Take heart, don’t lose heart.
Have you ever found yourself discouraged in ministry?
If you’ve been serving in ministry for more than eleven days, I’m going to guess that your answer is “yes”!
I hit an all-time low several years ago. The church was growing, and we had just opened a new facility, but volunteers were starting to get burned out. Things seemed to be spinning faster and faster, and I couldn’t keep up. I had to ask a volunteer to step down from a leadership position, parents were frustrated with some of the changes happening, and I found myself resenting the very children God had called me to serve. Somewhere along the way, doing the work of God stole my heart for God, and I wasn’t quite sure how to get it back.
God was gracious, and he gently but firmly pulled me back to himself over time. But that experience prompted the question – how do we lead in our ministries without losing heart? Pastors Jason Isaacs and Jeremy Isaacs address that very question in their book Toxic Soul. It’s no surprise that we will face difficulty in ministry. Learning how to process those struggles and difficulties is what will keep our souls from becoming toxic in the process.
It’s ok not to be ok, but it’s not ok to stay that way.
When you find yourself frustrated with the results of your ministry, challenge yourself to find a different way to measure success. Instead of comparing your attendance with the church down the street, start taking note of how many youth are connecting with a loving, caring adult from your congregation each week. If your classrooms aren’t as full as you want them to be, challenge the volunteers serving in those rooms to begin praying specifically for the opportunity to increase their influence. Reframe how you define success, and your eyes may be opened to incredible works of God in the process.
If the realities of ministry start wearing you down, step back and take a look at God’s model for ministry. He didn’t ask Moses to lead the Israelites all alone. He didn’t even ask Jesus to work alone! Instead, both men invited others to be a part of what God was doing in their communities. Develop and pour into the people surrounding you, who desperately want to be used by God through your ministry.
How often do you panic about a current need because you forgot about the miraculous faithfulness of God in the past? (Toxic Soul, p. 121)
Sometimes the weight of our current needs blind us to our God’s provision. Your need may be financial, or it may come in the form of manpower. When you find yourself starting to worry and stress (every Saturday night?!), take a few moments and deliberately look back at the times God met your needs in the past.
It’s easy to resent the places that you’re stuck, but what if you choose to worship instead of whine? (Toxic Soul, pg. 27)
It’s difficult to be anxious and worried when you are celebrating. Think about that! The last time you were at a graduation party or birthday, were you discouraged? Or did choosing to focus on the celebration shift your perspective? Celebrating is FUN. My pastor had a birthday recently, and the staff celebrated by playing balloon piñata, eating cupcakes, and singing him “Happy Birthday” after sucking helium out of the balloons decorating the room. When we take time to intentionally celebrate and have fun in ministry, we find we are energized instead of losing heart.
Last, but certainly not least, always, always seek to surround yourself with truth. Surround yourself with people who will speak truth into your life. But even more importantly, surround yourself with God’s truth. His truth about who you are, how much he loves you, and how he wants to work in and through your life.
I have told you all this so you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Take heart, my friends.