Protecting Your Life & Ministry from Burnout : Juanita Campbell Rasmus
In ministry, what are we supposed to do when we feel the bottom has fallen out of our lives? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Juanita Campbell Rasmus as she shares from her own experience of what she calls “the Crash” and what her counselor calls a major depressive episode. Juanita is a pastor, a spiritual director, a nonprofit founder and a writer. Together, Jason and Juanita look at some of the warning signs that we, as pastors and ministry leaders, need to be on the lookout for to make sure we don’t spread ourselves too thin. Juanita also shares some important practices that can help center us in Christ and help us avoid burnout, or maybe tapping out of ministry altogether.
Looking to dig more deeply into this topic and conversation? Every week we go the extra mile and create a free toolkit so you and your ministry team can dive deeper into the topic that is discussed. Find your Weekly Toolkit below… Love well, Live well, Lead well!
- Video links to this week’s episode – easily share with the ministry leaders in your church
- Audio links to this week’s episode – easily share with the ministry leaders in your church
- Additional resource links from this week’s conversation – so you and your team can easily find what is mentioned or referenced
- Ministry Leaders Growth Guide – key insights and concepts from this week’s conversation as well as engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process
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Additional Resource Links
Learning to Be by Juanita Campbell Rasmus – Juanita’s book providing spiritual and practical insights on navigating difficult times as you draw near to God
JuanitaRasmus.com – Juanita’s website, blog, and other resources
St. John’s United Methodist Church, Houston, TX – The church that Juanita and her husband, Rudy, planted and where they serve as co-lead pastors
Connect with Juanita Campbell Rasmus – Twitter
Feeling Overwhelmed or Burned Out? Complimentary 1-hour Coaching Session for Pastors http://PastorServe.org/freesession
Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- In ministry, we can exhaust ourselves so much that we experience emotional, physical, and even mental, breakdowns
- We need to have a team around us to help us be healthy in life and ministry
- We all bring a narrative with us into our ministry and we need to understand our narrative and what it says about us
- If your world crashes down, if you experience a difficult emotional or mental break, there truly is hope
- Sacrificing for God can be healthy or unhealthy, and we need to understand the difference
- Healthy sacrifice occurs as we intentionally sacrifice time from “doing” and make time for “being” with God
- As you sacrifice time to be with God, God gives clarity on decisions, on healthy boundaries that need to be set, etc
- Sacrifice means understanding our God-given assignment. The sacrifice at times is going to be the sacrifice of saying no, when the crowd wants us to say yes, or saying yes, when the crowd wants you to say no.
- Sacrifice for us, as leaders, means we invest enough time with God that we’re able to stand in the places that are uncomfortable
- Notice what you are noticing. Take the time to slow down and be attentive to what is happening in your life.
- Notice when you begin to take the things that give you life and joy off of your schedule. When you don’t schedule time for fun and play, for recreation, in whatever ways that are life-giving to you, you’re setting yourself up for failure, for disappointment, for emotional fatigue, and potentially physical and/or mental health issues.
- Reflect on the acronym HALT as you regularly assess your life. H – Hungry, A- Anger/Anxiety, L – Loneliness, T – Tired.
- Hunger can be both physical or emotional. When we are hungry, we do not always make the best decisions.
- We need to schedule time for fun, relaxation, and rest into our lives so we do not become emotionally hungry
- Anger, anxiety, and other emotions need to be recognized and addressed appropriately to ensure a healthy rhythm in life and ministry
- We do not want to become containers of our emotions, but conduits for our emotions. We do not want to hold them but to release them in healthy, God-honoring ways.
- We must learn to manage our emotions in healthy ways rather than allowing our emotions to manage us in unhealthy ways
- Loneliness leads to poor health because we were created for community. We need to find healthy relationships to engage in, interest groups that can be fun and recreational, and brothers and sisters with whom we can walk this journey of faith.
- Noticing our exhaustion levels are key to being healthy in life and ministry. Overextending ourselves not only hurts us, but hurts those around us. We can give God, others, or ourselves our best when we are tired.
- Incorporating spiritual practices that ground us in Christ into our daily lives is vital to sustaining a healthy rhythm. Practices such as the examen, breathing exercises, journaling, etc, all contribute to centering us in the love of Jesus.
