Helpful, encouraging and paradigm-shifting! Those are words that come to mind to describe this book (Evangel Publishing House, Nappanee, Indiana, 2007) about “balancing professional responsibilities and personal needs” in Christian work. Everyone in ministry knows what it is to go through times when life seems out of control or things are way out of balance. Dr. Headley writes this book to help us through such times. He points out how important it is to recognize that our experience and practice of our work is framed, outlined, shaped, and guided by the metaphors and mental pictures that we have internalized concerning our profession and our role in it. His discussion brought back to mind key moments in my own ministry. I recalled one stretch in particular in my early years when I was working too much, living too close to work, and neglecting my family. I remember having to consciously think of my wife as my number one parishioner. It wasn’t a perfect metaphor shift but it served at the time as a helpful reframe of the kind that Dr. Headley talks about. Dr. Headley mentions many much better shifts in thinking that can help us at critical growth times in our ministry to make the adjustment to another size church, another family situation, or another stage in our personal lives.
Dr. Headley includes a powerful chapter on the disciplines of ministry and another that develops principles for the practice of ministry. In these, he reminds us, for example, that retreat is not wasted time as our self-talk is prone to pronounce. Rather it is following the example of Jesus in pursuing a recreating rhythm of engaging and disengaging that keeps us spiritually strong and our ministries more powerful as well. Again, how you think about it is crucial.
Anthony Headley is a licensed psychologist and professor at Asbury Theological Seminary. I heard him speak at a ministers’ retreat recently and found him an engaging and very caring person. I highly recommend this book for pastors. It would also be an excellent resource for pastors’ growth small groups such as the Wesleyan LDJ groups.