6 Critical Areas of Self-Care for Leaders

Summer ministry season is here, and many of you are in the midst of or preparing for significant community outreach like VBS, sports camps, and more. We’re in your corner as you prepare and lead and create spaces for kids to come to know and love Jesus!

From one leader to another, I wanted to encourage you today to not neglect that care of your soul, your mind, and your body in the midst of the demands.

I know, I know… this feels like the most illogical time to talk about self-care, but what I’m really encouraging you to do is to pay attention to the vessel God has entrusted you with stewarding.

If you’re burning out and wearing out- your family, your team, and the kids you love won’t be benefitting at all. Your growth and flourishing as a disciple is absolutely critical, and the care for who you are as a person and beloved child of God is vitally important to the Kingdom.

Here are a 6 areas of self-care to pay attention to in the midst of the demands of leadership this season:

 1) How much are you sleeping? I know that at least 43% of you (based on a Harvard research study) would say you’re not getting enough quality sleep. Sleep is critical to the executive function of the brain – neuroscience shows that while other areas of the brain can manage with too little sleep, the prefrontal cortex cannot. Basic functioning skills diminish when you’re not sleeping well, but not nearly to the same degree as higher-order skills. Your team and your ministry *need* a well-rested leader. 

2)  How hydrated are you? Did you know that a body water loss of 1% can impair your cognitive performance? Researchers in the ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal shared that attention spans, critical thinking skills, and memory are negatively impacted when an individual experiences even mild dehydration. Resting and keeping hydrated will have positive impacts on your executive/cognitive functions – simple acts of caring for your body will go a long way in impacting your effectiveness in your everyday leadership! 

3) Have you had much fun lately? Did you know science proves that having fun improves relationships both personally and in your leadership? Our ability to develop trust, show vulnerability, and present with approachability are amplified when we laugh and can have fun with others. Having fun also improves our ability to grasp new ideas and reduces stress- stress reduction naturally provides an increase in energy, focus, and clarity.

4) Have you gone to the doctor/dentist recently? Leadership is meant to persist over the long run as you obediently take on a big mission and work toward the finish line of the high calling of Christ, so it seems like making health a priority would be a no-brainer, right? As leaders balancing multiple roles, it is difficult to make time to schedule doctor’s appointments, go to the appointments, and follow up when needed. Leaders are unfortunately notorious for not prioritizing those visits to the doctor, and while it’s often because of valid excuses… it is impossible to be a long haul leader when you’re not prioritizing the care of your body.

5) What have you been learning? Numerous studies agree, including a recent study in the Neurology journal, that consistent learning dramatically reduces stress, improves memory and cognitive skills, and increases quality of life. Individuals who are committed to learning daily tend to feel more fulfilled and experience more breakthroughs when facing barriers. It’s very common in the high pressure role of leading children’s ministry to put learning and mental exercise on the back burner, but it is critical that we add rhythms of learning to our leadership. 

6) How deeply are you known? Healthy, safe, and supportive relationships are critical to the overall well-being of any individual – we are created to be known and loved by God and others. Depending on seasons of life, demands on time, failures or disappointments from past relationships, or even trauma experienced in our past or present, we can find ourselves existing in a sea of people without ever truly being known. As a leader, your ability to approach the people you lead and serve with vulnerability takes courage and it takes having safe and supportive relationships that are able to care deeply for who you are- not just what you do. 

These may seem like obvious points, but perhaps as you read the list you sensed you really needed to start paying more attention to that key area of self-care.

Grab a sticky-note right now, write it down, and put it on your computer screen. When you have a moment today, write down 2-3 ways you can add that area of self-care back into the rhythms of your week. Go a step further and let someone who loves you know what your plan is.

I’m praying for you today, and please know our team is daily lifting you up as you embark on all of what summer ministry means for your church. We are cheering you on, friends!

Take good care of yourself this week, and be encouraged that you are making a significant difference! 

P.S. You can find more helpful tips like these, as well as event updates and more on our social media. Like our Facebook page or follow our Instagram account today!

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