- One of the best ways to avoid ministry burnout, or burnout in general, is to take time to reflect on your life. Notice those things that are life-giving and commit to doing more of that. Notice those things that are life-draining and commit to doing less of that.
Questions for Reflection
- Have I had a personal “crash” experience in my life? If so, what happened? What did I learn from it?
- Who makes up the team around me that helps me stay emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy? If I do not have that team, how can I start to create that team?
- What is the narrative of my life that I have brought into ministry? How does this impact who I am and the way I approach ministry?
- What must I be aware of related to my personal narrative so that I do not put myself in unhealthy places?
- What does sacrifice look like in my life and ministry? Is it healthy or unhealthy? What changes, if any, do I need to make?
- Am I sacrificing enough time to be with God that I can stand in uncomfortable places?
- What does my time “being with God” look like? How regularly am I spending time with God that is not directly related to ministry tasks?
- How good am I at “noticing what I am noticing”? What can I do to be more attentive to my life?
- Take time to do a self-assessment on the acronym HALT (Hungry, Anger/Anxiety, Loneliness, Tired)
- How am I doing in these four areas? What changes do I need to make? What will I do this week to begin making these changes?
- Am I scheduling time for fun and relaxation?
- Am I more of a container for my emotions or a conduit? How can I handle my emotions in a healthier way?
- What life-giving relationships do I have in my life right now?
- Am I giving God, myself, and others my best or am I too tired to do so?
- What spiritual practices am I doing to center myself in Christ? Do I have a healthy rhythm in my spiritual practices?
- What is life-giving that I need to do more of? How will I do more?
- What is life-draining that I need to do less of? How will I do less?
In ministry, what are we supposed to do when we feel the bottom has fallen out of our lives?
In this episode, I’m joined by Juanita Campbell Rasmus as she shares from her own experience of what she calls “the Crash” and what her counselor calls a major depressive episode. Juanita is a pastor, a spiritual director, a nonprofit founder and a writer. Together, we’re going to look at some of the warning signs that we, as pastors and ministry leaders, need to be on the lookout for to make sure we don’t spread ourselves too thin. Juanita is also going to share some important practices that can help center us in Christ, help us avoid burnout, or maybe tapping out of ministry altogether. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Hello friends and welcome to another insightful episode of FrontStage BackStage. I’m your host Jason Daye and every single week we bring you a conversation with a trusted ministry leader, all in an effort to help you embrace healthy, well-balanced, sustainable leadership for your life and ministry. We’re proud to be a part of the PastorServe Network. And you can dig in more deeply to today’s conversation by going to PastorServe.org/network. Every single week, our team creates a toolkit that you can use yourself and with your ministry leaders in your local church, to really learn more, and to grow more deeply in the topic that we discuss. And so you can go to PastorServe.org/network and get those resources along with show notes and all types of resources and tools to help you in your growth as a ministry leader. Now if you’re joining us on YouTube, hello, please take a moment to like this episode, and drop your name and the name of your church in the comments below. We love to get to know our audience better. We’ll be praying for you and for your ministry. And whether you’re joining us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, be sure to subscribe and follow front stage backstage so you do not miss out on any of these great conversations. And as I said, I’m very excited for today’s conversation. I am joined today by Juanita Campbell Rasmus. Juanita, welcome to FrontStage BackStage.
Juanita Campbell Rasmus
Hey, what a pleasure to be here with you, Jason, thanks for having me.
Yes, I am excited to dive into our conversation. Juanita you have served the Church and serve the kingdom in so many ways. And I’m so appreciative that you are sharing your story with our audience today because your story as a ministry leader, really is one of of stark reality, you know, total exhaustion, but absolute hope. And it’s a beautiful story. And it started out as a typical day for your family, for you and your husband, you are co-pastors of a thriving church, August 27, 1999. Juanita, share with us what happened on that particular day.
