The Unhurried Pastor: Redefining Productivity for a More Sustainable Ministry – Brian Croft and Ronnie Martin

The Unhurried Pastor: Redefining Productivity for a More Sustainable Ministry by Brian Croft, Ronnie Martin
Also by this author: Pastoring Small Towns: Help and Hope for Those Ministering in Smaller Places
Published by Good Book Company on May 1, 2024
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Leadership

Helps pastors adopt an approach to ministry that is effective, enjoyable, and sustainable.

Being a pastor is not a regular 9-to-5 job. There is an unending list of important things to do as you seek to serve others sacrificially. The demands of ministry make it difficult to find a healthy rhythm of life and work, and can leave you running on empty. How can we develop a sustainable pattern of ministry that both honors the Lord and the people we care for and that will also protect us from burnout?

Ronnie Martin and Brian Croft have each spent decades pastoring churches and supporting ministry leaders. Here they encourage fellow shepherds to embrace a more present-focused, unhurried approach to ministry. They show how this starts with accepting their humanity, pursuing humility, and remembering the hope they have in Christ. They also exhort pastors to fuel their ministry with self-awareness, prayer, and contemplation of Jesus.

After giving a framework for this approach to ministry, the authors offer lots of practical advice regarding prioritization, managing schedules, and cultivating supportive friendships.

It’s generally acknowledged in Christian circles that being a pastor is an incredibly demanding job, and that it’s difficult to balance the always-on pressures of ministry with personal needs. For example, people talk a lot about how important it is for pastors to spend time with their families instead of sacrificing their spouses and children for ministry, but the demands of pastoral labor and the urgency of church members’ emergencies can override pastors’ good intentions. In this book, Brian Croft and Ronnie Martin dig deeply into what it looks like for pastors to choose a less hurried pace of life. They encourage pastors to remember that they are not superhuman, and that regardless of their ministry titles, their core identity is that God created them and loves them.

Croft and Martin challenge readers to accept and honor their human limitations, and they share examples from Scripture and their own lives to illustrate different points. They emphasize how important it is for pastors to cultivate their own spiritual lives, instead of just pouring into others, and they explore ways that pastors can slow down and adopt a less hurried pace through character traits like humility and self-awareness, and through practices such as silence and contemplation, prayer, rest, and friendship. This book also addresses the importance of men respecting and dealing with their emotions, instead of stuffing their feelings through the culturally encouraged approach of self-reliance and stoicism.

The authors care deeply about discouraged and burnt out pastors, and they share advice and wisdom in a caring, gentle way. I appreciate their honesty about their own struggles, and they share a refreshing perspective on core practices for mental, physical, and spiritual wellness. My only critique is that this book focuses primarily on a pastor’s self-imposed burdens, without providing much insight into how a pastor can engage with other people’s unhealthy demands and expectations. The authors write about the difficulties of church life, acknowledging how hard it can be for pastors to deal with harshly critical church members and cases with toxic leadership teams, but I wish that this book had included advice for how pastors can best advocate for themselves in or depart from environments where people resist any attempts at boundary-setting and expect the pastor to bear an impossible workload.

The Unhurried Pastor: Redefining Productivity for a More Sustainable Ministry is a thoughtful, encouraging book about a common problem, and I would recommend this to an even broader audience than the title indicates. Although the authors wrote this book for vocational pastors, the core message and many of the examples will also apply to men and women in volunteer positions at church, Christian nonprofit work, and other fields of ministry. Many people will benefit from this book’s thoughtful diagnosis of a common problem, and from the practical steps that the authors recommend towards greater wellness and ministry sustainability.