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-- © GodSpeak International 2005 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from <copyright@godspeak.org> --

Author: Teresa Seputis <ts@godspeak.net>
Editor: Kevin Nolan

Prayer-School Course #31

Thoughts From Teresa

By Teresa Seputis

Week 1
Leaders Need To Take Care Of Their Own Needs

There is popular saying in Christian circles that goes, "God first, others second and ourselves last." I am not sure where that came from. Many of us feel that is saying represents God's feelings for us, but it is not scriptural. In fact, there is Bible precedence for ministers to take care of themselves so that they can minister effectively for God. But most Christian leaders have had that saying drilled into them over and over until they believe that the ministry (and the people who they minister to) are the most important thing. They feel that they need to meet the needs of the ministry at all costs -- no matter how hard that is on them personally. As a result, many leaders tend to get worn down and tired-out because they put their own needs aside to focus on the needs of the ministry. They hope that things will slow down "soon" so then they can take time for themselves. But things don't slow down, the ministry keeps on being more and more demanding. So they learn to function on this level, deferring their own needs to take care of the needs of others.

If they do this for a long enough period of time, they become more and more ineffective and their own personal walk with the Lord can begin to suffer. It takes longer to do the same things and they have to try harder -- they become more and more drained. After a while they begin to feel so "spent" that they have very little left to give.

When a person is drained, it is hard for them to minister from that place of love and empathy. Frustration begins to well up inside of them instead of compassion. They are still the same loving and caring person they always were, but exhaustion and excessive demands make it harder for them to get in touch with their compassion.

Leaders have to be careful not to allow themselves to become so "spent" that they don't have anything left to give. At times they need to put their own families and their own personal and spiritual needs above the needs of "everyone else." It can be very hard for some leaders to do that because they are so used to caring for the needs of others. But a minister cannot minister effectively when they are exhausted and spent.

Jesus recognized this and He watched out for it in His own disciples' ministry. When the ministry became so demanding that the disciples did not have time to take care of their own needs, Jesus told them to stop ministering for a while. He wanted them to take care of their own needs and keep their own personal walk with God fresh and strong. Look at Mark 6:30-32:

30Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. 31And He said to them, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. 32So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.

These men were the same twelve apostles that Jesus would later send out two-by-two before Him everywhere He was about to go. They were the same twelve who would become His witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth. In short, Jesus had all sorts of important ministry plans/goals for these twelve. But He cared for their own well-being as much as he cared for the ministry that He gave them to do.

Let me share a bit of my own experience: 2004 was a very hard and very demanding time for me. I gave more of myself than usual that year, and there were more and more people making more demands on me. Some of those demands were for much smaller needs than my own personal needs, but I kept trying to meet their demands and take care of the people who came to me with their various problems. Meanwhile, I was only getting a few hours sleep a night because there was so much to do -- write lessons, prepare prophetic words, manage the lists, resolve various problems (technical and spiritual) for people, do the ministry bookkeeping, etc. I traveled a lot in 2004 for missions work, spending over one-quarter of the year overseas. That meant I only had nine months to do twelve months worth of administrative work. Also, the trips themselves were to third-world locations and they were physically very demanding on me. I found that I got quite sick when I got home from them...in fact, I almost ended up in the hospital three times. My endurance and immune system were shot. It was hard to rest because there were so many things that needed to be done for the ministry, plus there were a lot of people contacting me with their special problems.

I felt overworked and overwhelmed. I could not handle it all, so I got frustrated. I love to minister to people. But by November, I found myself dreading it any time that someone asked me for ministry. I was spent and did not have much left to give. But since I wanted to be a "good minister," I tried to put my own needs aside to deal with the needs of others.

In December, God told me to stop it and just rest. I was to take care of myself and my own family and my own household. At first I was so exhausted that I could not do anything but rest. I watched a lot of television and I slept a lot. Normally I would be bored and stir-crazy after two days of that -- but I was in such a state of exhaustion that it took two full weeks before I started to get bored. Can you imagine that? My body needed rest so badly.

As I became rested, my prayer life and walk with God perked up. I never stopped loving God, but I had slowed down in how much intimacy time I spent with Him, because I just did not have enough energy when I was so exhausted. As I became rested, I began to dive into God and allow Him to refresh My spirit. I have to confess that at times I felt guilty resting for a whole month. I think some of my sense of value was tied into the tasks I did for the Lord instead of in my personal relationship with Him. At times those issues made it hard for me to rest and to focus on my own needs. But I did my best to obey God and to take care of myself.

After five weeks, I noticed some neat changes in me. I started to feel that genuine love and compassion for people again and the desire to minister to them. I was closer to God than I'd been in a while. And I also started getting much more efficient at what I tried to do -- some of those things I had let slip used to take me two to three weeks to do, and now I could do them in three to four days. I found that bounce began to come back to my step and the melody began to come back to my heart, and I would sing and humming worship songs a lot more. I found that it was easier to hear God and respond to Him. And when I reached that place, God also began to meet me in a deeper way.

The truth is that I am not the only leader to reach that place of exhaustion. All leaders and ministers have personal needs, just like everyone else does. They need to rest. They need to spend time with their families. They need to play at times. And if these needs are not met, it eventually effects their ability to minister effectively to others from a place of genuine compassion and love. Jesus knew that. That is why He had the disciples sneak away to rest when ministry demands became too great.

Intercessors, please pray for the whole person when you intercede for your pastors and christian leaders. It is very easy to get so caught up in praying for the ministry needs so much that we forget to cover their personal needs in prayer.

And leaders, I encourage you to take care of your own needs so you will be in a better place to minister to the needs of others.

-- © GodSpeak International 2005 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from copyright@godspeak.org --

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