Juanita Campbell Rasmus
Well, as you said, it was a typical day. We had a young family, our girls were in middle school at the time. And we had started a ministry seven years prior with nine members, at that point it had about 3500 members. And so that morning, as with most mornings during the week, we tried to make it special, because it might be the only mea… only meal our family would enjoy together. And so, you know, my girls were used to when they were reading the book, Green Eggs and Ham, they had green eggs and ham and when it was you know, Valentine’s Day, their pancakes were heart shaped, you know, all those kinds of things, in an effort to make our home life as normal as possible. Well, that particular morning after we had breakfast, my husband said, Hey, would you like me to take the girls to school this morning? I said, well, sure. That way, I get an opportunity to put my makeup on in the bathroom mirror instead of the rearview mirror. All right, and many out there will know what I mean. And so you know, I kissed them all goodbye, they left and I went to the bathroom to finish my makeup. And all of a sudden Jason, I felt so sick. I have never felt anything like the experience I had. I didn’t know if I was getting the flu. I I didn’t know what was going on. But I picked up the phone. I called our secretary and I said, you know, I’m not feeling well. I think maybe I’ve just been moving around too fast this morning. And so I’ll rest a little bit. Would you reschedule my appointments? And I’ll come in at noon? And she said sure. So we hung up the phone. And I literally begin to experience what felt like an out of body experience. I saw myself pick up the home phone, hit redial, and say, I’m not coming in, I’m gonna take a medical leave or a sabbatical or something. I hung up the phone and I proceeded to have what my grandmother would have called a nervous breakdown. Now, I began to sleep 18 to 20 hours a day and that lasted for months. After about two weeks of that my husband said baby, something’s wrong. This is not normal, right? And it certainly wasn’t normal for me to be sleeping like that. So I went to see my primary care physician. She ran a bunch of tests, did a bunch of blood work and just tried to rule out everything you know, thyroid, hypertension, diabetes, all these known things that are, you know, in my DNA, if you will, and she said, Miss Rasmus, there’s nothing physically that I can point to and I’m gonna recommend you might consider seeing a psychiatrist. Well, as best and quick as I could, I made arrangements to see a psychiatrist, which, in my case, the person I called was booked. And so it took about 30 days to be able to see her. And once I did see her, she diagnosed me as having had a major depressive episode. Now, I have to say this, our narratives that bring us into ministry, they catch up with us. So often we think it’s our gifts that bring us to ministry, I beg to differ. I believe it’s our own need for healing that really draws us into ministry. You know, the folks that stayed the closest to Jesus were the wackiest, they were the ones. They were, you know, Peter running out of his clothes, because he’s his best friend. Right? You know. And so what I came to realize in the course of learning to live with a mental health diagnosis, learning to live with panic attacks, is recognizing that I was going to need a team to help move me through and help me to get to a place of orientation after the rug had literally been pulled from under my feet. So I had a psychiatrist, I had a psychotherapist who I met with weekly to do talk therapy with who I’m so grateful happened to be a Episcopal priest who had retired and become a jungian analyst. So he understood what it was like to build a church and the demands and the personality types that even get drawn to this work. We can’t deny those things, right. And so in that process, along with the spiritual director, I began, what I call the course of the crash, Learning to Be is the book that came out of this, Learning to Be: Finding Your Center After the Bottom Falls Out. And so for me, this was very much the dark night of the soul. It was not just a biological, not enough dopamine and all that, it was that too, as far as a psychiatrist was concerned, but there were other elements. This was really the coming to the end of the Juanita who had been.
Yeah, that’s an amazing story. It’s probably a story that a lot who are listening in, can resonate with to some degree. One of the things that you write about in your book, Learning to Be, is you talk about this idea that it’s kind of early in your story. And you say, man, I love God, I love ministry, and I believe that God calls us to sacrifice, right, to sacrifice for ministry. And as I read that, you know, I really resonated with that, because there is a measure of sacrifice that we are called to as pastors, as ministry leaders, I mean, even as Christ-followers, you know, all of us, right? But whenever we look at it, you know, kind of the idea of serving in a local church, there is this sense that we are called to sacrifice. And yet that sacrifice can become unhealthy if left unchecked. That mindset of, you know, we can stretch ourselves so thinly, that we’re not not able to serve God and serve His Church, as as he’s called us to. So I’m curious, Juanita, as we’re looking at this idea of sacrifice, can you share with us a bit about what you have discovered, in regard to this, the sort of tension between sacrificing for God and for the Kingdom, and yet also, Jesus asks us to come and rest, right, and Jesus gives us life abundantly. So there is this tension between those two worlds. So share with us a little bit what have you learned about that?
