By Doug Crozier
You can’t avoid it. The health of your ministry is tied to your personal and professional health. Many leaders (me included) have learned this lesson too late; we continue to push harder because we passionately want to grow God’s kingdom. Working hard is one thing; overworking is another.
Since transitioning from the corporate world almost 30 years ago, I have dedicated my life and ministry to the Restoration Movement. It was a big change, but I have never regretted it.
After many periods of burnout in my life, I began to develop a plan to break these unhealthy cycles. I have found that people in the church world have a different structure to their work habits and less separation from work and home. Our church is our spiritual family, and we consider those we worship with to be brothers and sisters. So, naturally, if one works at the church, one feels “always on” (at least to some degree).
Here are some ways I have found to avoid overworking:
Hire an Executive Coach
“Each of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (Romans 14:12).
TheCOVID-19 pandemic was taxing for me, filled with long hours, high stress, and decisions that had to be made on the spot. It was a chaotic time.
In early 2021, I had the opportunity to learn more about one of our investors. He was a doctor, but I did not know what kind. During lunch, he explained he held a PhD in psychology, formerly was a tenured professor at the University of Minnesota, had written five books and published over 800 articles, and speaks around the world. His main practice now is executive coaching and speaking. He is the coach for many corporate CEOs.
I had heard a lot about the importance of an executive coach, but I never thought I needed one. I was wrong! I hired Dr. Alan Zimmerman (www.drzimmerman.com) as my executive coach and wish I would have done it 30 years ago. In just over a year, I have learned much about myself, my leadership style, and how I can improve, and it all has made me a healthier and better leader.
Sometimes you must set aside your ego and dive into learning more about yourself, even if you think you are OK. I have learned much from Dr. Z, and I recently extended his contract for another year. I highly recommend an executive coach to ministry leaders!
Eat Well and Work Out
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Our bodies and minds should be in good condition to lead. This is a hard one for me because I travel so much. But I keep working at it. I feel good if I can work out four times a week; when I increase that to five or six workouts, I feel even better!
Improve Your Relationships
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
Managing multiple relationships both inside and outside your organization is a key to your success . . . but it isn’t easy.
Throughout my years in leadership, I have learned the higher up you are in an organization, the less you know about it. It’s paramount to maintain a solid working relationship with your team! You must know the staff. You must know the key stakeholders. I have worked extensively at this over my career and found it is exhaustive but necessary.
Work on Your People Skills and Communication Skills
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17, English Standard Version).
I recently had a two-hour session with Dr. Z on improving my listening and communication skills, areas where I know I need improvement. I found this session quite worthwhile.
Be in the Word
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105).
Being in God’s Word is the cornerstone of all these points. It all starts and ends with God’s Word. Prayer, of course, is also key.
Make God No. 1 in Your Life!
“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones” (Psalm 127:2, New Living Translation).
Prioritizing work over family is a major problem in ministry. Make sure you have the appropriate work/life balance.
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DEVELOP YOUR THREADS
“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
I began focusing on these three “threads” about 15 years ago. God is first in my life, my family is second, and my career is third. It’s easy to say these are one’s top priorities—in this order—but the follow-through is much more difficult! Here are my three threads, explained in greater detail:
1. Biblical Thread: Knowing God is No. 1 gives you more perspective into your personal and ministry life.
• Let God lead—from simple belief in God to trusting in him (Proverbs 3:5-6).
• Know your purpose—from earning a living to serving a purpose (Romans 8:28).
• Lead by example—from what I do to who I am (Matthew 5:16).
• Be a servant leader (the best leadership style)—from getting the most out of employees to bringing out the best in employees (Mark 10:43-45).
• Integrate—from balancing people and profits to integrating people and profits (Exodus 18:21).
• Move from success to significance (Jeremiah 29:11).
• Be a shepherd—from growing with him to helping others grow in him (1 Peter 5:2).
• Be patient—from sprinting under pressure to running with purpose (Hebrew 12:1).
2. Business Thread:
• Help build churches through sound financial practices.
• Help churches build people through stewardship principles.
• Maintain nonnegotiable principles on fiduciary responsibilities.
• Place people in the right seat on the bus (after getting people on the bus to start with).
• Find creative new ways to provide financing for churches.
• Set realistic goals.
• Maintain sound fiscal responsibilities and budgetary parameters.
• Multiply—mentor and groom the next generation of leaders.
3. Relational Thread:
• Follow the Word and tell others about it (Matthew 28:19-20).
• Tame the tongue. “Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body but it makes great boasts. . . . With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:5, 9).
• Consider the perspective of others. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).
• Empower and release. “Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave” (Exodus 18:20).
• Listen. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
• Lead. “If it is to lead, do it diligently” (Romans 12:8).
• Teach (Romans 12:6-7).
• Mentor and develop others.
• Instill and engineer trust in superiors, subordinates, constituents, and peers.
• Adjust with each circumstance.
• Determine that pressure from others will not cause you to compromise.
From this process I developed my “Thread Statement,” which I feel as passionate about now as I did 15 years ago when I wrote it:
Serving God through the leading of the facilitation of kingdom growth and kingdom influencers through biblically based financial and stewardship principles.
As I enter the final chapters of my ministry, this is my next big question: How can I move my ministry from success to significance?
In the end, my advice is to start working today to make sure you are healthy! Hire an executive coach, get to know who you are, redeploy your strengths into ministry, and watch what God does in your life!
Doug Crozier serves as CEO of The Solomon Foundation.