Have you ever thought of quitting ministry? Every Monday! Right? Seriously, all of us have wondered if we can or even should continue in the pastorate.
This past week I turned 60! Yes, I’m getting old. As I look back on 38 years of ministry, it is only because of God’s sustaining grace that I’ve lasted. Psalm 55:22 says, “Throw your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you…” It really is all about Him. However, there are things we need to be doing to protect and nurture our ministries.
Here are a few insights that can help sustain a long-term ministry.
- Put God first. We all would say we put God first, but it’s easy to drift into pleasing others rather than God. Someone said, “We should live for an audience of one!” Don’t let the urge to maintain peace or preserve your jobs keep you from doing what you know God wants you to do!
- Be yourself. I’m still working on this. Somehow we don’t think we measure up. We compare ourselves with others or imitate someone else’s style. God wants you to be you (and me to be me)! Be that person. Ministry lasts when we know how God wired us.
- Make Margins. Margins are the “white spaces” in your calendar where nothing is scheduled. Do you have that? Remember, busyness is not ministry. Margins allow for the unexpected; they free up time for refueling and catching up.
- Keep in Shape Taking care of our bodies requires regular exercise, a decent diet and adequate sleep. This is not just for your physical health, but your mental and spiritual health as well. This is something I constantly have to work at. Every day tell your body it’s alive by doing some exercise.
- Stay Current. I’m not suggesting we run after ever trend and fashion, but don’t be a “flip phone person in a smart phone world.” Be willing to change. From music style to church décor, staying relevant is essential for an effective and long-time ministry.
- Keep Family a Priority. That means now! There were times I rationalized, “I’ll have more time for my wife and kids after…” Family is not something you put off. They need to be your focus every day. We have three granddaughters and we are committed to spend time with our kids whenever we can.
- Develop Lay Leadership. You cannot sustain ministry without the help of others. Many pastors take on too much and fail to release leadership to others. Whenever we do ministry that a lay person can we, we weaken the church and rob others of a blessing.
- Be coached. One of the most powerful tools I’ve found to sharpen my focus and enable me to keep on keeping on, is Coaching. It focuses on many of these particular areas, challenging me to set goals for my family time, to be realistic about my calendar, and to remind me to make exercise a priority. This coaching is now available in the Pacific Conference. If you’re interested, email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BEFORE YOU GO…
One of my favorite verses is Galatians 6:9, “We must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up.” It’s too soon to give up. Keep going. Keep at what God has called you to do!
So, what would you add to this list? What are some things that help you “hang in there?”