Juanita Campbell Rasmus
Well, well, first of all, Jason, one of the things I learned is that our narratives run deep. They can run generationally deep, all right. And so part of my reality was realizing that I’m a one on the Enneagram, and ones are rule followers. We believe rules are made by God, and they must not be changed, right? But I came to realize rules are made to be broken. There are points in our lives where the rules that we established in childhood no longer serve us as adults. And so part of this experience of living with a mental health diagnosis meant I had to investigate my narrative. There’s one thing to say that I’m sacrificing for God, but the reality is, what does that really mean? What does that really look like? For me? I had to realize, sacrificing for God meant that I understood Psalm 40:16, Be still and know that I am God. And that is in my intentionally sacrificing time to be with God, that God then in that space gives me clarity… clarity on decisions I need to make, clarity on boundaries, I need to set. You know, I used to think that because I work for God, I couldn’t set boundaries, that meant people could call me anytime of the day or night, that they could ask me to do anything, you know, Pastor, could you teach this Bible study and I was already teaching two Bible studies a week plus, Rudy and my husband, rotate preaching. And so the either of us would be preaching that the opposite Sunday, right? But because I had this understanding that I worked for God, and that I should sacrifice, to me, I didn’t realize that I did not need to crucify myself that I could come off the cross because we could use the wood for other things. Right. So I think we have to question what is it to us when we say I’m gonna sacrifice for God, because the word says, Jesus said, I’ve come that you might have life, and what? Have it more abundantly, more expansively, I had to realize that Christ invited me to take time out, to pray, to meditate, but also to play. That when I sacrifice the things that make one either one either, I enjoy creating crafts, I enjoy painting, I enjoy bike riding, I’m an adventurer, I have been made this way by God. So I love hang gliding and hiking and skydiving, and just recently I went, what do you call this? When you… ziplining! I almost forgot the term. So I had to come to realize that God wasn’t asking me to sacrifice the elements that made me me. What God was asking me to do was to sacrifice and prioritize time being with God, so that I would know what it was I was to say ‘yes’ to, and likewise, what it was I needed to say ‘no’ to. I had to learn that ‘No’ was as sacred as ‘Yes’ Mark 1:35. I was so grateful. One day, the spirit in devotion led me to this passage where it says that Jesus got up early in the morning to pray, went out to pray, right. And so there he is praying and one translation reads this way, and the disciples hunted for him. So they came and they said, Hey, Jesus, the platform is ready. The mics are set, the sound system is go, we’ve got the video cameras ready. The praise team has just finished, come on, get on the stage. And Jesus said, I’m going to the next town. That’s why I’ve come out, meaning I haven’t come out of prayer because you interrupted me. I’ve come out of prayer, because I understand my assignment. You see, sacrifice means understanding our assignment. Because the sacrifice at times is going to be the sacrifice of saying no, when the crowd wants us to say yes,
Juanita Campbell Rasmus
At times it’s going to be recognizing that there are some things we’re going to be saying yes to that the crowd wants us to say no to. You remember how many times the Jews came to Jesus and said, you know, tell us about this woman who’s been married, you know, and tell us about this person caught in adultery, you know, constantly wanting Jesus to be on their side. Sacrifice for us, as leaders, means we invest enough time with God that we’re able to stand in the places that are uncomfortable, and that becomes our sacrifice.
Yeah, that’s powerful. That’s powerful. I love that I love the way that you frame that because we can get caught up in the idea of sacrifice in such a way that it really damages ourselves, our own health, our relationships, and damages the opportunities that we have, even in ministry. You share , kind of in retrospect, looking back on the early years of ministry, and as you said, your church was thriving, you and your husband doing some incredible work there in Houston. And but you recognized that there was some imbalance in your life and ministry. And so one of the questions I have for Juanita is, what are some things that we as pastors, as ministry leaders should really kind of be on the lookout for in our own lives. Because many of us have a tendency really to focus on really getting things done, because God’s mission is big, God’s mission is important. We have a natural sense of urgency for ministry. And so what are some of those things, some of those warning signs, maybe, that you would suggest we keep an eye out for that might indicate we’re stretching ourselves too thin, and we’re entering kind of the danger zone.
