m just so much more on the ball than I would have been otherwise. I find exercise so helpful that I even find myself getting a bit edgy and grumpy if I don’t get to the gym as regularly as I’d like. The gym might not be for you but there’s a million and one ways to get your exercise, whether it’s walking to work, going for a jog or doing sport with friends. Paul even tells us in 1 Tim 4:8 that physical exercise does have some value. Sure he goes on to say godliness is more important but that doesn’t invalidate the value of physical exercise, and so we shouldn’t underestimate it’s importance.
So those are my 3 tips staying physically fresh in ministry, or indeed any walk of life. I can’t say I’ve got it completely nailed and I know I certainly need to get better at both sleeping and eating but hopefully these relatively simple things might be of some use to you.