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April 4, 2018

Healthy Leaders Lead Healthy Congregations


I remember John Ortberg making this simple, intuitive, yet very important statement at one of our first ECO gatherings. It has stuck with me since then as I continue to repeat it time and time again when asked to speak about our covenantal accountability. One of the major premises behind ECO’s Pastoral Covenant Groups (PCG) and Mission Affinity Groups (MAG) is the idea of promoting a sense of health among our leaders. We encourage PCGs to consider six areas of health when they connect together: Spiritual, Relational, Emotional, Vocational, Congregational and Physical. These areas of health offer excellent points of thought and reflection for all of our leaders in ECO.

Today, I want to offer some thoughts on improving physical health. Over the past several months, I have been a part of a women’s health group, and I have learned a number of things about taking better care of my body. I have always loved and been challenged by the verses in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. So here are some thoughts:

Drink Water: Water keeps our bodies properly hydrated. A suggested formula for the appropriate water consumption includes taking your body weight and dividing it by 2 which gives you the number of ounces of water you should drink in a day. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, that would be 75 ounces of water a day. Please note, I am suggesting we drink water, not simply fluids (i.e. sodas, flavored drinks, or alcoholic beverages). Other drinks generally have added things that cause other problems for our bodies (i.e. sugar, artificial sweeteners or flavorings, caffeine, alcohol, etc.).

Eat Real Food: Do you have any idea what is actually in the food that you’re putting in your mouth? Take a moment to read labels and investigate the various chemicals, preservatives, or additives that are put into the various things we eat. An easy way to approach this is or think about it is to eat fresh vegetables, lean proteins, and fresh fruits. Also, you may want to make note of the amount of sugar that is added into various foods. I had no idea the impact sugar has on our bodies and how it is added into so many food items until I started looking at labels.

Move: I try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Sometimes that may be a walk with my dogs or a kickboxing workout. Other days I may get in a bike ride, run or swim if I am training for a triathlon race. I am not an exercise enthusiast. In fact, most days, if I’m completely honest, I hate working out. I have come across a quote recently that has helped motivate me: “Exercise is a celebration of what my body can do, not a punishment for what I ate.” Thinking of exercise as a celebration has made me mindful of the blessing and benefit God has given me in this physical body.

Sleep: The older I get, I realize how important sleep is to my overall well being and health. God has created our bodies to do some amazing things while we sleep, like heal and repair themselves and give us the necessary rest to be prepared to do the work He calls us to carry out. Recent studies have explored the importance of sleep to memory retention as well. I have been working to try and get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. I begin preparing for bed around 9PM by not accessing or looking at any electronic devices (phone, iPad, computer, TV). I’ve started sleeping with a sleep mask and ear plugs to drown out any light or noises which might affect my sleep. I also try to make sure we eat dinner at my house around 7:00pm to give our bodies plenty of time to digest food. This is all very much a work in progress as I am naturally a night owl, love watching TV in bed, and enjoy chilling out at night by looking at various Facebook or Instagram accounts before I turn the lights out (like Doug the Pug which you should totally check out – @itsdougthepug; Beth Allin and I are superfans!).

Pray: I saved the best and most important one for last… The health group I have been a part of is not Christian based, so our coach has talked about the importance of “meditation.” But, as a follower of Jesus, I have been challenged to ponder my prayer practices and have enjoyed exploring more meditative and contemplative prayers which have deepened my relationship with Jesus. I find myself so often talking at or to God rather than being still and listening to what He wants to say or teach me. Journaling has been a delight in this process as has practicing the breath prayer and the daily Examen practice.

I want to conclude with a disclaimer. I am not a doctor, health coach, nutritionist or physical trainer. Anytime we want to make changes with regard to our health, diet or nutrition, it is advised that we to talk to a doctor or other trained professional who can give us the proper advice. I simply wanted to share a bit of my journey as a way of encouragement to others who may want to improve their physical health.

And let me throw in this one last tidbit: making changes can be hard, so rather than try to make a number of changes all at once, focus on one thing. Maybe you want to cut out sodas from your diet. If you drink three cokes during the day, try cutting down to two a day for a week, replacing the third with a glass of water. Celebrate small victories and take note of how you are feeling. Listen to your body.

Be well for the love and sake of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom!



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Anna Kent

Anna Kent serves as Director of Mission Affinity Groups for ECO and The Fellowship of Presbyterians. She also serves on the ECO Synod Executive Committee. A newlywed living in Huntsville, Alabama, Anna previously served as pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in Waxahachie, Texas.

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