2020 has been the hardest year on pastors that I have seen in my lifetime. Not just spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, but many are struggling physically as well.
Chances are, they have been for a long time.
That’s because many pastors are lacking when it comes to their physical fitness. That lack is probably more important than you think!
Let me share with you just six important reasons why physical fitness is important for pastors:
To be “fit” for ministry. Most pastors will tell you the majority of their time is devoured by ministry. Long days, busy evenings, and middle-of-the-night calls can leave pastors sleep deprived and exhausted. And even though a lot of a pastor’s time might be sedentary – studying hours at a desk, or sitting in endless meetings and counseling sessions – current medical studies are now calling a lack of movement and a sedentary life the “new cancer.” It takes physical fitness and generally good health to have the energy needed and to handle the demands of ministry for the “long haul.”
For your mental health. You cannot properly care for your mental health without adequately caring for your physical health and fitness. Current research and advances in nutritional psychiatry reveal what we eat can have a dramatic affect on our mental health, and can even be a root cause to some mental illness. Multiple studies have revealed that physical exercise (both cardio and strength conditioning) can be as effective or better at treating stress, anxiety, and depression than taking medication. Three of the best things any pastor can do to handle the stress of ministry, and any anxiety or depression they may personally experience, is to consistently eat nutritious meals (with portion control), exercise regularly, and get adequate sleep (both quality and quantity).
To be a good steward. Leading a congregation means teaching people to be good stewards. Of all the things we’ll ever receive from God, our physical bodies are one of the greatest of His gifts. All of us, including pastors, need to be good stewards of the physical bodies God has blessed us with. A lifestyle that neglects your physical fitness, which contributes to eventual health issues, is not good stewardship of your physical body.
For your family. One of the greatest concerns pastors have is to not allow ministry to get in the way of properly loving and caring for their families. But when you physically deplete yourself on ministry – which is more quickly done when you’re lacking physical fitness and vitality – you have less to bring home and expend on your marriages and families. To have the vitality for both ministry AND marriage AND family demands you care about and maintain your physical fitness and health.
As an example and encouragement. Let me give use a very blunt example – many pastors today aren’t just overweight, they are obese. Not because of some health issue, but because they have poor diets and rarely (if ever) exercise. So when these men step to a pulpit, it’s far more difficult for them to speak about stewardship, or self-control, or self-discipline. Their example of how they care for their physical selves can sometimes speak louder than their words. But a pastor who maintains good physical fitness can be a living example and encouragement to his family, his congregation, and his community.
Expanded relational opportunities. Sometimes it can be wonderful to have personal time alone while getting in a good workout. But getting exercise can also be a great way to spend more time with family (being active and enjoying recreation together), more personal time with church members (going running with members, working out with members, being involved in recreational activities with members) and as a means of getting to know people outside your congregation (meeting people at a gym, being in an exercise class with people from the community, etc.). While you work on getting fit or staying fit, you can also be investing in, expanding, and enjoying relationships in a more personal manner.
How seriously are you taking your physical fitness and health? Are you currently fit? Do you need to get fit? Let me encourage those of you who need to get fit or work on staying fit to check out my book, “Maybe I Need to Get Fit …” It’s a small book with just enough information and inspiration to help you get serious about getting fit and staying that way. You can find the book by clicking here.
This article originally appeared here.