So much of Christian leadership is just doing the basics. So much of success in life is just doing the basics. For example, we all know that we need to get a good night’s sleep in order to do good work and be effective. Yet people can neglect their sleep, watching Netflix in bed on an iPad (which we know is bad for us but we do it anyway!). As Christians leaders, then, we need to act on the truth, doing what we know to be true and leads to effective ministry even if it is rather “basic.”
Pastor Brian Jones has written on this topic before, exhorting pastors to get the “basics” down before they take on new initiatives. Some of these thoughts are clearly his. I used his article as inspiration. I just adapted it to my own context and the new realities of living in a constantly connected age.
Habit 1: Daily Prayer
Someone has no business being in Christian leadership if they do not pray every day. As the famous phrase goes, “You cannot give what you do not have!” Ministry leaders must operate out of the overflow of their own relationship with the Lord, otherwise their own souls become hollow. They end up telling people to do things they themselves do not do, or worse, they end up people to have experiences of the Lord that they have never experienced for themselves.
Action step: Schedule time with God, preferably first thing in the morning. Why first thing in the morning? That’s when most people are at their best anyways, but also due to the fact that the rest of the world is not really awake yet either.
Habit 2: Weekly Exercise (3x)
God created us as embodied creatures, body and soul joined in inseparable union. You are your body. As God’s imager-bearers (Gen 1:26-28), we are called to steward the gifts He gives to us. This includes our bodies. The benefits of exercise are almost universally known now. I have found that exercising 3 days a week is the sweet spot, where I get enough exercise, but I’m still able to put in the work hours I need to.
Developing a habit of exercise involves three things, according to Brian Jones, “(1) days blocked off on your schedule (2) a place to do it and (3) an actual plan to follow.” I agree. Ambiguity leads to nothing. Specificity leads to getting things done.
Habit 3: Have an evening routine
Brian Jones says structure the last 90 minutes of your day. I totally agree. The point of an evening routine is to get you ready for the next day. So many people want to “get into the word” in the morning but fail to do so because they don’t plan the night before to do so. The day is won or lost the night before.
I developed an acronym to help ingrain my nightly routine into my life: C-BLASTED.
Clothes – I get my clothes laid out the night before. How much stress would be eliminated from your mornings, if you didn’t have to think about what you would wear?
Breakfast – I set the coffee maker, gather up the supplies, and know exactly what I and my family will eat for breakfast the next morning.
Lunch – I pack my lunch in my lunchbox the night before. Then, when I have to leave in the morning for work, I just grab it from the fridge and go.
Areas – I make sure all areas of the house are picked up and tidy.
Supplements – I take certain supplements every night for good health.
Emails – I used to take my inbox down to zero. I don’t really do this one any longer.
Dishwasher – I set the dishwasher to go off over night to make sure we have what we need to have a full day of meals.
The power of an evening routine is to get you ready to spend your next morning on the things which will nourish your soul (the word and prayer) and your body (exercise).
Habit 4: Weekly Sabbath
Christ has fulfilled Israel’s Sabbath day (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 4:9-10). So we’re not bound to rest on a particular day. BUT. The pattern of work and rest is established by God in creation (Genesis 1-2). Rest, however, is not just laying on the couch all day scrolling through Instagram. True rest is mindful enjoyment of God and His gifts. Rest must be mindful, that is, it must be done with intention and will. So much of modern life today consists of passivity, sitting and scrolling.
Such a definition allows flexibility in how each person or family enjoys rest. For some, this will mean that taking a nap will be rest. For others, it will mean going to the gym or going for a week. Rest does not necessarily mean inactivity.
But it does mean a break from work. It means setting boundaries and not thinking about, or actually working on, work. Some writers have called Millennials the “burn-out generation.” Could such a designation be applied to Millennials because they don’t sabbath?
So what’s your sabbath day? When do you turn off the devices and the work and the stress? If you never do, you will probably fall prey to the common phrase, “If you don’t take a sabbath, the sabbath will take you.” Don’t burn out. Take a weekly sabbath.
Habit 5: Weekly Planning
The final habit for Christian leaders is to plan their weeks. Christian leaders often succumb to the chaos of a complex, rapidly changing world. While many times chaos comes into a leaders life due to external circumstances, some chaos may be due to the fact that a leader is living without intentionality. Many leaders may not adequately think about how they will use their time. Such chaos often leads us to pass our days living for ourselves, rather than God and his glory. We float from day-to-day, event-to-event, dictating by our whims, our feelings, or worse, the expectations of others. A life with intentionality, however, seeks to think ahead of how to connect deeply with God and others. A life of intentionality plans ahead to bless others and connect with God. (For a practical method of weekly planning click here).
Christian leadership is about executing on the basics. Of course, you may include other habits that are essential for Christian leadership. You might add, delete, or adapt some of these, just like I did. But you need to think through what the basics are. And then you need to relentlessly include those things into your schedule so that you master them.