Success in Ministry

There are numerous books, conferences and podcasts that address various issues of how to be successful in ministry. I’ve read many of those books, attended conferences and I even follow the podcasts.  Through these resources, I have gleaned a lot of wisdom and insight, but that hasn’t been the most valuable lesson I’ve learned about ministry.  There is one thing that will ultimately determine my success as a minister. Everything I do or don’t do hinges on this one thing.  My success as a minister, or even as a follower of Christ, is dependent on my answer to this one question:  “How are you and Jesus?”

You may be striving for success and asking yourself how to be more effective.  Before you dive into all the different books and learn valuable ministry principles, I’d like to ask you today:  “How are you and Jesus?”

When a Pastor’s Wife Quits the Church

I came across this story on Steve’s blog and it was really challenging.  I am not married, but being a pastor’s kid I know the stress ministry can put on a marriage.  The story is of Pete and Geri Scazzero.  Pete says the worst day and the best day of his life was when after eight years his wife Geri came to him and said “I quit the church. I’m leaving.”

If you can relate to that, check out this video.

You can check out their website and here the rest of the story and get more information about their powerful ministry.

Empower & Release

In ministry, and especially in church planting, it can become extremely easy to always be ‘doing’. We have a God-inspired vision of establishing a church or reaching a community and we just put our heads down and work. This work ethic and willingness to persevere is a key component of any good church planter but it can also be their greatest downfall.

One of the most glaring barriers in a church plant is a lack of leadership development. This lack is often the result of a ‘doer’ mentality. We think, ‘if it’s going to get done then I need to do it myself.’ That may be true right now, but in making that decision you are undercutting the development of others around you.

Remember this key principle of ministry: “Ministry is more about empowering and releasing then it is about doing.”

What do you think? Is it easier to always be doing rather then empowering?

Managing Your Staff

In the church world, we pastors are always talking about how to effectively reach and disciple people. We come up with creative ways to do so, and I think for the most part, have a real concern for the hurting people in our communities. In focusing on those within our church and those we are reaching, there is one segment within our church that can very easily be lost in the mix: our staff.

If you’re not careful, leaders do burn out. They’re not machines, they’re people just like everyone else in your church. The only difference is some of them are probably paid by the church. Although having paid staff does give you a higher level of accountability, it doesn’t give you an excuse to manage them like slaves. Here’s a few ideas for managing your leadership team (many of these ideas are geared toward full-time staff settings):

  • Create community with your staff: Have a living room setting in your office area. Be intentional about creating an environment where people feel connected to each other. Remember, we’re a team not each others’ competition.
  • Communicate with your staff: Make sure your staff feels a part of what is taking place in the church. Don’t lead in secrecy.
  • Encourage & affirm your staff: It’s ok to say ‘You’re doing a good job.’ A simple word of affirmation to one of your staff will go much farther then you could ever imagine. People will work that much harder for someone they know appreciates them.
  • Challenge your staff to have lives outside of ‘church’: Now this can definitely be overdone, but it’s healthy for your staff to have a life that isn’t ‘church’. That doesn’t mean they neglect their responsibilities – it just means they have a healthy social structure in their lives.

What do you think? Anything you would add?

Trust and Patience

Something God has been teaching me lately is the choice to trust in Him and His timing.  In ministry it can become far to easy to walk in our own ability and not trust God.

When we choose to go it alone and not trust in God, we can often maintain or even grow a group for a period, but ultimately we are not working through the power of the One we are serving.  We can only see what is in front of us.  God’s timing is perfect.  He is constantly working behind the scenes of our lives and ministry.  I want to challenge you today with what God has been challenging me with personally:  Put aside worry and anxiousness and place your trust in God and in His perfect timing.

The Keys to Longevity in Ministry

I’ve heard it said a million times, but it is really very true: Ministry is not a sprint, but a marathon. With that said, here are a few tips for ‘staying in it for the long haul’ for all you young pastors out there (yeah, I know that includes me):

  • Rest is a must: Jesus said in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” This is especially true for those in ministry. Whether you take moments to rest or not, either way you will stop. Our bodies are not machines, at a certain point you will burn out. If you’re in ministry to make it, take a day-off. Don’t worry, it’s not a sin!
  • Optimism. Optimism. Optimism. In ministry you will experience the negatives of this fallen world. You are often the target of malicious talk and will, at times, experience failure. All that said, there are always some positive aspects to every situation. Make it a point to keep your focus on the positive. Trust me, this will save you hours of lost sleep!
  • Don’t just make connections. Make friends. Ministry can be a lonely place. To be effective long-term in ministry you need others around you to encourage you, listen to you, and hold you accountable. This could be friends from across the country that you talk with on the phone or fellow ministers from across town. Either way, we need each other.
  • Education is a process not a destination. Make it a point to learn from every situation. Look for opportunities to learn from others, even those younger then you. As you make education a process throughout life, you will ensure you ability to be fresh, effective and relevant.

Finding Joy in the Tough Moments

Ministry can be a discouraging journey. We encounter people that are experiencing overwhelming circumstances and sometimes we aren’t even sure how to help them. Those moments, however, are countered by countless testimonies of lives transformed. It’s one of the most difficult things a person can dedicate their lives to, but it is also one of the most fulfilling.

Unfortunately, there are many ministers today that are walking this journey with depression and discouragement. I understand there are medical causes to depression and I’m not talking about these. But I’m talking about pastors that have become so overwhelmed by their circumstances that they’ve lost their joy.

In Nehemiah 8, we are told that the ‘joy of the Lord is our strength’. If that’s true, why have some reports stated that up to 80% of pastors battle with depression? If we are to be strong as ministers, I would say we have to find our joy in the tough moments. That joy might not be found in our circumstances, but it must be found in our Savior. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit – it is not a natural overflow of our heart, but rather a supernatural overflow of the presence of God.

If you’re in that place of discouragement or depression, let me give you a few quick thoughts:

  1. Get alone with God for a significant time and really allow His Spirit to rejuvenate you. That might mean taking a prayer retreat with just you and your Bible. That might mean just taking a day to pray. However or whenever you take this time, just do it.
  2. Don’t go through this time alone. Find at least one close friend or potentially a counselor that you can talk things through with. Make sure this a person that you trust and has a positive outlook.
  3. Just know that your current state is not God’s final destination for you. Be faithful and as God challenged the Israelites in Jeremiah 29, ‘make the most of your circumstances’. Strive to keep a positive outlook – even in the worst circumstances, there is always some positive you can pull from it.

If you are looking for professional help in dealing with depression, I would highly recommend Emerge Ministries out of Akron, OH.

You can read an insightful article on two pastors that battled with depression here.

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