In ministry our biggest enemy isn't a grumpy Deacon or a contentious committee meeting. Our enemy is a big, ugly, giant, two-headed monster: Busyness & Discouragement.
If we're going to be who God has called us to be, part of our task is going to be fighting back against our enemy.
Busyness - It's too easy for us to fall victim to the whirlpool of busyness. We run frantically from meeting to meeting, visits and appointments, the daily grind of administration, and message prep. When most of us responded to our call to ministry, we did so knowing that we'd be in for the ride of our lives. And so often that ride, rather than being a roller coaster of energy, is a busy spinning teacup. How can we fight the enemy of busy?
1. Delegate - Seriously, sometime write down everything you do in the course of a day/week/month. Then next to it mark if it's something only you can do, if it's something you can delegate, or if it's something you can dump. Chances are, you'll find more things you can delegate. Delegation empowers others to lead, and it frees you up to do what you need to.
2. Prioritize - Every day, write down what's most important to be done, and do that first. When we prioritize our time, we take our schedule captive to us, not the other way around. Our priorities as ministry leaders fall under three umbrellas -- teaching, administration, and care. The cycle of ministry means that sometimes one will rise one week and fall the next (I've found my hospital visits often happen in chunks!).
3. Schedule - Don't feel captive to the moment. That meeting someone has to have with you right then? Ask if they're free Tuesday. That message you have to give on Sunday? Plan your time to prepare. That meeting during your son's school play? See if they can reschedule.
The other head on the monster is more obvious but often harder to fight. Busy is a pattern more than a mindset, we find ourselves falling into behaviors. But discouragement goes deeper, it goes to the heart. And if we're honest, most of us have found ourselves living in the "pit of misery" (Dilly Dilly) more than we'd like to admit. Depending on where you look, more than half of ministry leaders have felt discouraged, depressed, or wanted to quit. It's higher. It's probably closer to 100%. So how do we fight this enemy?
1. Remember who called you - Hopefully you entered ministry with an overwhelming sense of the call of God in your life. And that call was confirmed by godly leaders and pastors in your life. And that call was sharpened and refined as you served in ministry. Remember who was behind all of it? God. And He's not left you. He's called you, and He will carry you.
2. Get Away - For many who are bivocational this can be difficult, but whatever you need to do to get away for a bit every now and then, do it. It doesn't have to be a monthlong sabbatical (although if your church offers that, take it!), it can be a weekend conference or a staycation. If you're lucky enough to live near the coast, take a day and sit and stare at the ocean waves. You have to decompress. You have to pull back. Even Jesus did. And you're not Him.
3. Sabbath - Whether you think you need to work six days or take a weekday off because of Sunday, the point remains: you need rest. Are you regularly taking time for yourself? Are you resting and trusting God? Or are you trying to do everything and be God. My seminary roommate had the best advice one day when I was grinding and burning out: "Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap."
4. Tell Someone - Far too often tragic stories in ministry are ignored until it's too late. A leader isolates himself in a destructive pattern of sin until the affair is revealed, or the money is stolen, or the nervous breakdown happens. If you're in the pit of misery and feeling the discouragement, I hope you've got a pastor buddy or two you can text. If not, find them. I love what my denomination has done recently to set up a pastor care line for pastors in crisis.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.