The Leadership Journey Podcast: Paul Bowman
Surviving and thriving in Christian leadership. What are the self-care practices and support strategies that leaders serving in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland have found helpful for sustaining health, wholeness and leadership in the context of the stresses of ministry?
This week’s guest on the podcast is Paul Bowman. Paul has been involved in youth ministry for over 25 years and currently works in Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in Belfast. Paul has recently completed his MA with the Irish Bible Institute and I had the privilege of supervising his work on a very important dissertation in which Paul explored some factors that contribute to thriving in Christian ministry. The podcast interview explores some of what Paul discovered and wrote about in his work.
By way of follow up, feel free to get in touch with Paul, either via Fitzroy or via my blog, if you would like to hear more or would like to invite him to speak to your group.
Meantime here is a list of the recommendations Paul makes at the conclusion of his dissertation:
- Christian leaders together with their church should create clear and reasonable expectations for leadership and ministry.
- Congregations should be better educated about the stresses associated with leadership and the importance of supporting the physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing of their leaders.
- Greater emphasis, training and resourcing should be made available for team ministry as a means of combating isolation, and role overload.
- Christian leaders need accountability and support to ensure they are availing of adequate rest and maintaining their spiritual self-care. The use of a maintenance contract as suggested by Brain (2001) which incorporates a plan to work, rest, study and be a spouse and parent could be a useful means of accountability that clearly communicates self-care needs.
- Christian leaders should pursue their calling daily and set specific goals for their spiritual, physical, emotional, social and intellectual development.
- Christian leaders should take a twenty-four hour period off each week and prioritise activities that recharge emotional energy.
- Christian leaders should intentionally set aside a day each week to observe the Sabbath.
- More resources should be made available to enable leaders to make use of retreats, and spiritual directors.
- Sabbaticals should be financed and made available to all leaders including additional pastoral personnel every five to seven years.
- Every minister and youth worker should be assigned an experienced mentor throughout the first five years of his or her ministry.
- It is encouraging to note that PCI is placing greater emphasis on how it supports ministers and their families. Lockhart (2019) refers to the reimagining of presbytery as a fellowship. This is a welcome development though it needs further work in terms of the practicalities of pastoral care. It is beyond the scope of this study to explore this aspect of denominational support, but two recommendations seem appropriate: The promotion of ministerial fellowships or Pastors in covenant groups. And, further study is necessary to consider how supervision could be a means of support and development at a presbytery level.
- Additional research is needed to look specifically at the role of training and how it equips leaders with the knowledge and skills of self-care.