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Identity check and spiritual health

(This is part 2 of an 8-part series reflecting on the book, Resilient Ministry: What pastors told us about surviving and thriving.)

Q: Consider the degree to which work is the source of your hope, joy, emotional energy, support and success.

Life and work in a school are consuming. As teachers and life-long learners there is always something new to try in our classroom – a better kind of formative assessment, a new type of questioning, a new interactive app to liven up our lessons. As we develop a deeper understanding of our students we become better able to assess their individual learning as well as their social and emotional needs.  We take time and use more of our energy reserves as we learn how to address these needs. If we are in a leadership position we have the added responsibility and joy of guiding, supporting and empowering those we are leading. This in turn consumes more of our time and energy.

It is generally agreed, that all educators simply grow busier and busier, and as we grow busier and busier it seems that we are working to please more and more people (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.33). We spend more time in meetings, more time caring for others - staff, students and families - but less time in prayer. We study scripture, but we do it for other people (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.33) - our pastoral care group, the meeting devotion we are leading, the assembly or chapel talk and our weekly Bible study. We do this to convey God's word to others, but we often leave our own hearts thirsty.

The sad fact for most of us is that our work for Christ comes before our relationship with Christ (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.32).

We have become captive to our performance-oriented culture. Our spiritual journey can so easily be put on hold as we respond to these expectations. We are quick to forget that the Bible teaches us that our good works are a result of God's workmanship in us and our response to His grace.

Q. As Christians how do we act in obedience to what the Bible calls us to do whilst in our work place – ‘to be transformed by the renewal of our minds’ and ‘to grow up in every way into Christ’ (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:15)?

Guthrie explains that our Christian ‘doing’ must flow from an outpouring of our ‘being’. Our doing must be an overflow from the grace and love of God in our life with Him, and prayer must underpin it all (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.50). He says that leadership (in school) is not confined to only leading pedagogy and student welfare. School leaders - including teachers - need to be modelling genuine spiritual growth and a relationship with Jesus. No Christian is exempt from spiritual growth - our spiritual journey of growing into maturity in Christ must be part of our whole fabric. The Bible calls us all to ‘work out our salvation’ (Philippians 2:12) and to ‘press on toward the goal’ (Philippians 3:14), ‘to be transformed by the renewal of our minds’ (Romans 12:2) and ‘to grow up in every way into Christ’ (Ephesians 4:15).

The challenge for busy educators is: how does our spiritual journey influence all that we do and our relationships in the work place?

Guthrie suggests that we need to be proactive in this process. He outlines four areas that can help us:
1.  Building rituals – or consciously building purposeful habits into our work day (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.40);
2.  Maintaining accountability – through a network of allies and confidants (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.42);
3.  Growing through hardship (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.44);
4.  Practicing five spiritual disciplines (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, pp.48-58).

As we develop and grow in spiritual maturity, we are also building resilience which affects the way we perceive and then approach hardships.

Do we see these challenges as training grounds for our growth in godliness, or as events that must be overcome at all costs or perhaps merely endured?

References: Burns, B, Chapman, T.D., & Guthrie, D. C. (2013). Resilient Ministry: What Pastors told us about surviving and thriving. (Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press).

Available for purchase from The Wandering Bookseller

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of EdComm or the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. The intent  is to promote thinking and discussion.

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