By Kathrin Gabriel-Jones, MTM Volunteer Encouragement Coach, CPC, ELI-MP.
As a word, Encouragement conveys the sentiment of “you can do it!” or “you got this!” or even “go, man, go!” In ministry, encouragement seems ubiquitous in the language we extend to our congregation and communities. We encourage through words of support, advocacy of the downtrodden and forgotten, the cheer and comfort we extend to those who grieve and suffer, and the consolation and reassurance we preach and teach through sermons, prayers, meetings we attend, and services we plan. In bold faith, we recall the encouragement of the Apostles, the prophets, and our Lord Jesus Christ, all of whom comfort us, inspire our spirits and minds, and lay a call upon our hearts.
I know a lot of ministers and pastors, and one constant among all the people I know in ministry is this: they love language, they love words. There’s a joy inherent in the expression of and discovery through words. So, from this place of joy and wonder, I’d like to invite you to entertain how this simple word, encouragement, relates to ministry through the lens of self-care. This might seem a little heretical, but I’m game. Are you?
Now, I’m not a linguist by any means, so I entertained the word, “encouragement,” in its three parts: EnCourage-Ment. Yes, I utilized dictionaries and thesauruses in the process, and of course, I’ll cite my sources 😊 .
En-: to put into or go into, or to provide.
Courage: the state of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, fear, pain, even if that means the confidence to act in a way that adheres to or follows that person’s belief.
-ment: Any one of the three following experiences: a particular action or process in which a person engages, a result of a specific activity or process, or an instrument or participating agent of a particular action or process.
Okay, this seems pretty straight-forward, doesn’t it? In ministry, we encourage those in our congregation and in our community; it’s practically second nature in this life of faith and service to which we all – each of us – seek to follow.
But remember, this little experiment exists in the context of Self-Care, so for someone in ministry, we might get a result that’s a little bit like this
Encouragement of self-care for a person in ministry means making arrangements for and fostering a state of mind and spirit that will enable a pastor to face the difficulty, danger, fear, or pain related to intentionally engaging in particular actions and processes intended to provide care for their own mind, body, spirit, and faith.
It takes a while to say that sentence out loud. And that makes sense because this sentence takes a while to enact in our lives. Encouragement takes time and requires energy. Self-care takes time to plan, it requires time to engage in the actual care of one’s self, so it makes sense that it (self-care) sometimes feels uncomfortable simply because of the amount of time and energy self-care requires. As a result, care of our own self quickly becomes item nine on a list of the three most important things we have to do today, until someone asks us, “when was the last time you took a day off?” and we’re left with that deer-in-the-headlights feeling deep in our gut.
It matters, this acknowledgment of the various difficulties, dangers, fears, and pains related to setting aside specific, inviolable time for the sole purpose of taking care of yourself. When faced with that ineffable question of “how do I refill my well?”, each person involved in ministry encounters a different composition of obstacles and challenges. What those obstacles and challenges might be are unique for each person while simultaneously being familiar to everyone serving in ministry. In Ministering to Ministers, we see you. And in the spirit of compassionate courage, we sing En-Courage-Ment to you.
Kathrin Gabriel-Jones is a Ministering to Ministers Encouragement Coach