Judith A. Schwanz, Alban Institute
We all know that ministry in today’s context is tough. Ministry agents, whether lay or ordained, often face declining and ageing congregations fearful of change in an ever-changing world. Recent studies have shown increasing and significant levels of burnout in ministry leaders. Schwanz believes that it is relationships that sustain people for the long haul in ministry. Blessed Connections provides a practical guide for maintaining personal well-being and greater effectiveness in ministry through relationships.
Schwanz, Professor of Pastoral Care and Counselling at Nazarene Theological College, draws from both socio-scientific and biblical-theological resources to offer a way to remain healthy and vital in ministry.
The book has three major sections. The first part sets out how important healthy self-knowledge is for sustained ministry. That is, Schwanz argues that ministry agents need to get to know themselves better. Chapter two includes some helpful tools for self-assessment. Once strengths and weaknesses (or “growing edges” as Schwanz prefers to call them) are identified, a growth plan is put into place. Again there are practical steps towards developing a realistic, quantifiable, positive and workable growth plan.
The second section focuses on the need to build strong and healthy interpersonal relationships with spouses, children and friends as well as with members of the congregation. Schwanz notes that while family can serve as a minister’s greatest support system sometimes ministry families are neglected, even wounded by the minister as they struggle to meet a multitude of expectations. And rather than warning ministry agents against allowing church members to become too close, Schwanz argues that this can just cause loneliness. Instead ministers need to develop healthy relationships, including appropriate boundaries, with church members.
The final section deals with the need for ministry agents to develop and maintain a deep and sustaining relationship with God. Such a relationship provides inner strength and a pervading peace from which to carry the burdens of ministry.
Each chapter includes guidelines for developing and using an Assessment Journal to help the reader to accurately reflect on self, and various relationships plus to develop a “growth” plan for the future. I recommend Blessed Connections as an effective tool for anyone in ministry.
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