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When ministers get together, we are most likely going to ask our colleagues about how things are going in ministry: “How’s the church?” This question is a complicated one, so we usually give vague responses. We might mention post-pandemic attendance or plans to reengage the membership. If we want to be vulnerable, we might vent a little about a recent meeting. This is all interesting stuff, but the question that’s often far more difficult to answer is the one we need to ask: “How are you?”

It’s one thing to talk about the state of the ministry or organization we lead. It’s something else to reflect on our well-being as a leader. We don’t need to unpack the answers to this question with everybody who asks, but we do need to take the question seriously. On most days of the week, how do you feel about yourself, your family and your life? What’s the status of your mental, emotional and physical health? As Dave Odom asked in a recent article, how are you sleeping?

It’s so easy to go for long periods without taking an inventory of our personal well-being. After all, someone needs to pick up the children from school. Someone needs to prepare for the meeting tonight. If you preach regularly, Sunday is always right around the corner. So receive it as a gift when someone asks how you’re doing. The answer is not about performance. It’s about knowing and loving ourselves.

It won’t always be the right time and place to say everything we need to say. But hopefully we won’t ignore the question. When we have a few moments of solitude, perhaps we can revisit the question and be honest with ourselves.


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Before you go…

As a Christian leader, you invest much of your time and energy in caring for others. You serve. You teach. You lead. You probably won’t be asked about your well-being as often as you need to think about it. So the best thing you can do is interrogate yourself. Take the time to examine the state of your body, mind and soul.

Every few months, I try to get away to a retreat center for a couple of days. At one time, I didn’t think I could afford the time away. But after the ups and downs of pastoring for more than two decades, I know that I can’t afford not to get away.

Advent blessings to you and yours! You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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