Healthy boundaries. Renewal. Self-care. Sabbath. Play.
A personal reflection by Carter Ellis, Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Bessemer City Healthy boundaries. Renewal. Self-care. Sabbath. Play. The buzz words for effective leadership in ministry. As clergy and ministry leaders, we must take the time and space to reconnect with God and with ourselves for a lifetime of fruitful ministry. But we talk about these self-care practices in terms of spiritual growth, renewal, healthy living—rarely in terms of our personal finances. In the words of Tom Haverford from Parks and Rec—its ok to “Treat. Yo. Self” from time to time. But how do we do so responsibly? Free is the obvious answer. Having a “Self-Care” budget line in personal finances is another. The “Self-Care” line item comes from my experience living in an intentional community. During a year of service, we served non-profits during the day and lived, played, and invested in the community by night. We even shared finances. In short, the non-profits paid our organization which then paid each of our houses (with 8 people per house) a lump sum a month to cover utilities, food, gas, outings, and our beloved stipend—the cash in our pockets. The Myers Briggs test determined who got to control the finances in each house. So, as the only strong “J” in my house, the finances were my territory (being the only “J” in a house of 8 people came with a lot more responsibilities than just the finances!). Each month I paid the bills, wrote the checks for the grocery store, made sure we had enough gas, and handed out the stipends. Payday was the big day in our house. On the first day of the month, everyone received his/her envelope with $70 cash. Keep in mind I’m 28 years old, so no need to account for inflation. That $70 covered dinners out, trips to the movies, concerts, sporting events, coffee at the coffee shop—basically anything you wanted besides food, cleaning supplies, and gas. My special treat was a mocha from the coffee shop on a cold winter Friday morning. And then, when the $70 was gone, it was gone. In the years following this intentional community and throughout divinity school, I tried to give myself a stipend each month. But, as time went on, I stopped having cash and relied heavily on my debit or credit card. It became harder to track and I started feeling guilty about spending money on “non-necessities” that were really for self-care. At the INVE$T retreat recently, presenter Mark King encouraged us to take out money in cash each month for self-care and when it was gone it was gone! Memories of the $70 in the old, beat up envelope with my name on it came flooding back. So how do you budget for self-care? Is it a line item in your Excel spread sheet? An envelope of cash each month? Start small, and remember, it’s ok to “Treat. Yo. Self” every once in a while.