Festival of the Laity
Resource Center Subscribe Now ArchivesSubscribe Now
Best Practices
September 14, 2011

I'm delighted in this Best Practices to feature an author who is among the foremost experts on complexities of the pastoral life - and a personal friend of mine.  John Landgraf has counseled ministers and their families for years as director of the Center for Ministry in Oakland, CA. He has also been President of Central Seminary in Kansas City, KS, and taught at Fuller Theological Seminary. He and his wife Laura conduct private couple retreats designed to clarify and strengthen "his, her, and their game plan" for a balanced wholeness (www.landgrafretreats.com).


Please note that this is the first part of John's piece on having a balanced pastoral life. We'll conclude it in the next issue. (If you'd like to read the whole piece right now, you can see it here.)

Loren Seibold, editor, Best Practices for Adventist Ministry  

Reflection: Remembering 9/11
Media: Downloadable 9/11 video resources
Quotes: "Our enemies have made the mistake that America's enemies always make. They saw liberty and thought they saw weakness."
Events: National Conference on Innovation
John LandgrafToward A Balanced Life, Part 1:
Are You Set Up to Burn Out?

by John R. Landgraf


My boyhood pastor was a great minister.  He planted a church and grew it from 18 to 1800 during his 30 years there.  More than 50 of us went into the ministry because of his ministry.  He was a compelling role model. 


But he was blind about some things, and in that sense he was a terrible role model.  He worked 24/7.  We sang a chorus in Sunday School:  "After all he's done for me, After all he's done for me, How can I do less than give him my best and live for him completely, after all he's done for me."  I thought it was about Pastor Bill!  Many times I heard him say, "I'd rather burn out than rust out."  As if it were one or 'tother.  


One Saturday afternoon Pastor Bill got his wish.  As he washed his car in the parsonage driveway, he dropped dead.  He was 56. 


Life in the stained glass fishbowl ain't easy.  One is expected to be the "big fish" who radiates luminescence (I call it "numinosity"); always accessible and available; and a moral exemplar to boot. One is counseled to befriend every parishioner but not pursue a David/Jonathan relationship with any one of them. One is to be an evangelist, a fundraiser, a Bible teacher, a liturgist, a theologian, an administrator, a community leader, a social change agent, a masterful preacher, and a wise caregiver to people in crises. How's that for the doggonedest general practice profession in the modern world?  Oh, I almost forgot; one is to be a reflective practitioner of the arts of ministry, so as to keep improving one's skills. That's the nature of ministry. It's a complex profession with a complicated trajectory.


Couple that with the nature of the Christian faith. Attorneys admire great lawyers and their teachings, but they are not personally dedicated to those leaders. Physicians take the Hippocratic Oath and honor it, but they are not personally devoted to Hippocrates. In ministry we have a supernatural model, the God/man Christ Jesus, and not only are we captivated by His teachings, we are devoted to His person. He is at once our model, Savior, and Lord.


Now add to the nature of ministry and the nature of our faith, the nature of those inclined to answer the "call," and one begins to understand the roots of potential imbalance and incipient burnout in ministers. Who are we, we who hear and heed God's call? Typically we are intelligent, idealistic, inner-directed, creative, and sensitive to interpersonal interactions and to how we come across in an acceptance/rejection sense. We vulnerable to criticism, self-aware, sympathetic, altruistic, communicative, and often too passive for our own good (many of us are conflict-avoidant, for example).    


In his 1992 book Ministry Burnout, John Sanford detailed its etiology. He described how the white flag of idealism often morphed into the yellow flag of disenchantment, which then morphed into the red flag of bitterness (Sanford called this stage "burndown") which, left unchecked, would morph into the black flag of burnout - an exhausted ego, depressed and ready to throw in the towel. I think of Elijah's plaintive "It is enough; now let me die."           


It can be very lonely at the top.  


Question:  Who is the healthy minister who embodies and models maturity?

Answer:  One whose journey keeps moving toward a balanced life.  


The following is my own "Twenty Questions" checklist.  It is not meant to be comprehensive. Its ingredients are simply my attempt at a recipe auguring a minster toward a balanced life. Checkmark each item you honestly "own," where you agree, "That statement characterizes my life."  


1  _____ I regularly read fiction and non-fiction not related to my work

2  _____ I maintain my personal prayer life

3  _____ I actively participate in a ministerial support and accountability group  

4  _____ I honor my weekly "day off" except in a dire emergency, such as a death

5  _____ I engage in a fresh educational adventure each year, such as a retreat to   

               ingest and digest Scripture

6  _____ I tend my primary relationship as if it is he/she I want to grow old with

7  _____ I laugh and play!  I am regularly and intentionally playful and maintain

               my sense of humor

8  _____ I carefully attend to my physical well being - nutrition, exercise, weight

               control, and regular "wellness" check-ups with my physician

9  _____ I never fail to take a full month's vacation

10_____ I assertively court potential friends of my own choosing

11_____ (If you have children) Parenting is among my highest priorities

12_____ The telephone is my servant, not my master.  Likewise, the internet.

