Are Pastors and Churches Doing Enough About Self-Care?

Last month I received an email from a high school student in Texas who asked if I might be willing to do an interview with him over zoom as part of his junior year research project. His research into Christian thought surrounding self-care had led him to my book, Four Gifts, and part of his assignment was to interview an expert in the field.

I’m always delighted to hear from readers, although I don’t think of myself as an expert. It seems to me that Thomas Merton’s comment about self-disciplines applies to self-care too:

We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners.

I’m definitely still learning about self-care, and I was interested to learn from this high school student. So I emailed him back that I would be happy to talk with him, and would he please send me some questions in advance so I’d have an idea of where our conversation might go.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Below are five of his questions about self-care and a short form of my answers.

Do you think someone’s gender can affect someone’s perspective on self-care?

I think everyone needs self-care. We all need to take care of ourselves by eating food, drinking water, getting enough physical activity, getting enough sleep. At the same time, our perspectives on self-care and our specific self-care practices might vary widely according to gender, age, health, and other factors.

Do you think the coronavirus pandemic had an affect on the attitude towards self-care?

The pandemic seemed to highlight the importance of self-care. Some of that related directly to the pandemic—like washing our hands, using hand sanitizer, wearing masks, keeping distance, getting vaccinated, and other ways of caring for ourselves that also helped to protect others. More generally, the pandemic also highlighted the stress of daily life and the concern for mental health which has aso led to greater interest in self-care.

Is the popularity of self-care bad for society in regards to productivity, etc.?

In Four Gifts, I outline a Christ-centred approach to self-care for heart, soul, mind, and strength. I believe that kind of healthy self-care is good for individuals, for churches, and for society as a whole. We were made for a healthy rhythm of work and rest that includes self-care. When self-care helps us to be healthy, I think we can be more productive. But when self-care becomes self-indulgence, when caring for “me too” turns into “me first” all the time and others not at all, it hurts ourselves and others.

Are pastors and churches addressing self-care the way they should?

Sometimes and in some places. I know some pastors who take deliberate steps to care for themselves and others who don’t. I know one church had a preaching series for the whole congregation to explore healthy self-care. Other churches haven’t been that direct or haven’t addressed self-care at all. I think we could all learn more and grow more in healthy self-care.

How big of an effect does self-care have on mental health?

Healthy self-care can help support and maintain mental health. But some people may be too ill to care for themselves. For good mental health, we need support systems in place—like family, friends, church, and others who can come around us in helpful ways. We need structural changes—like adequate staffing and healthy working conditions so people aren’t constantly stressed. Some people may need counselling, medication, or other supports. Self-care can have a big effect on mental health, but other things play an important role too.

Thank you for asking these great questions, and all the best on the rest of your research project!

For more encouragement and resources on doing ministry better:

Author: April Yamasaki

I currently serve as resident author with a liturgical worship community, edit a quarterly devotional magazine, write online and in print publications, and often speak in churches and other settings. Published books include On the Way with Jesus, Four Gifts, Sacred Pauses, and other books on Christian living. Websites: and

One thought

  1. You have some good answers for that young man, April.
    I think a sermon series on self care is a good idea. As Christians we often get the idea that we should care for others more than for ourselves, but if we neglect ourselves we are no good to others. Women especially need to hear this message as their role of caregiver is often thrust on them and they are not always prepared for it!

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