By Rev. Laura Beville
This resource round-up is meant to give you some resources and tools to help you handle stress and anxiety in local churches – particularly when you feel stuck. One of my favorite U2 songs is “Stuck in a Moment.” We all get stuck in moments or ruts in our life. It can be especially challenging during this season of Lent, where we’re running from Bible study to small group to worship to choir practice to Sunday school and more.
It’s always multiple things that help get me out of those stuck moments in life. So if you are looking for a quick fix, that’s not what you’re going to find here. It is my hope that these resources will give you a sense of support in knowing that you aren’t alone. The systems of change and the “liminal spaces” we’ve been in over the last three years, have increased our anxiety causing many clergy and churches to isolate themselves in silos. While I’ve listed resources that have helped me over the last three years, NOTHING has replaced the importance of having some good friends, a good spiritual director, and a therapist to whom I can turn when things go sideways or I feel immobilized with fear or anxiety. Remember, you can always find resources for clergy wellness support on your Conference websites as well.
I could probably list more books than three, but these three books have provided me with some ah-ha moments for me in the last three years.
- “Anxious Church, Anxious People: How to Lead Change in an Age of Anxiety” by Jack Shitama – This book talks about how when church leaders can approach ministry with a non-anxious presence, they can open themselves up to leading change. Of course it is not that simple or easy. But, Rev. Shitama guides us through self-differentiation and family systems theories to help us approach ministry from a non-anxious presence. He also has a book entitled, “If you Met My Family, You’d Understand: A Family Systems Primer.” It is a helpful book that helps us understand ourselves through the lens of Family Systems Theory. He also has a fabulous podcast and blog (The Non-Anxious Leader).
- “Just Say Yes: Unleashing People for Ministry by Robert Schnase” – This book has been around for quite a while (published in 2015), but I have gone back to it repeatedly, reminding myself as a church leader in the power of saying something I learned in Drama class – “Yes, and.” There are so many different ways churches say no to new ideas and creative individuals. This book gives scaffolding for a congregation (particularly the leadership or church council) to say yes to new ideas by asking three questions: Does it align with the mission of the church?, Who will do it? How will it be funded? When I have used this method well in congregations I have served in the past, it has given wind in the sails to amazing ministry opportunities!
- “The Prepared Leader: Emerge from Any Crisis More Resilient than Before” by Erika H. James and Lynn Perry Wooten – This book walks us through the phases of crisis management, and the skills we need to accomplish resiliency. This book talks about how preparedness is the key to any crisis – and while we could not specifically prepare for everything, having a roadmap or system in place is important in sustaining and emerging from a crisis with resiliency.
If books are not your jam, or you have short amounts of time to focus, Podcasts are a great way to learn about new ideas and methods. Here are my favorites related to ministry:
- The Moth Radio Hour – If you need a brain break from sermon preparation, the storytellers highlighted by the Moth are amazing. Life and without notes to a crowd of people, these storytellers tell personal stories about love, hope, grit, and much more. This is hands down my favorite podcast to listen to when driving long distances. They also have Moth events in various cities near you that you can attend (or tell a story at). You can learn more at https://www.themoth.org
- Everyday Thin Places – This is a podcast with a birth doula and a hospital chaplain who draw on the bookended spaces of birth and death to talk about life. They talk about everything and help offer the listener space to experience their own thin spaces. https://www.everydaythinplaces.com/
- Everything Happens with Kate Bowler – I’m a big Kate Bowler fan. Duke University professor, mom, and cancer survivor holds space for the hard conversations, recognizing that the world isn’t always sunshine and roses. She is what I’d call a realistic optimist. Her books are amazing too – easy to read and full of inspiration and hope – even in the midst of the messiness of life.
- Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead with Brene Brown – These are two different podcasts but I lumped them together because there is good stuff in both of them. Unlocking Us is a Podcast focused on the ways we connect with each other in our life. Dare to Lead is focused on leadership and how we can be change agents and show up bravely in the spaces we lead.
I hope you find encouragement in these books and podcasts and they help guide you to a place of health both in the congregations you serve and in your personal life. Please remember that you are not alone, please remember that you can reach out to your District Superintendent, your colloquy or clergy colleagues, a coach, a therapist, or a friend! Overwhelm is real, and yet, it is just a moment.
PS – I know I promised that my next article would include a round-up of resources for local church treasurers and financial secretary support. Its coming – just taking me longer to round up these resources!
~ Rev. Laura Beville serves as the part-time ministry resource specialist for the Oregon-Idaho Conference in addition to serving as the pastor of Silverton UMC in Silverton, Oregon.