The totality of self-care

Posted Apr 07, 2017 | Academy of Preaching and Celebration


By Joyce Thomas

I want to talk about how in-depth self-care can and should be for the maximum health and balance for spouses of pastors who spend less time on themselves due to being over committed to others. I know I am repeating myself on this subject, however, I have seen too many pastor’s spouses filled with frustration, resentment, and anger this year. Therefore, I am advocating for those who partner with their clergy pastors to save their life by incorporating all of what self-care is into their lives. I believe that if pastor spouses paid more attention to what makes them feel happy and balanced, they would more likely be content with themselves and their outlook on ministry.

Until spouses of the clergy look beyond diet and exercise, they will never see the fullness of what self-care is truly about. In a section entitled, "The Theology of the Body" in the book, Desert Hearts and Healing Fountains, Victor Hunter writes,

"Self-Care is attending to the body, its physical and psychological needs. This involves proper diet, exercise, and rest, and especially taking time for Sabbath rest. It includes attention to sexual and emotional needs as well as play, recreation, and hobbies. It is attending to family needs, making sure that there is financial security, as well as developing and nurturing support systems that help your ability to cope with life’s challenges. It is attending to significant supportive friends, those who will give reciprocal care when needed. Lastly, self-care is incorporating and being nurtured by art, drama, music and literature. It is having interest in activities outside of the church that are unrelated to ministry."

It takes doing all of these things for the body to function well and stay in sync with God for the work of the Kingdom. This definition of self-care involves all of who you are and everything that concerns you in order to be healthy, strong, and well-balanced in your life so that you can thrive in ministry.

The Bible speaks about the health of the body in 3 John 1:2: “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (NIV). The prophet compares the health of the body to the spiritual life. Health of the body is important. The state of the body’s health influences the mind and soul. If the body is unhealthy, the impression of the outward life is negative and any influence will be limited and weak. However, if the body is healthy, the impression of the outward life is positivity and all influences of mind and soul are strong. Therefore, healthiness and positivity of mind and soul produces more to serve God.

I believe there is something to this scripture and it helps me to know that serving God wholehearted involves staying healthy, positive, and excited about ministering to people. The health of our bodies and our spiritual life coincides with how we feel about what we do as clergy spouses and how we look at the situations that happen in the church. As pastors’ spouses we must find ways to better take care of ourselves in all areas of life so that there will be joy in your service to God and more importantly  attend to our emotional, financial, relational, family, and everything that concerns our well-being. 

Here are a few health tips for taking care of yourself that I encourage you to think about:

  • Take a Sabbath rest day at least once a week to commune with God and listen to what God has for you.  Resting is always good for relieving stress and healing the body. 
  • Make time in your schedule to be with other clergy spouses in order to share with and encourage one another. Many of these spouses are looking for someone to have fun and laugh with, which is also good for the body.
  • Go on vacation with your family or with some of your good friends to re-unite in fellowship and care for one another. Go to the spa or go site seeing and learn something new to enhance your knowledge. 

I know there many other ways to increase the health of the body. When you find the ones that work for you, include them in your repertoire for self-care. In ministry, caring for your health always does the body good.

Dr. Joyce Scott Thomas is the Associate Director of the Academy of Preaching and Celebration.

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