When I was in college one of my professors had a local youth pastor come to our class to share some of his experiences and insights in ministry.
I don’t remember a lot of what he said, but I’ll never forget what he shared at the beginning of his talk: “If you can do anything besides ministry, you should.”
I was blown away when he said that! He seemed like a cool, laid back guy who loved his ministry and his work in the church. I had no idea he was miserable.
It turns out that he wasn’t miserable at all. He went on to explain how vocational ministry has been one of the toughest and most rewarding things he has done with his life. He wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it certainly wasn’t for everyone. The unique pressures, demands, and responsibilities of working at a church can take a lot out of a person. If you’re not prepared for it, it can hurt you like nothing else.
Having been in vocational ministry for almost thirteen years now I can look back on that assessment and say it is spot-on. I love the opportunity to serve in the local church. I believe it is God’s instrument to bring about good in the world. But it can also be an ugly thing. If we don’t have the right tools in place we can end up being devoured by the very ministry we were intent on serving.
Here are six ways I have discovered to stay refreshed in vocational ministry:
1. Engage in spiritual disciplines. Scripture reading, prayer, silence and solitude, etc. are some of the most important mechanisms God uses to keep our tanks filled-up. Don’t become like the church Jesus addressed in Revelation 2:2-5 (TLB), “I know how many good things you are doing. I have watched your hard work..Yet there is one thing wrong; you don’t love me as at first! Think about those times of your first love (how different now!) and turn back to me…”
2. Take your sabbath and vacation time. No one can go full throttle, 24/7 for long. Everyone needs time to rest. Taking a break from your work will help you be more successful at work. The Bible says in Psalm 127:2 (NLT), “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” Remember: If you don’t take the sabbath, the sabbath will take you.
3. Eat right and exercise. Every person runs on energy. The quality and amount of energy we will have is largely determined by how we feed and exercise our bodies. The more we exercise and the healthier we eat the more energy we will have to accomplish the tasks God has for us, the better we will feel, and the more we will enjoy life.
4. Invest in your personal development. Second only to the Holy Spirit, you are your most valuable asset. Reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts, and attending conferences will help you sharpen your skills and allow you to work better. The Bible says in Proverbs 4:7 (TLB), “Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do! And with your wisdom, develop common sense and good judgment.”
5. Connect with friends and other pastors. No matter how great your church is there will always be a few things that will frustrate and hurt you. When those things come up (and they will) you need safe people to talk to about it. I have learned from some painful experiences that those people aren’t in your church. You need to go to people outside of your church. Galatians 6:2 (NCV) says, “By helping each other with your troubles, you truly obey the law of Christ.” because, “…we are partners working together for God” (1 Corinthians 3:9 GNT).
6. Talk to a counselor. There comes a time in almost every pastor’s life when they need help beyond what their colleagues, co-workers, family, and friends can give them. When that time comes it is important to seek out the help of a professional, Christian counselor. The Bible says in Proverbs 12:15 (NIV), “A fool thinks he needs no advice, but a wise man listens to others.” If you are struggling with something, you don’t have to go through it alone. There is help out there for you. Seek out a counselor in your area today. This site can help you find the right person: http://findchristiancounselor.com/
Vocational ministry isn’t nearly as easy as some who have other careers think it is. Less than 50% of people who start out in full-time ministry will finish there. Take care of your ministry by taking care of yourself. Use these six tips to help you have less stress and more success in life and ministry.
Question: What do you do to stay refreshed in ministry? You can leave a comment by clicking here.