13_____ When I have staff problems, I don't try to solve them by myself; I ask for

               help from a consultant.

14_____ I romance my wife/husband faithfully, such as a weekly "date night"

15_____ I lead my family spiritually, e.g., by praying with my spouse and children

16_____ Regarding personal/professional boundaries, I set limits and keep them 

17_____ I joyfully tackle my work with a calculated amount of reckless abandon

18_____ I almost never work more than 55 hours a week.

19_____ My home is my haven.  My work stays at the office, or in my study.  

20_____ I consistently spend at least three evenings a week away from work


Of the 20 items, how many did you check?  Is your life/work balance to your liking?  If not, ask yourself, "What do I want to change or improve?"  What, if anything, would you add to this checklist?  I would greatly appreciate your telling me (info@landgrafretreats.com).


Discuss this article on our Facebook page Like us on Facebook 


Next week:  It's not enough to be holy; you must also be whole. 

Your Best Idea
Best Ideas from Pacific Union Conference Pastors
In August 2011 Pastors of the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists were asked to share their best idea for ministry. For the next few weeks these will posted on the Your Best Idea vimeo channel.


Bob Mason shares his best idea for Ministry "We did an outreach series in our area entitled "9 life Changers." Nine of our church members told stories of what God has done in their lives. Each night they gave a biblical presentation that related to a theme that came out in in the testimony. We made friends in the community and our church members grew closer, learning each others stories."



Courtney Ray shares her best ideas for ministry "What if we had a Friends and Family day once a month designed specifically for those who we already have a relationship with?"



Tim Garrison shares his best idea for ministry "What if there was a mobile application that would allow an online down loadable ministry podcast, video, and print resources for pastors?"





Reading for Pastors 
Previously apolitical pastors are jumping into politics, organizing churches. Common sense activism, or a frightening church-state mix?

While we hear how 9/11 made Americans hostile to Islam, in fact it helped some reach across the divide to create interfaith relationships, according to the CSM. Quote: "Over the past 10 years, the percentage of US congregations involved in interfaith worship has doubled - from 7 to 14 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of congregations performing interfaith community service nearly tripled - from 8 to almost 21 percent - according to a new survey by Hartford Seminary's Institute for Religion Research."

A potential student-base for us? Attracted by conservative standards, Muslims are enrolling in Catholic schools.

Mormons continue to emphasize marriage as a sacred obligation - and it worries them that men aren't getting married as young as they should be. Quote: "Mormon marriages appear to last longer. The divorce rate for Mormons is about 20 percent, according to Holman. For non-Mormons, it's more than 40 percent, he said. LDS leaders promote marriage more than most faiths - they even have entire congregations for singles only.
To the Point
I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can't truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.

  - Zig Ziglar


Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle.

 - Helen Keller


Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.

  - Thomas Merton

I balanced all, brought all to mind, the years to come seemed waste of breath, a waste of breath the years behind, in balance with this life, this death.
  - William Butler Yeats

Difficulties are opportunities to better things; they are stepping-stones to greater experience... When one door closes, another one always opens; as a natural law it has to, to balance.

- Brian Adams


Remember that poise and power are inseparably associated. The calm and balanced mind is the strong and great mind; the hurried and agitated mind is the weak one. 

 - Wallace D. Wattles


Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.  

 - Epicurus

Fortunate, indeed, is the man who takes exactly the right measure of himself and holds a just balance between what he can acquire and what he can use.
 - Peter Latham


Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
 - Robert Fulgham


A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.
William Arthur Ward


We come into this world head first and go out feet first; in between, it is all a matter of balance.
 - Paul Boese

So divinely is the world organized that every one of us, in our place and time, is in balance with everything else.
 - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

News, Ideas & Reminders  
Got a tool, resource, site, article, idea or seminar that you like a lot? Share it with us at BestPractices@ameritech.net.  
Upcoming NAD Events

Do you have an event you'd like to invite NAD pastors to? Send details to BestPractices@Ameritech.net.



7th Annual National Conference on Innovation: where provocative thinkers collide and engage in meaningful, unexpected conversations. October 2-4, 2011, Crowne Plaza - 33 East Fifth Street, Dayton, OH  45402.  Presenters Include anna Lappe, Gabe Lyons, Ron Stout, Diana Fleming, Sid Lloyd. Online registration here.  

Best Practices is a Vervent publication of NAD CHURCH RESOURCE CENTER. Editor: Loren Seibold, Ohio Conference. E-mail: Best Practices. You are free to republish pieces from Best Practices in your own newsletter or blog, with attribution to the Best Practices newsletter and the author of the piece.