Eric Miller, CE National’s director of ministry operations and Scott Feather, pastor of Gateway Church in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania, spoke candidly on how to care for yourself while you care for others in ministry. In this CE Digital Lab, the two men discussed spiritual disciplines, guarding your heart from temptation, feeding yourself spiritually, and balancing ministry and family with other priorities.

What are things you have found help you with spiritual disciplines?

Scott said something he has been doing is read a Psalm a day. If one really resonates with him, he may spend more time focusing on that one. He also suggested praying through scripture which lets God’s Word dictate and give a framework on how to do your prayer life. Scott said something they say at their church is, “Prayer is just continuing the conversation that God already started with us in His Word.” He doesn’t use this practice as a confining thing, but rather a framework to read through scripture and then pray I, letting it naturally form his prayers.

What is your spiritual discipline routine?

Scott admitted he can’t figure out if he’s a morning person or a night person, but he tries to read his Bible and pray when he feels the “freshest”. This could be the first thing in the morning or another time later in the day.  Eric added that he usually spends time in the Word first thing in the morning. He utilizes “the 3 R’s” with his daily habits: a reminder, a routine, and a reward. The reminder is setting his alarm to wake earlier than his kids. The routine is sitting at the same place in the house, and his reward is his favorite thing-coffee! He said when he combines those three things, it makes for a wonderful and consistent time with the Lord.

What do you do you keep prayer and scripture reading a priority when life gets hectic?

Scott admitted this is another area he can struggle in. He vulnerably described a time 10 years ago where he had a “crash” and realized he was trying to “do” more for God rather than simply “be” with God. He prioritized doing things for others over feeding himself spiritually. This was a huge reason he now cares so deeply about this subject to help prevent others from heading down the same path. He broke out a pair of Uno cards and described how the “6” and “9” cards provide us with a clear frame of reference with a line under each so we don’t confuse the two. The Bible is our framework. Spending time in God’s Word is what grounds us. Scott good-humoredly added that without the framework of Scripture, he’s “one stupid choice away from heading down the wrong path.”
In addition, Eric mentioned as ministry leaders and pastors, it’s tempting to read Scripture through the lens of teaching and communicating it to others. But God’s Word doesn’t always need to work that way. It is also for us! He reminded that if we don’t stay fresh, then we don’t have anything to say to anyone. We need to admit that we all need God otherwise our ministry has no value or worth. Scott spoke frankly to all leaders, “If you aren’t being led first, then you honestly don’t have a right to be a leader of other people”

How do you avoid temptation?

Scott shared one thing to remember is the gospel not only takes care of the penalty of sin, but it also takes care of the power of sin. We have the ability to say no and not give sin its power. 2 Peter 1:3 says “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life…” For Scott, personally, the temptation comes in when there is more free time and less structure. He also needs to be proactive in watching his mind and capturing his thoughts.  Eric referenced Paul’s thought in Romans 8 of “putting sin to death.” Through the power of Christ, we have the ability to put sin to death-to cut if off. Scott also referenced 1 Peter 5:8 and 2 Chronicles 16:9. God’s eyes are looking to strengthen the person who is fully committed, yet we have an enemy prowling around waiting for them to trip up. Both Eric and Scott emphasized the importance of surrounding ourselves with fellow believers to provide accountability and being vulnerable enough to invite them into our lives.

When we mess up, what is the balance between truth and grace?

Scott described himself as a perfectionist, so when things aren’t perfect he can get really frustrated and there can be a lot of condemnation and shame. Several years ago, he had a conversation with someone who told him to quit “carrying around the bat” that he was using to beat himself up and create shame. Both agreed it’s a fine balance- God’s grace is sufficient, but as Romans 6 says, this does not give us the freedom to keep on sinning. God loving us no matter what should drive us to our knees and to a place of more vulnerability.

What are some life-giving activities people in ministry can utilize?

Scott said he tries to do activities that play into his strengths. Not necessarily something that he is good at, but something that makes him stronger. For himself, this may be a book on a subject he is unfamiliar with but can really learn from. Eric jokingly admitted he probably has too many hobbies. He shared he loves sports, especially baseball. Not only does it bring him joy, but it allows him a way to shut off his brain when he gets stressed or overwhelmed. Both men cautioned that activities like these can cross over from fun pastimes to obsessions and time-wasters. Eric said he loves the term “leverage anything for the Gospel.” For example, he loves coffee and learning about it. He can use that to engage in conversations with his barista which hopefully leads to spiritual conversations.

What does balance look like?

Scott believes balance does not exist, but yet he said he knows when he is out of balance. He becomes short with the people he loves and he can feel the anxiety and stress rise. Eric agreed that he thinks balance is probably a myth. Ministry and life are “seasonal” and always changing. He said what helps him is being proactive instead of reactive and communicate with his family and co-workers prior to entering into busy seasons. Planning ahead through those times he knows will be extra busy, can help everyone get on board and look forward to the rest that will follow.
Along the same line, Eric and Scott emphasized that boundaries are an important part of maintain balance. Eric says as a pastor, this meant protecting his day off and putting away his phone in the evenings when he was with his family. Scott added that boundaries are also important for our physical safety and health. We can be so busy helping others we fail to take care of ourselves. Technology is an area that requires good boundaries. It can be so useful, but also can send us down rabbit trails of unproductivity or inappropriate content. Scott shared that he’s a “tech guy” that can get fully engrossed in all the social media venues and staying connected with others. And as needs and requests come in, it’s easy to think he needs to be the one to meet all those needs. However, he reminded those in ministry that as shepherds, not everyone’s emergency needs to be your emergency.

During difficult seasons, have any Bible passages encouraged you?

Scott loves the passage in John 17 where Jesus says, “may they know that you love them, as much as you love me.” The idea that God truly loves us as much as He loves His son was a “boom” moment for him and brings him to tears and his knees and actually helps him want to stay far away from sin. Eric said he continues to come back to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. In seasons where everything is uncomfortable, God is our source of comfort and comforts us so we can comfort others. Scott added it’s a beautiful that God doesn’t waste anything! Whatever painful or uncomfortable thing we are going though, that gives hope and meaning. God still gets the glory, but somehow He lets us be a part of the process.

As someone in ministry, how do you handle carrying the burdens of others?

Both men agreed that Scripture is clear that as the caregiver of people’s souls, one day we will give an account to God. 1 Peter 5:7 says “Give all your worries and cares to God because he cares for you.” Just as God commands us all to give our burdens to the Lord, we are not the one to carry the burdens of others. Eric added that we can and should come alongside others and help them lay their burdens at the cross- walking that journey together. Scott added that it is also important to understand your strengths and reach out to others who are more gifted in areas to provide guidance. He concluded with reminder to know your own limitations and your own tendencies. Yes, we need to carry each other’s burdens, but be mindful to not let yourself fall into temptation in the process.