The 7Rs of sanctuary: A process for effectiveness in leadership and spiritual well-being

Posted Jan 15, 2015 | Pastoral Excellence Network


By Debora Jackson

Debora JacksonHow do we balance the demands of leadership—caring for the congregation, doing the work of the church, and serving in the community; while also tending to our own spiritual well-being? This is one of the greatest challenges of ministry.

When we lead with vision and vitality, our churches and communities can thrive. But when we are depleted, we are less able to inspire creativity, and our churches suffer. Because the well-being of our churches is intrinsically tied to the well-being of the leader, it is critical for us to have practices that increase our effectiveness in ministerial leadership and enable us to attend to self in healthy, restorative ways.

What I call “the 7Rs of sanctuary” is such a practice. Combining leadership theory with spiritual practice, these seven sequential steps help leaders create space for reflection to expansively consider potential strategies.

1. Retreat. Retreat means to step away from your leadership. Just as Jesus invited his disciples to come away to a deserted place to rest (Mark 6:31), you must do the same. It is necessary for your leadership and your well-being to seek an isolated physical or mental space whereby you can create separation from the work and the challenges that confront you.

2. Release. Release is the intentional act of letting go. We are encouraged to cast our cares upon God because God cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Each of us needs a period of dormancy and restful quiescence where we can “be” rather than “do.”

3. Review. This is the opportunity to consider your leadership context in a mindful way and without condemnation. Imagine your work as if you were watching clouds go by. What is going well? What could be improved? Are you where you hoped to be? God helps us gain a sense of priority as we review and then offer the pieces of our work to God.

4. Reconnect. We need to reconnect to our calling and sense of God’s purpose in our ministry. We have to reconnect to the ideals that are core to who we are and where we are going. And as we reconnect and remember, the flames of dreams lost are sparked. We can consider anew our goals and our plans to reach them.

5. Reflect. Reflection allows us look forward at the current context and the situation remembered during review, while looking backward to examine the original goals and ideals that came to mind during reconnection. As we hold those ideas in parallel we can recognize the gaps and disconnects between where we are and where we were called to be.

6. Recalibrate. To recalibrate acknowledges that we cannot direct our own steps. We need God to correct us in just measure so that we might get back on track. This is the opportunity to mentally “try on for size” the emerging ideas that were brought to mind in reflection and to discern whether there is energy and excitement that arises from them.

7. Return. Return prepares us to go back to our leadership. In returning, we celebrate having taken time apart, and we give thanks for the opportunity to step away. In returning, we recognize God’s affirmation of our ministry as a beloved son or daughter. And we realize the eagerness to return, particularly as we emerge from the process with new ideas and strategies for our ministries.

Ministry is a heavy load, and we need strategies that will help us to flourish in ministry. The invitation is extended: take time apart from your leadership, engage in the process, and be restored.

Please join Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson for a PEN Talk webinar on the theme of this blog on Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 2:00 PM Eastern by going to:

The Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson is the Executive Director of the Ministers Council, American Baptist Churches, USA, an autonomous, professional, multi-cultural organization of ordained, commissioned, and lay Christian leaders serving American Baptist Churches. She is the author of the forthcoming Judson Press book, Spiritual Practices for Effective Leadership: 7Rs of Sanctuary for Pastors.

The Pastoral Excellence Network at CTS seeks to connect and nurture groups for clergy at all stages of ministry. To request permission to repost this content, please contact



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