I’ve been working my way through the Top Ten. This is the last on the list. But certainly not the least on the list. Ever since I funneled four decades of leadership lessons into a 90-minute teaching session for a group of young millennial worship interns last summer, I’ve been unpacking each of them individually in a series of blog posts. While my top-ten learnings were listed in no particular order of priority, “Leaders Must Keep Their Priorities in Order” is incredibly important in the life of a leader that expects to leave a powerful legacy.

Our Family (missing one daughter in-love) on the 30th Anniversary of Cape Christian’s Beginning (April 2017)

My leadership experience has primarily been in a church environment. Launching and growing a small group into a church and then into a large thriving vibrant church has been a mostly wonderful journey. And, by the very nature and calling of the assignment of a pastor, I’ve been tasked with bringing dozens, and then hundreds and now, even thousands along with me on the journey of loving God and loving people. There are many demands. Many needs. Many who want my time and attention. There is always more people to see, more to be done than there are hours in a day.

But I’ve learned something about the need for one priority above all the other priorities. My ministry won’t matter without my family. My ministry won’t matter without my physical, emotional and spiritual health. Some things are more important than other things. Some things are priceless. I can start and grow the largest church in our city and be totally empty and devastated if my marriage is destroyed or my kids and grandkids are far away from God. My ministry won’t matter if my 42 years of marriage unravels into a mess. My ministry won’t matter if my kids don’t respect me or my grandkids don’t want to spend time with me. My ministry won’t matter at all if I’m emotionally burned out and have no motivation to get out of bed.

I’ve not experienced the above. I’m so very grateful. But in the last seven months, I’ve been in the hospital three times. A total of 13 days. Only one of the three was a scheduled surgery and hospital stay. Now, the good news is, I think everything has been fixed, cut out or checked out. But on those two emergency visits, important meetings on my calendar didn’t matter. My “To Do” list was useless. My goals and deadlines were insufficient. Nothing else mattered beyond getting well again. Some things are more important than other things. We tend to forget that when the pressures of our careers and leadership roles drive us to imbalanced over-loaded schedules.

I remind every younger leader of the priority of setting personal boundaries and keeping their lives in proper perspective and balance. You will never regret having your family and your own health at the top of your priority list. But you will have loads of regret if any of those slip away from you and slide to the bottom.

Some of the best mental health advice I received as a young leader was from another young leader back in 1986. Rick Warren said this to a group of us young pastors—divert daily, withdraw weekly and abandon annually. Having a finish line to cross to cross each day, a consistent day off each week and some time off the grid each year has helped me stay emotionally healthy.

And finally, I’ve guarded my family time and personal time as if it was my life, because it is. Putting my family events, a date with my wife, prayer, reading, exercise, and my hobby of photography on my calendar is a key. I can simply tell a person looking for a potential appointment, “I have another event at that time.” It also keeps my administrative assistant from overcrowding my personal calendar. Most of all, seeing those self-care appointments on my calendar are a frequent visual reminder—some things are more important than other things.

 

QUESTION: How do you stay healthy and well balanced in your life? I’d love to learn from you. Share your tips in the comment section below.

 

 

2 responses to The Priority of Priorities

  1. John Verburg on June 20, 2017 at 12:23 PM Reply

    Well said Dennis. As you know, I lost my marriage 8 years ago after 37 years and my ministry as a pastor of 33 years died as well. It was and still is, as though those years never happened. As several have asked me, “How did you do ministry (meaning being a pastor) all those years with a marriage like that?” My answer was, “I just did what I could”, but the real answer as I’ve come to see it is simply “I don’t know”. If a pastor doesn’t have a supportive spouse, it may be possible to have a fulfilled ministry, but it’s surely going to be very difficult. Yet, in the aftermath, the Lord opened the door for me to teach at the college level and in the past nearly 7 years, I’ve done more “ministry” with young adults than I ever did as a pastor in a church. Blessings my friend. Hope to catch up with you one day.

    • Dennis Gingerich on June 20, 2017 at 4:58 PM Reply

      Thanks so much John for your comments! You certainly understand the challenge. I would love to connect some time. I’ll touch base via email. I’m going to be in VA a few days this summer.

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