Juanita Campbell Rasmus
Thank you. Oh, man, it’s such a good question. You know, I wish that I’d have a conversation like this with someone before my crash, right? So one of the things and I can just put it simply this way, notice what you’re noticing. You ought to know yourself better than anybody else. All right. So as an example, notice when you’re postponing fun, and you’re putting it on the backburner. We need fun. We need restoration. And it can come out of recreation, the ability to make time and space so that in play, we can be recreated for the work that we’re being called to do. So notice number one, when you put play and fun on the back burner. And somebody might be saying, well, I’ve never been a person who enjoyed play, okay, so it’s time to learn, okay? We’re being transformed by the renewing of our mind. All right, if we’re talking about living a harmonious life, now, I took the word balance out of my vocabulary, because I find that I am living a rhythm, you know, a little ebony keys, a little ivory keys, and there’s a beautiful rhythm that gets created. And sometimes there’s some high notes for a minute or two, you know, and then sometimes there’s some low, but they work together for my good. So number one, notice what you’re noticing about your willingness to give up the fun, to give up the things that you really enjoy. And maybe you wouldn’t say it’s fun, maybe it’s the fact that you really enjoy reading certain kinds of novels, romance novels, or crime thrillers or whatever. Notice when you begin to take the things that give you life and joy off your schedule. When you don’t schedule time for fun and play, for recreation, in whatever ways that are life-giving to you, you’re setting yourself up for fall, for disappointment, certainly, and in my case, a diagnosis. The second thing I would say and I will give it to you in the acronym of HALT: H is for hungry, A is for angry, L is for lonely, T is for tired, I mention this in Learning to Be. A dear friend of mine who is a coach in recovery, and has been coaching people through their sobriety for almost as long, probably as long as we’ve been in ministry, 30 years now, and her name is Regina Hasan. And Regina taught me the acronym HALT. Don’t allow yourself to get too HUNGRY. Now I want to break hunger down into two things: physically hungry? Yes. Because when we get too physically hungry, we’ll eat anything, right? And many of us are aware that it’s probably best to consider eating more live food than processed stuff, right? But when I get too hungry, I’ll grab whatever shows up at the donut shop or at the fast food place. Because I have not prioritized my need to have a lunch break. Right? These things. The second part of hunger is emotional hunger. When I am hungry for something like laughter and a funny movie, when I’m hungry for getting outside in nature. You know, so often when I do spiritual direction with people, and especially guys, men will say, I’ll ask them, Okay, so what is it that you do to just get away to relax, unwind? And a lot of times they’ll tell me stuff like fishing, right? And I’ll say okay, well when was the last time you went fishing? When you have to stop and think about the last time you went fishing it’s been too long, right? Don’t allow yourself to get too hungry for the things that you know give you life. Now I remember one of the last things a pastor said to me was, well the guy that I like to go fishing with has been really busy and so we haven’t… like hold up: either get a new fishing buddy during this time or you become your own fishing buddy. Okay, because we need that downtime. We need it. Okay, so the A in the acronym halt of the acrostic is anger. Notice your ANGER. I’ll also say, notice your ANXIETY. All right, when we allow ourselves to push our anger down, because we don’t think we should be mad, right? When we allow ourselves to ignore our anger, as though it’s not going to come seeping out in some way, fashion or form, right? Notice your emotions, anger, anxiety, and then notice what decisions you seem to be making. I was speaking last night on a forum and I said that many of us have been westernized, and Puritanized into believing that we shouldn’t have emotions, and particularly anger. The scripture says be angry, but what… sin not. In other words, don’t do something you’re going to wish you hadn’t done, because you’re so mad. Here’s what we’re invited to do. I’m reading a wonderful book, and I’m really studying it by Dr. David Hawkins, it’s called Letting Go. He uses this technique of how to sit and hold an emotion, be with it, be present to it, but allow it to do what it needs to do. And that is, it’s going to come to a heightened place where you’re going to feel like you’re going to be overwhelmed by that feeling. And it’s kind of the picture of childbirth, the contractions get great and strong. And then there is the delivery, those feelings begin to decrease. He says that if we will practice the letting go technique, feel what we feel, and then allow it to ebb and flow, we will find that we won’t be holding on to these emotions, we’ll be releasing them. And so will stop being containers will become conduits, conduits of our emotions. So notice what you’re noticing about your anger, your anxiety, your emotions, then the L. The L is LONELY, not allowing ourselves to get too lonely. Create some circle groups, some friendship groups. I’m so grateful. But you know, I’m saying all this after the fact right after the fact, I realized my husband and I were very lonely in ministry, that can set you up to threats against your marriage, it can set up threats against your commitments to relationships, because you find yourself saying, Well, I can’t meet with my friends, because I’ve got to prepare for this meeting or prepare for this sermon. Notice when you’re putting relationships, friendships on the back burner, and so don’t allow yourself to get too lonely. And I’m gonna say this: schedule your hunger, emotion, and relationship time, just like you schedule everything