Striving for a balanced plate

by Bonnie Shaw on July 27, 2021 in Ministerial Health

“It’s been healthy to look at not just my food plate but my life plate,” Melissa Fuentes explained.

Fuentes and her husband, Joshua, have been participating in the six-month-long health and wellness coaching challenge through the Pastor Strong Initiative of Greater San Antonio. They serve at Crestview Baptist Church in San Antonio, with Josh serving as senior pastor and Melissa leading the children’s ministry.

Keeping the balance

The health and wellness coaching, a part of the Pastor Strong Initiative’s physical health emphasis, began in January and was provided at no cost to 25 pastors and their spouses. It focuses on helping them form good eating and exercise habits and reaching goals they set with their doctor through a tool called The Healthy Pastor Checklist.

Before the coaching program began, Fuentes explained that the couple had already begun on a “health-kick.” But, as many people do, they struggled with inconsistency and were unsure of how to get the most out of their nutrition and exercise programs. She explained her recent lupus diagnosis also spurred the couple to be healthy.

Misty Heifrin, their health and wellness coach, was able to help Fuentes create a diet that avoided foods that maximized her lupus symptoms. But even though she stuck to the diet, Fuentes was not seeing the change in symptoms that she hoped. That was when Heifrin suggested she adopt not just at a balanced food plate, but a balanced “life plate.”

A balanced life plate, Fuentes explained, means not being so overwhelmed that one new addition would send the whole plate tumbling. With homeschooling, taking care of an elderly grandmother, running the children’s ministry and more, Fuentes realized that she was, in fact, close to breaking her plate. So, she cut down on some of her extra responsibilities and emphasized her own health, and soon she saw those promised results.

Focusing on holistic health

The Pastor Strong Initiative is focused on the holistic health of pastors and was launched to help pastors in the San Antonio area address spiritual, physical, mental and emotional and financial areas. It came out of a partnership with the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio, who gave $1 million for the five-year initiative.

Ben Hanna, director of the Pastor Strong Initiative, explained that it was all about strengthening and lifting up the pastors who have so faithfully served and sacrificed to spread the gospel.

“These are our guys, these are our Texas Baptists pastors,” Hanna said. “We’re trying to help these pastors. Pastor Strong gives them a platform of support and friends they can be real with and also gives them a platform for holistic health.”

Currently, the initiative is focusing on physical health, providing telemedicine services to some 50 pastors and The Whole Pastor Blog by Bobby Contreras, which is dedicated to sharing useful tips and information for pastors looking to maximize their health. In addition to physical health, the initiative has already covered spiritual health and they will be moving onto mental and emotional health in August of 2021. Each emphasis lasts between six months and a year.

A Pastor Strong Retreat held in May gave pastors and their spouses a chance to focus on all areas of their health, with opportunities for exercise, spiritual reflection and rest available throughout the retreat. Workshops were held over different areas of life and ministry. Pastors and their spouses also used the time to connect with others like them, who understand the unique challenges and rewards of ministry.

“In order to have healthy churches, you need to have healthy pastors,” Hanna said. “We started Pastor Strong Initiative to help our pastors in all areas of their lives.”

To learn more about the Pastor Strong Initiative, visit

Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.

The ministry of the convention is made possible by giving through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Worldwide and Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.

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