“Bloom where you’re planted.”
Nice leadership catchphrase. The message behind the colloquialism is to encourage people, who are often unhappy in their present place, to excel where they are rather than daydreaming of where they would like to be. A simple and encouraging principle, but how exactly is that done?
I want to propose three ways to bloom where you’re planted.
First, dig deep. To bloom where you’re planted you need to intentionally and deeply invest yourself in your church and community. Whether planted in an area undergoing an urban revitalization, laboring in the suburban sprawl, or even ministering in a rural area you need to dig deep into your community and the lives of your people.
As an under-shepherd learn to care for your flock beyond your church setting. Work to create moments in your calendar to be with your church family in a different context. An environment away from the pulpit will also allow the congregation to see their pastor more as a person and not only their preacher. Church size, personality, and context will direct how to go about creating informal events.
To dig deep into your community make it your goal, as much as possible, to know leaders in your community on a first name basis. Volunteer at events that your community sponsors. Parades, craft fairs, farmers markets—whatever it is that emerges from your community as of their identity. To dig deep, go where your people are by investing yourself where you live.
Second, go wide. To “go wide” means to develop a broad spectrum of personal interests. I have observed that pastors who took an early departure from ministry because of burnout, marital collapse, or some other addiction both isolated themselves and had few interests outside of the church and their position. I have also observed that the healthiest and happiest pastors are not only secure in their identity in Jesus, but they also have developed a wide range of interests outside of what they have been called by God to do. To bloom where you’re planted you need to have a wide variety of interests outside of your role as pastor.
A great example of a leader who developed broad interests that served him well during stress-filled periods is Winston Churchill. At the age of forty, following a demotion from his post as the First Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill was discouraged and full of anxiety. During this season of his life, at the suggestion of his sister-in-law, he took up painting. Preferring oil paints as his medium, over his lifetime Churchill produced over 550 canvases. Churchill wrote in his book Painting as a Pastime, “Painting came to my rescue in a most trying time.” Churchill was a man of wide interests. His wide interests enabled him to bloom where he was planted.
Lastly, to bloom where you’re planted you need to hang tight by learning to endure difficulty, hardship, and stressful circumstances.
One of the reasons pastors eye new pastures looking for greener grass is because we are trying to escape the stress and frustration of where we are. Going from one place to another will not remove your stress. If you find yourself regularly daydreaming about different pastures you are probably in a very stressful situation.
Moving will only redirect your stress. You will have some of the same stresses and frustrations in the new location as you do in the current one. They will just come with new names.
Stress is a natural part of life. Too much stress will crush you. Not enough will weaken your resolve.
Many pastors are living in between a stage of burnout and blowout, neither of which is healthy for them, their families, or their churches. To hang tight and endure pastors need to learn to manage their stress. Cling to the Lord as his child who also happens to be one his under-shepherds. Invite trusted people into your life to talk about what you are experiencing. Have someone who can be your pastor; a pastor’s pastor. Regularly get physical exercise, eat well, and get an appropriate amount of sleep. A lack of sleep, a poor diet, and not caring for your physical self will lessen your ability to endure. To bloom where you’re planted and endure the storms of life, you need to be well-rested and well-nourished.
Pastor, you are not immune to the idea that life could be better somewhere other than here. You may even tell yourself, “If only I could get to that size church, in that location, and with that size of staff then some things will happen.” Be encouraged, God has called you to where you are and has already equipped you with the resources you need to be obedient to today’s tasks. When he moves in your church, and in some cases that means he relocates you, he will then provide the resources you need.
I am not advocating never leaving one ministry setting for another. Please do not interpret this post in that fashion. What I am advocating for is settling in where you are, digging deep, going wide, and hanging tight so you may bloom where you are instead of longing for where you would like to be. Keep in mind that often the reason grass is greener on the other side of the fence is because there is a septic tank beneath it.
 Casey Leesser, “When He Wasn’t Making History, Winston Churchill Made Paintings.” Artsy.net, https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-making-history-winston-churchill-made-paintings.