else you schedule. So, one of the things that happens for me is that I created several groups. One of them at the time, because we were parents, was a parent group, and I call us the PIPS, partners in parenting siblings, because we all had children. We were all women who would get together every so often for tea, probably about every six weeks or so we’d get together for tea, and we would talk and we would share and we would be present to each other. Then I also had a prayer group, two women who are also clergy, women, the three of us get together, we call ourselves trois sœurs, as you can tell, I like titles and names. Trois sœurs is French for three sisters. All right. God brought us together during a crisis in my life, and we have prayed each other through so much stuff. And one of the things that has been a great joy is that when we come together, we’re celebrating life. We’re celebrating being with each other. And then we spend a little time, we invest, I prefer to say invest a little time, interceding together for each other. And so create circles of life for yourself, create circles, you know, a member of our church invited my husband and I out to hear his orchestra perform. I didn’t even know he was in an orchestra. This gentleman was in his 80s, y’all. And here’s what he did. After his wife died, he began to create circles of interest for himself. One of the circles was joining a local orchestra. Guess what his instrument was? You’ll never guess what: the triangle! You see, you don’t have to be the chief cello player. You don’t have to be the front row saxophone player. You don’t have to be the the orchestra conductor but find you a circle of interest, where you are engaged, where you are enlightened and invigorated. You see, what I didn’t know before the crash is that over time, I had allowed the the emphasis of ministry to be the priority for everything in my life, and it sucked the life out of me. And it took the joy out of me as well. The T in HALT… hungry, don’t get too hungry, don’t get too angry or anxious. Notice what you’re noticing. Loneliness. Notice what you’re noticing, get some circles of interests. If you’re into…, my son in law loves scary horror movies, I do not. Will probably never see a horror movie with him, right. But he loves them. Get into a circle of other people who love horror movies. A lot of people are into gaming, my future son in love loves gaming. I’m not into it. But he’s teaching me a few little games, right? So circles of interest so that you don’t get too lonely. And then the T is TIRED. Notice what you’re noticing about your exhaustion levels. I was exhausted. And I didn’t even know it. I remember one day I was in the car. And I was driving to church and there was a particular street that I was coming down and the street dips down because it goes under a railroad track. And so I was in this deep decline of this hill, right, or whatever you want to call it. And so there was a car in front of me and several cars in front of that car. I was so wound up because I was so exhausted that I brought an incense from the house and I brought a meditation tape to play while I was driving. Now I want you to know that almost every meditation tape says, or CD in this case it was CD, do not play this meditation CD while operating vehicles. I saw it, I stuck it in anyway because I’m trying to find something that’s gonna help me because I’m so wound up and exhausted. I don’t know how to relieve this, and I don’t even it’s not even in my awareness that I should take some time off and rest and recuperate. That wasn’t even, because I was an addict. I was addicted to people-pleasing. I was addicted to performing. I was addicted to needing other people’s acceptance and approval. Notice your narrative. Notice what you’re saying to yourself, notice what’s driving you, I was tired. And I didn’t know a way out. So I lit this incense, you know how you push the cigarette lighter in and out. And so I lit the incense and and now I’m getting my foot on the brake because we’re at a stop sign, stop light. And I’m holding the lit instance with one hand on the steering wheel… something’s not right with this picture, right? And I’m holding the cigarette lighter, I dropped the cigarette lighter and I took the foot off the brake. So I hit the car in front of me and that was just one of three fender benders I was in in about 30 days. Notice what you’re noticing. When we’re exhausted, we’re not making best decisions. When we’re exhausted, we’re not at our best. When we’re exhausted we need to give ourselves permission to back up, slow down and get the necessary rest we need. HALT. Notice what you’re noticing. Notice when you’re taking all the fun, all the things that really gives you joy. If you love golf, go play golf, and not always with church members. Find a group that’s not in your church. Because there are times you need to say “Oh _” and you don’t need it to get back to the trustees, need it to get back to the SPRC, the staff parish relations, or your bishop. Create circles that can support your interest. Don’t get too hungry. Because you can get hangry. Don’t allow yourself to get too angry, too anxious, notice what you’re noticing, get the support you need. Don’t get too lonely, create circles of interest. Don’t get too tired, put spaces of respite, spaces of rest. As an example, one of the things I do now is I schedule all of my talking on Tuesdays and Thursdays, all of my podcasts, all of my interviews, all of the teaching, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Why? Because it gives me some flexibility to not start my day at the crack of dawn on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. Monday is my off day. I’m off. I’m off. And I honor that. You see if you can’t be true with yourself. You won’t be true with anybody else. If you won’t honor the commitments you make to yourself, you will in many cases, find yourself not honoring, over time, the commitments you make to others. Shakespeare said it this way” to thine own self be true.
