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Today’s blog is a guest post from former pastor Chrystal Westbrook. 

As ministers and soul caregivers, we instinctively place a priority on the needs of others. Our training and education reinforce that instinct. Placing a priority on our own soul-health needs can seem frivolous in comparison, particularly given the current cultural definition of self-care as akin to treating yourself to something indulgent or pampering. This understanding incorrectly identifies tending our soul health as a luxury and available only to a few. When we see our God-given purpose of tending Creation includes the care and tending of ourselves as part of that Creation, we open up new perspectives on the nature and priority of self-care.

Tending to our whole selves includes the practical, physical actions of ensuring we have adequate sleep, eating well, and participating in regular exercise. There are personal spiritual practices (for example, prayer, meditation, contemplating Scripture, worship) that nourish our souls as they become part of our daily habits. There are also the relational practices of being in community, receiving affirmation of how God sees us, and mutually blessing one another through God’s grace that contribute to our soul’s health.

The work of self-care requires time, a commodity typically in short supply for anyone involved in ministry. To incorporate a regular practice of self-care into our lives already filled with the tasks of ministering to and caring for others requires the intentional and ongoing assessment of our priorities. As we invite the presence of the Spirit of God into our times of self-reflection, spending time in God’s presence, we allow the Spirit to be the filter through which we see ourselves and allow our priorities to be clarified and confirmed.

Prompts for reflection:

  • What habits of self-care are you currently practicing?
  • Is there an aspect of self-care you find more difficult to understand than the others? What is one practice you can begin that addresses this area?
  • Are you concerned that placing a priority on self-care may cause you to be seen as less committed to your ministry by those you provide care to? Consider how you might communicate the value self-care brings to your ability to provide care to others.