Resiliency on the Mission Field

by Roger Boyd, Ph.D.

Resiliency—it brings to mind the picture of the elastic band that has been stretched and is supposed to “bounce back” or contract when you release it. The word is also used to describe the garment that was designed to shed water and keep you dry. However, when the elastic has been stretched too far or for too long, it doesn’t bounce back. After too much tough “weathering” the moisture-proof garment just soaks up the rain. It has lost its resiliency. Often in our field of work we deal with people who have been stretched or weathered to the point of having no more resilience, no more ability to “bounce back” with a long weekend off or a short vacation. This is where restorative member care might come into the picture.

But how can people actually become more resilient and better able to handle the stresses of ministry life? There are many “stress management” techniques we might teach to lower a person’s stress, but one of the most iportant aspects is their connection to other people. In recent years the concept of “attachments,” which has been used for many years in understanding children, has been applied more and more to understanding the ability of adults to cope with many of life’s stressors.

God created us for connection; he literally “hard-wired” our brains to develop and work best when we are connected with people who genuinely care about us, who are available and responsive to us. It is in being with people who want to be with us no matter what we are going through that we are restored and re-energized. If I could suggest one area for ministry leaders to work on their personal resilience, it would be this: making sure that they have someone to whom they can safely and reliably go with their life and ministry struggles and know they will be heard.

Genesis 2:18 reminds us that “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone,’” and we know that people can go through a great deal of difficulty if they know they are not alone and can share their struggles with someone. Ecclesiastes 4 tells us that “Two are better than one. . . . If one falls down his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! . . . . A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” It is our belief that all ministry leaders should have at least one person who will “help them up” in a time of need and help increase their resiliency in ministry!