Yeah, that’s good. That’s so helpful, that acronym, that whole acronym, I think, really helps us kind of understand some of those things, like you said ,that we need to be noticing, right, in our own lives. And some red flags, different things, warning signs that we are, you know, in the danger zone. So one of the things, Juanita, that you shared, and you share this in your book, Learning to Be, is this idea that not only are there things that we can identify in our lives that could be problematic, or could become problematic if left, you know, untouched, but there are some practices, you know, some contemplative practices, some spiritual practices that can help kind of recenter us and ground us. So I was wondering, as we’re kind of closing down this conversation, so much of what you’ve shared has been so helpful, but I was wondering if you could offer the pastors and ministry leaders who are watching or listening in some, just maybe a few different practices that we, if we arew recognizing these things in our lives, how do we recenter ourselves? What are some things that would be helpful?
Juanita Campbell Rasmus
Oh, I’m glad you asked. So I in Learning to Be, after each chapter, I tried to offer us a practice of some sort that’s been of help to me. So one of them is this, the Examen. St. Ignatius of Loyola taught the practice of the examen to his monks who were also bivocational. They, you could say they were monks by night, but they also had some kind of gig during the day. And so the reality is, they might miss mass, they might not be able to make it to the hours of prayer, but he said, do not neglect the practice of the examen. When you’re preparing for bed, leave yourself 15 minutes so that you’re not so exhausted that you have to go to bed. And so with the examen, I sit usually in a chair, and I take some deep breaths, and I ask myself two questions. Number one: what gave me life today? And I reflect over my day, I ask the Holy Spirit to help me see places in my day that might have been life-giving. Maybe it was a compliment somebody paid me and maybe I didn’t even notice it, because I was in my head all day, right? Maybe it was a moment. So as an example, yesterday, I had the chance to do some coloring with my grandson. He’s five years old. And, and so we sat together at that kitchen island, and he colored his things, and I colored my things. And it was so life-giving, we weren’t really even talking, we were just being present. So, what gives you life, notice those things. And then St. Ignatius would say, and do more of them. Now, the second question is: what drained me? What took life from me? Pay attention. Ask the Spirit to help you to go through your day, notice those places where maybe you were a little short with somebody or notice the places where you felt that you really weren’t present in a conversation because you were thinking about something else. Notice the things that weren’t life-giving. I’ll give you a quick example. I have a member of our church that for years, because I didn’t know the examen, would engage me in conversation. And it would always leave me drained. And I wouldn’t have anything else to offer anybody, not even myself when I finished the conversation. And so what I learned to do is number one, stop asking this person how they were doing. Because that, okay, so instead I would say, Hey, what did you do this week that you would love to do again? All right. Then the second thing I did in terms of setting boundaries, I limited the time on the conversation. All right, this person gets seven minutes. Seven is the time of completion. All right, sometimes it’s ten, but it’s it’s got to be good energy. If it’s not, “hey, it’s been a joy being with you. I look forward to the next time, we’ll talk again, make it a great day. All right now.” So the examen: what gives you life? what takes life from you? And then do more of what gives you life and, what? …less of what takes life from you. The things that you say, Well, I have to do this XYZ well, how can you do it differently. Stay open to new ways.
