Soul Care: Why Your Friendship With God Is So Important
Published: May 3, 2023
You’ve made it through the Easter season. Hallelujah! Now VBS and summer events loom large on the horizon. In your attempt to serve God and nurture young souls during this busy season, is it all too easy to neglect your own soul care? If so, you’re not alone.
Did you know that there are ministries that intentionally come alongside and provide spiritual support for church leaders like you? Jeannie Martin, the National Director for Women in Ministry at one such organization called PastorServe, explains the difference between living like God’s employee instead of his beloved child. Read on to discover how Martin describes soul care and why it makes all the difference for children’s ministers—especially today.
Why is soul care so important?
Our world values progress, accomplishment, and productivity. Sadly, so do some of the churches we serve. We don’t often feel permission to slow down, pausing to acknowledge the impact of ministry on our souls, relationships, health—even our own faith.
There are so many needs. In the aftermath of the pandemic, children at your church bring heart-breaking stories, their distress expressed through behavioral, developmental, and sensory issues. Indeed, as children’s ministers, you are on the front lines of the gaping needs in our communities and culture.
Ministry is costly. The weight of our work cannot be measured in hours alone. We find ourselves carrying burdens too heavy to bear. We need regular, intentional space for recovery and renewal.
But ministry can cost all the wrong things. One pastor noted, “Ministry will fill any container you give it.” Like an overgrown vine, it creeps into family, fun, a good night’s sleep, health, even your own relationship with God. Yet…
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it…Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:15, 18)
Could it be that God actually longs to care for you? To fill you then invite you to join him in loving others out of the overflow of his kindness to you?
Could it be true that God cares for the children’s minister as much as he cares for the children’s ministry?
Is your soul neglected or nourished?
I asked the question: “What emerges when the needs of the soul are neglected?”
Church leaders attending our Soul Care luncheon were quiet at first. Then one person braved, “apathy.” Others called out, “bitter, critical, disconnected, entitled, anxiety, numb, self-protective, jealousy, martyr, shame…” The left column on the whiteboard was soon filled.
“What emerges when the soul is tended to? Connected to God?”
“Hopeful, engaged, gracious, creative, joyful, contentment, compassion, look forward to the day, respond instead of react.” Someone remarked the right column bore a strong resemblance to the fruit of the Spirit.
“Which column would you rather live in?” A ripple of laughter acknowledged the painful truth of how often we neglect the care of our souls in our attempt to care for others.
Who really takes care of your soul?
People talk a lot about self-care these days. Indeed, self-care is important. I can and must care for myself, as an act of love, stewardship, and worship.
But who is responsible for caring for my soul? That deepest, shyest part of me? Who can tend to my heart? Who knows what I really need? Who can handle all that’s going on in the very depths of my being? Who convinces the still unconvinced places of my heart of love, worth, belonging, acceptance?
Recite with me a bit of Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
Did you notice who is doing all the work? To nourish and restore our souls, we have got to get to the Shepherd!
Unfortunately, productivity reigns. “Seize the day!” “Make an impact!” Rewarded for our busyness, soul care can feel like one more thing we must cram into our already full lives.
Used to being givers, we find it difficult to graciously receive. Or we make soul care a luxury once all the work is done and better than it’s ever been done before. It feels counter cultural, awkward—wrong, even.
Yet transformation happens when:
Working hard for Christ shifts to receiving care from Christ. Then, I may see Christ working in me and that Christ invites me to work with him. Lastly, and with gratitude, I see how Christ works through me.
It’s amazing! What Christ does in you and me, he wants to do through you and me!
God cares for the children’s minister as much as he cares for the children’s ministry because the minister is the ministry! The messenger is the message!
5 Practical Ways to Invite Jesus to Care for Your Soul
Along the way, I’ve learned that since the Shepherd is responsible for my soul, my part is to be ready to receive of all he longs to give.
As spiritual leaders, allowing Jesus to restore us is part of our job. Here are five practical ways to invite Jesus to do so:
- Incorporate margin and regular rhythms of rest and renewal into your ministry schedules. Entrust Jesus with what’s left undone and with needs left unmet.
- Recognize seasons of ministry. Receive less demanding periods as gifts from the Father to readjust your pace, recover, and be refreshed.
- Reframe spiritual practices (like Bible reading, prayer, and fellowship) as invitations to trustingly accept rather than obligations that bring guilt when missed. Let your “shoulds” become creative “coulds.”
- Take personal retreat days if your church provides them. Take them even if no one else does.
- Review sources of weariness and ask, “Lord, what are we going to do about that?” Read this article called Are You Dangerously Tired? by Ruth Haley Barton to explore the symptoms and sources of spiritual exhaustion in ministry.
Looking for a resource to help you AND your volunteer team focus on soul care? Check out Friends of God, a 12-session discipleship program that moves people toward a deeper friendship with God. Plus check out this great article: 25 Ways to Refresh Yourself in Ministry.
Church leaders care for a lot of people, and the past few years have been particularly demanding. Our team at PastorServe cares deeply about strengthening the church by serving pastors and their spouses, church leaders, and staff through coaching, consulting, retreats, and crisis care. Our experienced coaches and trustworthy caregivers come alongside leaders so that they thrive in fulfilling their calling both in the frontstage (public) and backstage (private) of life.
Jeannie Martin is the National Director for Women in Ministry at PastorServe. Through 20 years of church-planting in France with her husband Dennis, Jeannie learned that ministry in a post-Christendom, militantly secular environment must happen through patient cultivation of trusting, caring relationships.
Since returning to her hometown of Colorado Springs, she’s served as support staff in a multi-site church. She joined the PastorServe team in 2018 where she gets to join Jesus in strengthening the souls of those who strengthen souls.
Jeannie and Dennis are parents of three delightful daughters and one son-in-law. She loves art galleries, hikes, and laughter with her family.
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