The blessings and burdens that come with a life in ministry and religious leadership present complex situations and personal struggles that left unaddressed can lead to burn out and a loss of vocational conviction. A minister’s spiritual and mental wellbeing is an essential part of them being an effective servant of God, so it’s important that they be supported and equipped to handle the chaos that modern life brings.
Recognizing and embracing the transitional pain of life events like divorce, retirement, the death of family member, authors James R. Newby and Mark Minear guide readers through a plan of action focused on self-discovery and renewal of spirit.
This book speaks to ministers in local churches who are questioning themselves, in transition, and are experiencing chaos, and who still want to be effective ministers. It is also for congregational leaders and denominational leaders who would like to understand both the perils and possibilities of the chaos some of the religious leaders under their care and jurisdiction are experiencing.
James R. Newby is the Minister and Public Friend at Cincinnati Friends (Quaker) Meeting, Cincinnati, Ohio. Before coming to Cincinnati, Jim was the Minister of Faith and Learning at the Wayzata Community United Church of Christ in Wayzata, Minnesota, and the Minister of Spiritual Growth at Plymouth Congregational, United Church of Christ in Des Moines, Iowa. He has served as the Director of the Yokefellow Institute at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, and was on the faculty of the Earlham School of Religion. Jim holds degrees from Friends University, Earlham School of Religion, William Penn University and Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the author and editor of 11 books including, Gathering the Seekers (Alban), Sacred Chaos: One Man’s Spiritual Journey Through Pain and Loss, and Reflections from the Inner Light: A Journal of Quaker Spirituality.
Mark Minear earned his PhD in Counseling Psychology from Ball State University in 1997. He returned to graduate school after 20 years in the pastoral ministry. Besides Ball State, he holds degrees from the Earlham School of Religion and William Penn University. He is currently a licensed psychologist in the State of Iowa and practices full-time, providing psychotherapy assessment, consultation and training. Mark utilizes a multi-dimensional model of wellness in his therapeutic approach; this allows for his clients to work across physical, emotional, intellectual, vocational, social, environmental and spiritual domains. He is on the team of counselors at the Des Moines, Iowa Pastoral Counseling Center.
Introduction: Sacred Chaos…, Processing Pain, Recovering Passion and Experiencing Journey
Chapter 1. Sharing Pain...Are you willing to share your own pain with others? Do you know when to let your pain plumb the depths of your soul, allowing the pain to help you grow spiritually? Are you sensitive to when it is possible to move beyond your pain to experience newness in life and ministry?
Chapter 2. Maintaining Passion...How do you maintain your passion in your ministry? How do you experience passion? What do you feel when you lose passion?
Chapter 3.A Healthy Balance...Do you seek to live a wholistic life, caring for body, mind and spirit? What are your physical disciplines? What are your mental disciplines? What are your spiritual disciplines?
Chapter 4 Power and Control...Have you dealt with your issues of power and control? How do you lead without becoming controlling? Do you understand the Servant Leadership model?
Chapter 5. Sensitivity and Burn-Out...Are you able to maintain your sensitivity to others without experiencing burn-out? Do you know the warning signs of burn-out? Do you understand the importance of professional boundaries?
Chapter 6. Knowing Who You Are...Are you honest with yourself and others about your gifts and ministry expectations? What is your personal credo...what you believe and why you believe it? What is your spiritual autobiography?
Chapter 7. Nurturing Community...Are you finding ways to nurture community, even as religious institutions face political and doctrinal division? How are you addressing the issues surrounding gender inclusivity and ethnic diversity? How are you making internal adjustments to the rapid external changes?
Chapter 8. Maintaining Perspective...Do you understand that institutions cannot love you back? Do you maintain a healthy balance between your personal life and corporate life? Do you allow what you do to define who you are?
Chapter 9. A New Institutional Landscape...How are you addressing the issues associated with the "Nones" and the "Dones?" How has the Pandemic changed the ways that you do ministry? What are the issues centered around justice for the poor and racial equality, and how are you and your faith community addressing them?
Chapter 10. Personal and Corporate Spirituality...Are you and the institution that you lead and serve growing together spiritually? Does the institution you serve provide you with the necessary spiritual challenges needed to keep your ministry vital and alive? Is it a joy, and do you find passion when you are in your faith community preaching, teaching and care-giving?
Epilogue: A New Vision of Authentic Religious Leadership
"There are two kinds of books. The first kind makes a big splash, but the ripples quickly fade. It leaves no lasting impression, no reservoir of wisdom upon which to draw. The second kind of book sneaks up on us slowly, makes its way into our lives and gradually transforms us. Decades later, it is still read, still savored, still helping. Finding Yourself in Chaos: Self-Discovery for Religious Leaders in a Time of Transition is the second kind of book. I wish this book had been available at the dawn of my ministry and not the twilight."
“The authors offer solid counsel for all professionals seeking mature advice on how to lead themselves to healthier and more balanced, meaningful, and professionally effective lives against the backdrop of these turbulent times. I commend Finding Yourself in Chaos to all those in need of renewal through inspiration, guidance, and most importantly …. hope!”
Finding Yourself in Chaos may have as its central focus the chaos and difficulty of contemporary life, but it is not devoid of humor. Finding opportunity to reference the Quaker childhood of Hoosier-born actor James Dean, Newby quotes Dean’s biographer as describing Quakers as “people who can take the pomp out of any circumstance.” Stories of Newby’s own staunchly abstemious Quaker grandmother and her rationalization for Richard Nixon’s apparent toast with alcohol in a meeting with Chinese leaders is worth the price of the book. Newby and Minear offer much excellent advice for finding our way out of spiritual chaos. It could be the genesis of renewal for those sincerely seeking ways forward. In the end, though, the authors comment that one cannot do much better than returning to the spiritual path of loving God and one another. Easier said than done, but Newby and Minear provide helpful signposts along the way.