Juanita Campbell Rasmus
Now, here is a breathing meditation I’d like us to do. I invite you to sit up tall and straight in your seat. I invite you to put your feet flat on the floor and turn your hands palms side up, in the open and willing to receive position, and lay them on your thighs. And so I invite you to take a deep breath… breathing in deeply, fully in through your nose. Bringing that breath all the way down into the gut so that your tummy is expanding with every inhale. Now that’s going to take a little practice, but you can do it. Now, exhale deeply and slowly through your mouth as though you’re blowing through a straw. Again, breathing in deeply and fully in through the nose. If you’re comfortable, close your eyes. If not, that’s fine. Exhaling deeply, slowly through your mouth as though you’re blowing through a straw. As you’re breathing in, notice the cool air coming into your nostrils, notice it. Be with it. And on the exhale, notice the warm air exiting your mouth. On the inhale, notice your feet on the floor. Breathing in deeply and fully. exhaling deeply and slowly. On the inhale, notice your bottom is supported, your assets are being supported by a chair or whatever you’re sitting on. Notice that on the inhale and on the exhale, notice the warm air exiting your mouth as though you’re blowing through a straw. Breathing in deeply and fully God’s light and love. Invite you to exhale all thoughts that no longer serve you. Just let them go. Continue to breathe in, deeply and fully, breathing in the awareness that the breath of Life is flowing freely through you. Exhaling deeply and slowly letting go of any thought that is holding you captive. Just let it go. Thoughts can be changed. You can change your thoughts around whatever it is that’s been creating stress for you. What’s a new way to see that thing. Again, breathing in deeply and fully God’s light and love… exhaling all chaos, all confusion, all self doubt. And now I invite us to close this brief breathing meditation with three deep inhales and three deep exhales breathing in, deeply and fully. Exhaling with an AW, ah. Second deep breath, breathing in, deeply and fully, exhaling with an audible AR, Ah. Thirdly, breathing in, deeply and fully, exhaling within audible Oh. Gently and slowly begin to open your eyes when you’re ready.
Juanita Campbell Rasmus
And I tend to do that breathing practice between every call, every conversation, I take a moment and breathe. So often we think when the phone rings we have to answer it on the first ring. And if you’re in sales, like I was before ministry, you were taught catch it before the third ring. Well, heck, if you need to, let it ring seven times. What if it goes to voicemail just so you can give yourself a moment to pause, to notice what you’re noticing, to be present to yourself, and to give yourself the kind of generosity that you no doubt give to those you serve.. You see, our challenge is not about ‘doing’ as pastors, as leaders. Our growth opportunity is in learning to ‘be’
That’s excellent. Beautiful. Thank you, Juanita, so much. As we are closing down right here. Just last words that you would have to pastors, ministry leaders, words of encouragement as they’re watching along and listening in. What would you say to your brothers and sisters?
Juanita Campbell Rasmus
I want to say this, on page 28 and 29 in Learning to Be. I talked about my personality type which is a one on the enneagram and I say this. This is a quote to the personality type that serves in leadership and ministry. The advice of the desiderata sounds foolish and dangerous. Here’s what it says, ‘beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You’re a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here. And whether or not it’s clear to you, no doubt, the universe is unfolding, as it should.’ I hope today’s time will help you to remember that the universe loves for you to have fun, that the universe is longing for you to notice what you’re noticing. So that which gives you life, you’ll do more of it, and that which takes life from you, you’ll do less, or find new ways of thinking about those things. Make it a great day, expansive, and filled with joy. How about that?
That sounds good. Sounds good. Christ is our joy. What a blessing it is to be with you, Juanita. Thank you for joining us. And for those of you who are watching and listening along, you can once again go to PastorServe.org/network. There we will have links to Juanita’s books and ways that you can connect with her, with her ministry, as well as that toolkit so you can dig more deeply into this amazing conversation that we just had. So God bless you, Juanita. Thank you so much for taking time to be with us today.
Juanita Campbell Rasmus
It’s been a great joy. Make it a great one.
Awesome. God bless you.
Juanita Campbell Rasmus
And likewise you.
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.
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