Ministry is harder than you think – it can be hard on you mentally, emotionally and spiritually, not to mention hard on your marriage and family. How do you last without losing your mind or your faith?
Here are 10 tips to keep you balanced, fresh, and sane!
But before the 10 tips, there’s something crucial to remember.
The HOW is important but even more important is the WHO. Who do we go to? That answer, of course, is Jesus.
Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
So as we look at the top 10 tips, remember the key is coming to Jesus. He keeps us sane! Okay, here we go.
TIPS 1-5: PERSONAL
1. REMAIN A LEARNER
Study first to learn and grow, and second to teach others. Read. Listen to other preachers. Find some preachers/teachers you learn from. If you are only studying to teach, and it has become more job, than joy, that’s not good. Find again the joy of learning and growing!
2. CULTIVATE YOUR DEVOTIONAL SPIRITUAL LIFE
- Pray: Begin a prayer journal. Take prayer walks. Get a prayer yoga mat, get on your knees, prostrate yourself, meet with God. If you never get around to it, schedule it in.
- Memorize ScripturE: Do you remember how much you enjoyed memorizing Scripture when you first came to Christ? Have you lost that joy? If so, why not in 2022, seek to memorize 22 new Bible verses?
- Just meet with God: I’m sure you can figure it out.
3. TAKE YOUR DAY OFF
- Do something refreshing on your day off (walk, hike, bike, read a novel, get lunch with your spouse or a friend, go see a movie). Treat Yourself on your day off. At least once a month, make believe it’s your birthday on your day off!
- Don’t check your church email. I repeat, don’t check your church email. Again, I repeat, don’t check your church email on your day off!
4. TAKE YOUR VACATION TIME
- Take it. I’m guilty. I never use all of it. I should, but I rarely do (please don’t tell my wife!). I used to love to travel to Allentown, PA and visit my mom. Whenever I visited her, I could forget about church. But she went home to be with the Lord last year and we sold her house. So…I need a place where I can go to replace her place. But where? I’m thinking on it. A few weeks ago my wife and I spent a week out west. It was worth every penny. Spend some money if you can.
- Ask for a sabbatical. In Fall of 2002, I met with a man in our church who was being considered for elder. When we met, I thought I was going to ask the questions (dumb me!). Instead, he asked me, “Guy, do you still love Jesus?” Wow. Where did that come from? It’s a question I will never forget. That question and our conversation led to my first sabbatical the following summer. I now get an 8 week sabbatical every 7 years. Those have been huge, especially the first one. So, here’s my question for you, “do you still love Jesus?” Or has seminary or church or life drained it out of you?
5. MAKE FRIENDS/HAVE FRIENDS
Make some friends who aren’t in leadership in your church. Friends you don’t report to and friends who don’t report to you. Look for them. Maybe they live in your neighborhood. And make sure one of your friends isn’t a Christian. If the only friends you have are Christians, you are going to go crazy for sure!
TIPS 6-10: PROFESSIONAL
6. HAVE A REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
- Expect Church People Problems. We shepherd sheep. Enough said.
- Expect Leadership/Elder Problems. It’s one thing to lead down. But, can you lead up? If not, get a coach. Learn.
- Expect Staff Problems. Your staff aren’t perfect. Then again, neither are you!
- Expect Devil Problems. The devil hates you and your church. No wonder ministry is so hard. Your ministry isn’t always going to grow. Sometimes it’s going to shrink. Sometimes it’s going to sputter. The devil doesn’t like you or what you do!
- Expect Personal Problems. We live in a fallen world – you do, your family does. People will get sick, people close to you will die, you will suffer. Expect problems, for they are coming. When they come, just make sure you have someone you can talk to.
7. NEVER QUIT ON MONDAY (or Sunday afternoon).
Never make major decisions based on emotion. Be patient. Instead of quitting on Monday, catch up on your sleep.
8. GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.
Go on one missions trip per year, if at all possible. Never go more than two years in a row without going on a missions trip of some sort. Conferences are great. Missions trips are often better. Trust me, you aren’t so busy that you can’t go on a missions trip every other year.
9. FOCUS ON REACHING PEOPLE MORE THAN GROWING YOUR CHURCH.
The Lord spoke to me when I was preaching from Luke 5 recently. As I read Luke 5:10, I was struck with Jesus’ words to Peter, “from now on you will catch men.” It was a clear reminder to me, “Guy, don’t worry about growing your church – just go fishing.”
10. LEAD FROM YOUR CHARACTER, NOT YOUR COMPETENCY.
Here is my one book recommendation. The title is Effective Pastoring by Bill Lawrence. Bill is a former DTS professor of mine. The first 3 chapters are gold. Mine them. In chapter 3, Dr. Lawrence speaks of deliverance from the “Dreaded Leader’s Disease.” Question: do you have Leader’s Disease? If you do, you probably are putting your competence before your character (hint–Jesus doesn’t). And if you have this disease, it’s only a matter of time before you will want to quit. So, read the book, and if necessary, get delivered. How to get delivered? Come to Jesus.
Remember the answer to HOW, is always WHO. Come to Jesus. Jesus – he’s the only One who can keep you sane!