abiding, burn out & prayer

Leading Yourself Spiritually

John and Adam join with Kyle Kaigler (Senior Campus Pastor) and Rob Barry (Community Director) to discuss practical ways to lead yourself spiritually. They cover best practices, how being a pastor makes things more difficult, and how to address burn out in the church.


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Key Points

  • Who we are with Jesus is far more important than anything we ever do for Jesus.
  • It’s a leader’s job to define expectations for leading one’s self spiritually.
  • Burn out occurs when leaders stop leading themselves spiritually.
  • Your burn out is no one’s fault but your own.
  • Confession and commitment to change can turn burn out around.

Introduction (03:38)

After Kyle and Rob introduce themselves, the group jumps in and discusses why leading yourself spiritually is so important. Kyle points to Proverbs 4:23 as being a guiding verse in his life. As a leader, it is really important to pay attention to your soul. When in ministry, there will be countless things that try to distract you from your primary goal of glorifying God and making disciples. Rob points out that there is always the temptation to think that we are all somehow the exception to the rule. Based on our giftedness, leaders can think that they have it all figured out and they have moved past the need to abide with the Lord and truly take care of themselves spiritually. However, the aim of the Christian life isn’t eclipsing a dependence on Christ. The aim of the Christian life is a dependence on Christ. It is important to pay attention to the state of our souls so that we are better able to notice when we have gone off track.

Kyle lays out a way of understanding what happens when leaders fail to lead themselves spiritually.

The 3 B’s

  • Bug Out - When leaders take off and leave all their responsibilities behind
  • Burn Out - When leaders lose zeal and passion for God’s mission and their role in it
  • Blow Out - When leaders allow addiction or scandal push them off track

How You Lead Yourself Spiritually (6:58)

“Who you are with Jesus, is far more important than anything you will ever do for Him.” - Kyle Kaigler

Rob talks about how he is great at spiritual intake, but poor at pairing that with spiritual output. Things like journaling, prayer, or engaging with others can be more difficult. This results in becoming “spiritually constipated,” where your mind and heart are full, but you are not pouring anything back out. In Mark 3, the pattern is for Jesus’s disciples first are with him, and then also go out to be with others. In light of this, Rob’s morning spiritual routine is multi-faceted. He keeps mornings consistent because of the hectic realities of having kids waking up soon after him. First, he maintains an intensive intake of scripture memory while on his treadmill. Second, he prepares to open up God’s word for something new. Together, these work to spiritually feed him with truth.

Kyle, unlike Rob, doesn’t have kids in the house. This means that leading himself spiritually looks a little different. He focuses his efforts in four different ways.

  • Devoting Daily - Daily intentional time with the Lord.
  • Withdrawing Weekly - Weekly extended time away from the busyness of family and work.
  • Migrating Monthly - Monthly retreating for the better part of a day to rest and recharge.
  • Abandoning Annually - Annually spending several days away with the intention of leading one’s self spiritually.

This pattern helps him remain spiritually connected to God. Regarding devoting daily, every morning, prior even to opening his Bible, Kyle will journal out his prayers, distractions, and desires for his time with the Lord. After that, he will open God’s Word. Kyle mentions how he also likes to close his day in time with the Lord, but he wants to become more consistent at this.

John mentions how generally there are two kinds of people in the Word, “be-ers” and “do-ers.” As believers, we should strive to be both. It is also important to recognize that leading yourself spiritually is not mutually exclusive with getting stuff done. You can do both and often the combination actually empowers you to do so. Rob reminisces about a lesson he has learned from Kyle, in that his time with Jesus is far more important than what he accomplishes for Jesus.

“It is a leaders job to define expectations.” - Rob Berry

Rob talks about how he keeps a separate journal or a pad sticky notes close at hand when spending time with the Lord. Whenever thoughts or distractions come to mind that take him away from what he is presently trying to focus on, Rob will practice writing those things down and then moving back to what he was trying to accomplish.

Burning Out (16:13)

John poses the question of how to deal with burning out. Kyle, looking back, remembers a time when he was working long hours and spending a ton of time doing things outside of his giftedness. He went to his leadership and confessed the reality that something needed to change. He asked for permission to change the pace of his life for a while. During a season of working less, he doubled down on his time with Jesus. He pondered on what he was truly gifted at and sought clarity around what his issues and strengths were. Rob talks about how we often think there is somehow a different path that this for getting back on track. The reality we see in the Bible is that beginning with confession is consistently how to arrive actual life transformation and reorienting your spiritual life.

