"Vibrant ministry springs from a vibrant soul."
Drawing on his experiences with taking an intentional sabbatical, Jedd Medefind shares how our inner life and our outpouring into the lives of others are intricately interwoven—especially in in the sense that we must be filled up so that we can, in turn, pour out. The fact is, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible in the long term, to pour into others’ lives if we don’t take the time to be refreshed and nourish our own souls.
Several years ago, Jedd was blessed with the opportunity to take a two-month sabbatical. Although not at a breaking point, he certainly felt the need and the awareness that, if he was going to continue to do ministry at the level and pace he had been accustomed to, his soul would need nourishment to be able to pour out more. “The desire to pour out more drew me to pull back for a time,” he says.
Although Jedd was able to take a significant amount of time for his sabbatical, he realizes that not everyone has that ability. Still, there are times that each of us can block off in order to take intentional time away to focus on matters of our soul. He calls this the “inner life” and firmly believes that “vibrant ministry springs from a vibrant soul.”
As an example, he shares the story of Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children, one of the first successful, large scale organizations to engage in children’s issues in Uganda in the early 2000s. The ministry was very successful, but by 2012, the glare of attention in the public eye, the pace, the constant pouring out caused Russell to experience an emotional breakdown—he had become completely poured out to the point of being dry.
This isn’t an uncommon occurrence in ministry. As Jedd points out, people who come into the realm of justice and mercy can often find themselves going through a progression. They first have a waking, when they learn of the issue or need and become passionate about making a difference. They then start working to serve the need—they start or join a ministry—all of which is good. However, especially if they are not tapped into something that will nourish their soul, they inevitably hit the wall of the world’s brokenness.
The results may not be what they wanted or relationships may not be as strong as they had thought. The world simply doesn’t yield to our touch in the way we had hoped and planned. We then become weary, which often leads to us working even harder and pouring out even more, so much so we become withered. At that moment, we are little more than a dried husk and we desperately need something from the outside to fill us or we will stay that way.
“The essence of all ministry is that something in us pours out to the good of another person,” Jedd says. “But,” he cautions, “we need to know that something is being poured out. A profound principle of ministry is that if we are pouring out with nothing pouring in, we will eventually be empty.”
And when we are empty, we can crash and burn or break down and turn to other things such as unhealthy addictions to alcohol, drugs, pornography, food to fill ourselves up. The emptiness can be more subtle as well. Even if we don’t feel as if we’ve crashed and burned, the times we feel we have no energy or desire to do anything when we get home, or the lack of “feeling”—when we have little empathy or excitement, when our emotions are dull and grey—these are signs that we are close to burnout.
Jedd offers several practical ways to pour back into yourself:
- If you have suffered severe burnout, professional counseling might be the best place to start. Depending on the circumstances, professional help could be valuable for any of us.
- At the very least, find a friend to walk the road with you—someone who can tell us what we can’t see for ourselves. “We are partially blind when we’re burned out,” Jedd explains.
- Make sure you pay attention to your physical and spiritual needs. “The physical and spiritual parts of us are interwoven,” says Jedd. “Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and are making healthy food choices and are exercising. There’s a reason that Jesus told the disciples to ‘come away with me and rest.’”
- Finally, “it’s important to create rhythms of work and rest in your life, both with people and away from people.” Make sure there are daily, weekly and annual times that you intentionally take time to practice solitude and have time alone with the Lord. These are the times that God can pour into us and nourish our soul.
Another practice of healthy rhythms is to be very aware of the role technology plays in our lives. “Technology plays a major role in draining and exhausting us, so much so that we are often not even fully present with others,” says Jedd. He encourages each of us to consider and be aware of how much time we allow technology to invade the spaces of our lives—in our time with God, our family and others. He suggests creating boundaries for technology—because unless we intentionally keep it out, it will invade our space.
“The Summit is a coming together of people who love Jesus and love vulnerable children, both in the U.S. and around the world,” explains Jedd. It is a time of learning from each other, both through expert and experiential sharing. Jedd likens it to a gift exchange in which attendees give their expertise and receive encouragement, resources and connections in return. It’s a great opportunity for anyone who is involved in or considering caring for vulnerable children to learn and be encouraged and refreshed.
CAFO (Christian Alliance for Orphans) Summit takes place May 9-11 in Dallas, Texas. Some of the speakers include Jim Daly from Focus on the Family, Eugene Cho, Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine, and Sarah Hagerty. There are also a lot of people you may never have heard of but who have incredible stories. The theme of this year’s Summit is “What Matters Most” and will dive deep into ways that will help you discern the essential things in life and simplifying so that you’re spending your time and energy pursuing those things.
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Meet Our Guest
Jedd Medefind serves as the President of CAFO (Christian Alliance for Orphans). CAFO unites more than 175 respected organizations working together to inspire and equip Christians for effective foster care, adoption and global orphan care.
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