Put Your Oxygen Mask On First


You’ve probably heard the reminder often enough that you hardly hear it any more. “Put your oxygen mask on first before you help others.” It’s good advice … not just in case of a plane wreck, but to keep your own leadership from falling out of the sky.


By Bill Easum with Linnea Nilsen Capshaw. At the heart of this book lie two key ideas: First, you can’t give what you don’t have. It is imperative that as pastors we keep close to our call, close to our mission, and close to our God. In other words, leaders must take care of themselves before they can do anything for anyone else. And second, the ministry of pastors is not to fulfill all the tasks of ministry ourselves, but rather to equip others for their own ministry. If you want ministry as ususal, then this book is not for you. But if you want to rediscover that primal, original moment with God that left you feeling as if you could change the world – or if you’d like to discover that call for the first time – then this book can serve as a guide along your journey.

Table of Contents:
Section 1: A Foundation
A Challenge to All Christians
Being Frazzled Wasn’t One of Jesus’ Strong Points
Convergence Factors

Section 2: Authentic Leadership
The Experience That Changes Everything
Misdirected Calls
What If I Haven’t Yet Discovered My Call? (Linnea Nilsen Capshaw)
Five Leadership Styles: Which One Matches Your Call?

Section 3: Effective Leadership
Does Your Context Fit Your Call and Style?
Does Your Skill Set Match Your Call?
My Personal Mission Statement

Section 4: Appendixes

Convenient PDF Format


Leonard Sweet, E Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism, Drew University: Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First is an altar call for pastors conducted by a master pastor who loves the church with all of his heart and wants pstors to come home to their first love.

Steve Sjogren, Founder and Launching Pastor, Vineyard Community Church, Cincinnati, Ohio: This is Bill’s best book to date. He pours out his heart to see the average person involved in the ministry in a intelligent and contagious way. I plan to use this book in my mentoring relationships.

Speed B Leas, Visiting Professor of Congregational Leadership, Pacific School of Religion: Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First is vintage Easum; it is bold, brash, sure, and assertive. The reader will find lots of resources here that can be of immediate use to a church leader for personal or organizational use. Easum’s material on assessing one’s own readiness for ministry is particulary helpful.

John S Savage, Founder, LEAD Consultants, Inc.: Bill Easum has done it again, but this time his book is filled with personal passion, agony, and growth. His insights are masterful, not only about himself, but also about the church at its deepest need. It is the kind of book you would want everyone to read. It will change our church, our faith, and our relationship with God.

Dan Reeves, Minister of Revitalization and Relationships, Synod of the Great Lakes, Reformed Church in America: There is no more fundamental issue in North American congregations today than the deprivation of spiritual oxygen in church leaders. In Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First, Bill Easum masterfully points us to workable solutions from best practices congregations. If each of us could just focus on this one thing during the next decade we would transform our collective witness from a farce to a force. –

Rev. J. Todd Kingrea, Cleveland, TN:

Dear Bill–

Greetings to you in Jesus’ awesome name!

I wanted to write and express my appreciation to you for Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First.  I encountered this book earlier this week at the Holston Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.  I am a Deacon in Full Connection, entering my 5th year as the Associate and Youth Pastor at the church I serve.

For some time I have harbored the feeling that there must be more to ministry than maintaining the status quo.  I have grown tired of predictable and programmed worship, struggles and frustrations to find volunteers, petty bickering, and a choking out of the Holy Spirit.  I have wrestled with times of depression over the past several months, wondering if I have truly been called.  I went to our Annual Conference worn out, dead in my spirit, hungry for more but feeling squelched and boxed in by the structures and systems of my current appointment.  It soured my soul to think that I might have to do the next 25-30 years of my ministry under this kind of cloud.

I read–correction: devoured!–your book in less than 24 hours!  It was a breath of fresh air to my soul!  I appreciate your honest, straight-forward style and your willingness to step up and say what needs to be said.  God has used your book and your insights to help refine my call.

Like some of the case studies you cite in your book, I too do not enjoy new member visitation, and administering a bunch of committees and perpetuation projects in church.  I, too, felt guilty about this, thinking that “this is what a pastor is supposed to do–and they’re supposed to enjoy doing it!”  Your book helped to shed light on my leadership style (breakthrough) and has helped me to clarify and refine my call.  The call God has given me is not to pastor a status-quo church; I now have a much better understanding of my calling, and the courage and boldness to step out and recklessly pursue it to God’s glory.  The things you have brought out in this book have coupled nicely with much of my reading over the past 5-6 years on postmodernism and the emerging church.  I believe that God has called and gifted me to be out on the edge, pushing the envelope, envisioning new ways to be the church.  I am not called to be an institutional chaplain, and I thank you for helping me to understand this.

I look forward to more of your insights, and offer my appreciation to you once again.  Thanks for a wonderful book and for being a channel through which God’s grace and wisdom can flow.


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