Where is Your Retreat from the Church?

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I just received the Fall edition of in Ministry, the magazine of the Palmer Theological Seminary. We’ve done several coach training programs for their alumni, and have also been featured in this magazine. I always find something useful in its pages, and this one was no different.

“14 Pieces of Advice for New Ministers” by Bill Wilson caught my eye (the article originally appeared online at ethics.com), as I quickly realized that these points were relevant to any minister. Almost every word had me nodding along and thinking, “Yeah, that was my experience,” and even more importantly, “I’m not the only one.”

In December, when schedules go crazy, it’s the perfect time to be reminded of these best practices for effective ministry. In our Coaching4Clergy coach training we always talk about how the ministry landscape is changing and that’s why we equip pastors and ministry staff with coaching skills – in order to navigate those changes.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll zero in on a few of Wilson’s 14 points. Let’s start today with #6, where he writes:

“What is your escape hatch? That’s what one friend calls your avocation. That is, the thing you would do if your primary vocation were taken away from you.“

So many of the pastors I know focus exclusively on their vocation and have no avocation, especially at this time of year. Yet all work and no play can quickly lead to pastor burnout and dissatisfaction. In this blog post from the spring, I share a little about the hobbies that give me a rest from my day-to-day work and last December I wrote about how I planned to celebrate the holidays in an intentional and personally meaningful way.

How do you escape from your work? Where do you retreat to? When do you lose all sense of time because you’re having so much fun and you’re so caught up in what you’re doing?

If there’s nothing like that in your life right now, think back to the past, and then explore ways you could find your way back to these interests and passions. Your church and your soul will be better for it.

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J. Val Hastings

J. Val Hastings, MCC, is the Founder and President of Coaching4Clergy, which provides specialized training for pastors, church leaders and coaches. Val is the author of the book The Next Great Awakening: How to Empower God’s People with a Coach Approach to Ministry and the e-book The E3-Church: Empowered, Effective and Entrepreneurial Leadership That Will Keep Your Church Alive. Val currently holds the designation of Master Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation, the highest coaching designation.

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