Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Ruth Haley Barton's new book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, (InterVarsity Press, 2008).

In the process of working hard to lead other people to God, are you missing His presence yourself? The burdens of leadership can take such a toll on you that your soul suffers.  And if your soul is weak, your leadership will be, too.

Here’s how you can strengthen your soul so you’ll be able to lead others from a place of spiritual strength:

Allow your leadership challenges to draw you closer to God. Whenever you experience difficulties while leading, let those experiences show you your need for God, motivate you to seek Him more, and grow closer to Him as a result. Ask God to help you find Him and recognize the connections between what’s going on in your own soul and what’s going on in your leadership work. Remain committed to seeking God through spiritual disciplines during tough times as well as good times.

Look at what lies beneath the surface of your life. Be bold enough to take a hard look at the truth about yourself – including all the sin that may be in your life right now. What are the patterns underneath the behaviors and situations that are currently disturbing you? What’s hindering your spiritual journey and your effectiveness as a leader? Honestly acknowledge the reality of what you see and confess it to God.

Pay attention. Try to pay attention to God’s work in your life. Include margins in your schedule so you have plenty of time to reflect regularly on what’s going on. Think about how God has surprised you in extraordinary ways in the middle of ordinary moments. Instead of focusing too much on your leadership vision for the future, pay attention to what God is doing right now in the present, and thank Him for it. Listen for God’s voice that may be speaking to you before you make decisions.

Clarify your calling. Remember that time when you first began to sense God’s call on your life.  Then ask yourself: “What is God saying to me these days about my calling?”, “As I settle into myself more fully, what am I learning about my calling?”, “Is there any place where I am resisting who I am or have lost touch with who I am?”, “Where am I still wrestling with God and needing assurance of His presence with me?” and “Am I willing to say ‘yes’ again?”.

Learn to wait on God and help others do the same. Be willing to wait for God’s guidance to become clear when you’re facing problems that need solutions. Once you learn how to wait on God in your own life, you’ll be able to call others to wait when that’s necessary.

Live within your limits. Look for these warning signs that your leadership work may be pushing you beyond healthy limits: irritability or hypersensitivity, restlessness, compulsive overworking, emotional numbness, escapist behaviors, a disconnection from your identity and calling, an inability to attend to human needs, hoarding energy, and slipping in your spiritual practices. Choosing to live within the limits of your resources will help you rely on God more, which will help you discover more about His will.

Notice your spiritual rhythms. Figure out what rhythms of life work best for you to nurture your relationship with God. Consider rhythms such as: solitude and community; work and rest; stillness and action; silence and speaking; and engagement and retreat.

Intercede in prayer for others wisely. Rather than being crushed by the burden of too many people and concerns to pray for, simply pray as God brings particular people and situations to mind. Trust God to bring them to mind at the right times and guide you through His Spirit to know what to pray for them. Don’t worry about following any artificial prayer plans; instead, simply listen to the Spirit’s promptings and intercede as you sense God leading you to do so.