In September A Guide to Ministry Self-Care: Negotiating Today’s challenges with Resilience and Gracewill be released. The book can be pre-ordered here. As the title indicates, this is broad ranging new resource, intended to sustain and enrich clergy in all types and places of ministry so that they may prosper and endure. The book was created by a team of professors and students at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, led by Dr. Richard P. Olson.
For a number of years Dr. Olson offered courses on “Self-Care and Stress Management” at the seminary. In recent years he team-taught these courses with colleague Dr. Ruth Lofgren Rosell out of her many gifts in this subject. Olson recalls:
Our preparation involved searching for the best resources on this subject. Though we found many wise and helpful books, none seemed to offer the breadth of self-care, nor did they address the varied and changing milieu in which religious leaders now work. Further, we didn’t find resources that described the need to rethink these things in a changing world, changing religion, and evolving ministry. The texts we liked best were now over 20 years old, and much has happened to religion, church, and ministry in those years.
As a result, Olson took on an early retirement project – to imagine a broad vision of clergy self-care, develop an outline, and find an interested publisher. He recruited Rosell to write a few chapters where her practice and teaching were particularly strong. They later invited two Doctor of Ministry students, Angela Jackson and Nathan Marsh, to join their team by contributing out of their doctoral projects. Marsh studied issues in early ministry, and Jackson wrote on financial self-care. Both have completed their doctorates since that time.
Olson reported on how their process for writing worked:
Our process went something like this. We accepted my outline as a starting place, assigned responsibility for chapters and schedules when they would be written. Every month or so, we would meet – usually on Zoom. This became even more necessary when I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, last January. When we gathered, one of us would share a draft of a chapter. Then the rest of us would read it and offer suggestions. The author would then revise, change, and add. Therefore, the chapters at times speak in the first-person plural – this is what “we” think on a topic. When an individual’s unique point of view or experience is mentioned, that person’s name is given in parentheses.
Working together they created a book with awareness of the vast and drastic changes in religious practices and the impact on ministers. To describe these changes, scholars have used the metaphors of “a five-hundred-year rummage sale” and “a perfect storm.” Olson, et al., took note of the impact of compassion fatigue, burnout, and stress, and went on to describe numerous avenues of self-care that can contribute to one’s resilience. These included spiritual, social, physical, re-creational, financial, and educational possibilities – and many more.
Olson described how they became a team through the process:
As we worked together, we felt we became a good team, far beyond our specialties. We include both genders. Our ages range from the 30s through the 80s. We represent three generations of ministers. True, all four of us are Euro-Americans (and Baptists). However, we have tried to fill that gap, at least a bit, by consulting with our African American and Asian American colleagues, friends, and students to learn of unique issues and common needs.
The book is being published by Rowman & Littlefield, the company entrusted with the Alban trademark, so it will come out identified with both organizations. It is available for pre-order through Amazon and will be released on September 10.
The book concludes with these lines:
We hope that ministers who are feeling the crush of a changing world and shrinking church will be strengthened by renewing self-care practices. We pray there will arise a mighty body of religious leaders – resilient, creative, energetic, courageous – ready to participate in God’s new story for church and world. When that happens, to God be the glory. Amen.