This past week I went on a spiritual journey. I was blessed to have a condo with no TV or internet available to me for a few days in Fort Collins, CO. I had been wanting to have some solid "Me and God time" to pray and fast, meditate, write and plan. I've learned that if I am going to lead a church or anything for that matter, I must be realistic and acknowledge that I need some hard-core times like this if I am going to stay refreshed and on my game.
I will never forget something Lymen Coleman said at my first Serendipity Small Group conference. You can only lead a group as far as you've gone yourself. How true that is. Anytime I've struggled as a leader, I've come to realize that I'm running on empty. Now I include regular times of major refreshing, coming before God in extended times of prayer and sometimes fasting, listening for what his Holy Spirit may be saying to me.
This past week, I wasn't always impressed with what the Lord showed me about myself. At other times, I was affirmed in my direction and inspired to write, journaling thoughts and ideas, and even write some music (I always have my guitar). I went for long walks and enjoyed some friendship. But the most profound times for me were experienced in hours of silence waiting and listening. In those times I wrestled with God's proddings and challenges or rested in his embrace. I read voraciously devouring and pondering on what God was showing me. I came away from those three days tired but renewed and refreshed.
Times of refreshing are absolutely necessary for leaders. If you desire your small group to raise disciples, you need to be a disciple yourself always seeking God's direction and practicing spiritual habits that will keep you on your game. And when you are feeling empty, be honest about it and do something. If you don't have one find a mentor, at least a peer mentor who can hold you accountable to your own spiritual growth.
I know that not everyone can steal away to a nice condo or cabin somewhere for days when there is work to be done and kids to attend to, but that's when you especially need to have healthy spiritual habits that keep you sharp. Most recently I've been working at developing my prayer life to include times of listening to God. It's always a challenge not to come to God with my list. Asking the Spirit's leading during prayer can bring its own lists of what I should be praying for. Reading many different authors and genres also holds value giving you different perspectives about ministry, scripture and life. Include secular authors to keep your perspective healthy.
Whatever you choose to do, I encourage you to have some sort of "Rule of Life" in line with St. Benedict's suggestions that helps keep you spiritually sharp and on top of your leadership game; something you share with your mentor and are kept accountable to.
Your family and friends will thank you. Your small group will thank you. And you will thank you.
'til next time.