I recently met with a new friend, Michael Hildago. I have a hunch you’ll be hearing more from and about Michael in the upcoming year or so. He’s engaging, thoughtful, and challenges the church to walk in the fullness of her beauty and strength. We talked about writing and churchland, and I shared a story from a few years ago.
While waiting for a church service to begin, I tucked away in the pastor’s office to pray and prepare. I soon became distracted by the bookshelf—the array of thoughtful titles and colorful covers revealed much about the pastor’s theology, soul questions, and life perspective. I was taken back by how many of the writers whose names I recognized, but if you asked me, “Where were they now?” I had no idea.
A few are still writing. A few are still in ministry. But many aren’t writing or in ministry any more.
“What makes the difference for those who have longevity?” Michael asked.
“Travel with your husband and dog,” I said, without hesitating.
“You travel with your dog?” Michael laughed.
“Yep!” I said. “The pack that travels together stays together.”
Michael’s question launched a discussion on what contributes to sustainability in ministry or the workplace.
1. Grace. Lots and lots of grace. Those who remain in service anywhere for any length of time and continue to thrive need to remember that all they have, all of who they are, is grace. When we ground ourselves in grace, we can’t help but be grateful and find pockets of thankfulness, wonder, and laughter—even in tough times.
2. Asking the question of sustainability every day. Some people want success. Others, accolades. Still others, fame. Some, big money. Others, a bigger cubicle. Most questions tend to circle around what comes next. But asking the question, “What choices do I need to make today that will enable me to be around in 20 or 30 years with a smile on my face (and those around me)?” invites us to reexamine our lives, goals, and next steps in a more life-giving way.
3. Nurture creativity throughout your life and ministry. Some people are one-hit wonders, not just in the music business, but in churches, non-profits, and publishing. They have one a-m-a-z-i-n-g idea. But sustainability requires new ideas, fresh takes, and wrestling ideas along side people who challenge you year after year to make an impact sustainable.
4. Learn to diversify. This translates to ministries and non-profits as they develop new donors, outreaches, partnerships, and endeavors—online and around the world. Within the world of publishing, the days of only being a writer no longer exist (and I wonder if they ever did). Write. Blog. Teach. Tap dance. Sell stuff on Craigslist. Learn to train dogs. Whatever you do, diversify the ways you use your skills, create income streams, and serve others.
Sustainability is a wonderful gift from God—and one that we can be intentional about pursuing.
How are you nurturing sustainability in your life right now?
*Photo courtesy of here