There are seasons of ministry, sometimes weeks or even months, that I have this ongoing nerve knott in the pit of my stomach. I hate that feeling. It keeps my mind racing when I am trying to read, pray, socialize and even sleep. My focus is dulled by the ever-present neurotic pulse.
Just like you, I have prayed, fasted, and asked others to pray for me to find relief. Sure, there are times when the inward tension is totally removed, but then there are those other days.
Thinking back over the last 15 years of ministry, I have found three companions that I do not think are strangers to called ones. These three copious companions can also become three agents of momentum and change if we carry the proper perspective.
I want to confess that I am still learning to view the following displeasure through a healthier lens. Without a better perspective, I would live in constant, inward tension.
Discomfort | Unaware of how you have handled the discomforts of ministry, I want to be the first one to say that I hate them. What do I mean by discomforts? Inward pain, embarrassment, confrontation, opinionated people, etc. These are but a few of the many discomforts that you and I face in life and ministry.
Regardless of the type of discomfort, I am doing my best to lean into a better way of handling my response. Some time ago, I shared a blog correlating our pain and fear. Unless our pain is greater than our fear, we will be less likely to do something about the fear.
The same goes with our discomforts. The discomfort that we experience as leaders can actually become the means by which we move into a different way of living, thinking, and leading.
A few days ago, I went fishing with one of our faithful church members. Wearing my Keens is most comfortable until I step into a shallow spot in the water and tiny gravel get logged under my heel or in between my toes. Immediately I find somewhere to sit, take off my Keens, remove the gravel, place my shoe back on and move on with my day.
My discomfort made me stop… My discomfort made my sit… My discomfort made me adjust….
You see, I could just complain about the gravel or discomfort in my shoe, or I could make the necessary adjustments to continue on with my day.
If you are dealing with discomforts, just take a moment to stop, sit, and adjust.
Begin looking at your discomforts as a means to move or take action.
Pressure | Who among us today is new to this beast? No, not one…
We are all companions of pressure, if ministry is our career. This too is a discomfort we continually face. The pressure to become a better leader, pastor, and administrator is ever looming. The pressure to grow the church, personal ministry, and blog following is too much. Majority of the time we attend conferences, we leave feeling worse than when we arrived. There is pressure on every side.
On top of all the ministry pressure, there is the pressure to be a model spouse or parent. We try to lead our home while leading His church. That's a lot of responsibility… and pressure.
However, I think if we look at pressure as a means of helping us, it will allow us to lead through the pressurized times with a little less anxiety.
How can we do this?
First, go to counseling. No, not your best friend - but someone who has a totally unbiased perspective. This will allow you to see yourself through someone else's lens. It can be scary, but it can also save your life. Sometimes, we do not need anything more than a better perspective. This will allow us to better manage the pressures in life.
Pressure never leaves, it just gets managed on a healthier level.
Secondly, just know that pressure gets easier, if you get wiser. I am convinced that the longer we are exposed to certain pressures, the more we are learning to handle it along the way.
After a while, you will discover that pressure becomes your friend. No, it's not fun, but pressure is necessary. The old truth remains: Diamonds are lumps of coal under immense pressure over an extended period of time. You are just a diamond in the making.
Interruption | A few days ago, a pastor sent to me this quote, "Ministry is a life of interruptions."
Oh, how true this statement. It's Friday, and you are getting ready to go out with your family for the day and then it happens… the cell phone begins to ring. You want to ignore it, but you have a Messiah complex. You have to see who is calling you in case they need you. You then do what you know is a no-no on your off day - you answer the phone. "Pastor, I just really need your help today…" You know the rest of the story.
Yes, there are times that people will come to the office without scheduling a meeting with you. There are times that people will call you with a genuine emergency and you have to drop your plans to tend to the sheep. Life in general is full of interruptions. However, when you are a pastor, everyone's interruptions can potentially become your interruptions.
How do you shut off the interruptions? You can't. But you can manage them!
Here are a few things I do to manage ministry interruptions.
- I have a volunteer assistant vet all of my meeting requests and she also takes care of my schedule. I do not schedule things for myself… ever. She does this for me so that my time and family are protected.
- I hold my Sabbath day as holy. Fridays are the day that Cross Point pastors rest. Unless someone is dying, I will not budge on this day for anything or anyone. I suggest you do the same.
- There are times that I will have someone else help me with things that pop up, if I am extremely busy. There are people who want to be utilized in your church. Find them and allow them to help you pastor the people.
- Here is the hardest one: I just say no. You cannot say yes to every request, but you can say no to the ones that are not a priority.
I hope this bit of information helps you free up your life. There are many things that we as pastor carry, however, there are healthier ways to carry those things that are permanent partners of ministry.
What are some ways that you handle ministry matters?