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Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving

Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman and Donald C. Guthrie, Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving (IVP Praxis, 2013), 313 pages, ISBN 9780830841035.

Resilient Ministry commenced as a five-year research project conducted by Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman, and Donald C. Guthrie, colleagues at Covenant Theological Seminary. Collectively they evaluated the stresses and challenges of ministry, which resulted in a book revealing how pastors may thrive in their vocation. The authors disclosed five key themes promoting lasting ministry: spiritual formation, self-care, emotional and cultural intelligence, marriage, and leadership development. Each theme contains these thoughts:

  1. Spiritual formation: As clergy juggled numerous balls in life, they easily neglected their spiritual health. To stay grounded, the authors encouraged the development of disciplines such as Sabbath rest, prayer, worship, and personal reflection.
  2. Self-care: Intentional care of the body, mind, and spirit revealed the range of issues a minister must cultivate creating healthy boundaries and vital routines for daily living. Understanding personal limits and rhythms remained key to survival in the ministry.
  3. Emotional and cultural intelligence: An internal awareness of a pastor’s inner thoughts and people dynamics surrounding the ministry continue as a lifetime learning project. The growing diversity of the American society required a pastor to nurture a discernment and respect of varied opinions.
  4. Marriage: The examination of the issues of abandonment and unmet needs for a spouse were essential. The concept of family systems insightfully exposed the issues inherent within domestic conflicts. In addition, the authors’ discussion of practical tips concerning contentious situations at home and ministry can produce strength in one’s personal and professional efforts.
  5. Leadership development: The authors shared intriguing concepts of ‘poetic’ and ‘plumbing’ leadership. Though the plumbing side contained common sense ideas, the poetic element remained intuitive with a deep learning curve throughout a career in ministry.

Five themes to keep you in ministry for the long haul: spiritual formation, self-care, emotional and cultural intelligence, marriage, and leadership development.

Resilient Ministry offered a concluding appendix of perceptive questions for ministry leaders to assess the spiritual and emotional health of the pastor. Of particular value were the questions to ponder, recommendations for further study and the media worth exploring featured at the conclusion of each chapter. Peer support groups with colleagues in the ministry provided a safe haven to process confidential information. These keen resources would be helpful as pastors and lay leaders seek to support a procedure for resilience in ministry.

In short, Resilient Ministry includes more than a psychological analysis regarding ministry. The authors frequently reiterated that family is of uppermost importance and the “on-the-job” nature of ministry must deal with the unique situation it places upon the spouse and children. Responsible self-care with the family creates better performance in the church and pulpit. Personally, as a pastor for twenty-eight years, I understand the pitfalls of pastoral ministry and watched ministers erode under criticism, and lack of preventative care. Resilient Ministry serves as a clarion reminder of the pressures in ministry but also offers hope and practical acumen concerning “how-to” stay strong and finish in the Lord’s service.

Reviewed by Rev. Dr. Cletus L. Hull, III


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Category: Ministry, Spring 2015

About the Author: Cletus L. Hull, III, M.Div. (Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry), D.Min. (Fuller Theological Seminary), Ph.D. (Regent University), has served as a pastor with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for 36 years and psychiatric chaplain for 34 years. He is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies in the Oral Roberts University College of Theology and Ministry. He has researched the growing Disciples of Christ churches in Puerto Rico and has an interest in the significance of the Stone-Campbell churches in American Christianity. His article, "My Church is a Mental Hospital" appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Healing Line. He is the author of The Wisdom of the Cross and the Power of the Spirit in the Corinthian Church: Grounding Pneumatic Experiences and Renewal Studies in the Cross of Christ (Pickwick, 2018) and The Call: My Mission and Our Ministry at Trinity United Christian Church, Lower Burrell, PA (Word Association, 2019). Twitter: @cletus_hull, Facebook,

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