How to Spot When People Are Leading Themselves Poorly (20:48)

One of the first signs of poor self-leadership is a critical spirit. Second, people tend to get stuck in the same cycle of language. A helpful distinction here is to not just ask people what they are reading from God’s Word, but ask what God is teaching or showing them from His Word. Usually those who are not leading themselves will answer with, “I haven’t been learning.” Remember that hen you receive vague generalized answers, you want to push further into those answers.

Is Poor Self Leadership a Fire-able Offense? (23:43)

Kyle mentions that this in itself isn’t a fire-able offense. However, refusing to deal with it or work through it may be. Leading yourself spiritually is serious business, especially for those in positions of leadership. If there is a consistent pattern of repentance and improvement, then discipleship and growth can occur.

It is not the leaders job to police how everyone on their teams are leading themselves spiritually, but a leader can take practical steps to help them. Try beginning staff meetings with questions like “What are you learning in God’s Word?” or “What has God been teaching you lately?” This can be incredibly effective at understanding where people are at and answering them yourself models healthy spiritual growth in leadership. At Watermark, everyone, at any moment, is expected to be able to give a response to these questions. This creates a healthy angst and encourages people to be prepared. Hearing these truths from people and beginning meetings with Scripture can put people’s hearts on track.

Does Being a Pastor Make Leading One’s Self Spiritually More or Less Difficult? (29:00)

Rob thinks back to when he was managing a coffee shop 60 hours a week and notes how he has less time now as a pastor than he did then to lead himself spiritually. He reminds himself that if he doesn’t leading himself spiritually before work, it simply won’t happen. He knows himself well. After clocking in, it can be so easy to get into a rhythm of working and go through a whole day without pausing to pray and actively depend on Jesus. He claims that it is harder to abide with Jesus when you are a pastor.

In Kyle’s experience, he notes how funny it is to be “unqualified to counsel and pastor someone” in the year immediately prior to coming on staff at a church, and then immediately after joining a church staff, one suddenly becomes qualified. We can fool ourselves into thinking that people’s ministry needs are more important than us taking care of our souls. The reality is that if you are not feeding yourself you do not have anything to feed others. John likens this to the commands given before taking off in an airplane. It is the responsibility of the parent to first put on their own oxygen mask before assisting their children around them. Pastor’s need to be diligent to lead themselves spiritually before attempting to lead others spiritually. This at first may seem counter-intuitive or selfish, but the Lord calls us to get our own oxygen mask on before helping others do the same.

John notes that the familiarity of these things can actually work against us. After a while in ministry, what used to get us excited may not have the same effect five or ten years down the line. However, there is something good and formational about having to wrestle with things and look at things with new eyes. Feel free to admit to the Lord how little you have at times. It can be freeing to come to God with nothing, knowing he can still supply spiritual growth. Many think that burnout is something inherent to the role of a pastor. John pushes back against this notion. Burn out happens because the pastor is not leading themselves well and abiding with the Lord. It isn’t the church’s fault or the seminary’s fault.

What Do You Say to Someone in the Midst of Burnout? (35:11)

“People can’t love you apart from knowing the reality in your life.” - Rob Berry

First thing would be to bring that burn out to the light and allow people into your life. Allow others that care about you to encourage you. They can’t encourage or care for you specifically. Having others come around you to help with burn out is dependent on vulnerably allowing them to see where you are at. Remember that burn out isn’t anyone’s fault but your own. In order to actually turn around, you must confess and then commit to change. Honestly take look at yourself and ask what was it that caused this burn out to occur. If you are at a culture that can’t handle that kind of confession, you either need to reform it or you need to get out. Thank others when they are willing to tell you the truth. Remember that 1 John 1:7-9 tells us that when we confess and walk in the light it makes relationships easier.

Final Thoughts (38:24)

John expresses his gratefulness for Rob and Kyle’s example. He also reminds of Luther’s idea of “I have so much to do that I will spend the first three hours in prayer.” Church leaders have so much to do, we really cannot afford to not care for our souls. Vision, delegation, culture and all the other things talked about on this podcast really are secondary issues in comparison to leading yourself spiritually.


Questions or Comments? Email clp@watermark.org