Oftentimes, ministry can meet or even exceed our expectations, but along with the incredible highs of ministry can come some incredible lows. It is extremely important to lead yourself well during the highs, but especially the lows. Here are five areas to keep a close eye on when ministry gets hard:
Balance in our relationships is important as we walk through difficult situations or challenging seasons. It is easy to let the tough circumstances and people dominate our thinking and our time. This can take everything from us, and leave nothing left for those we love. It’s our positive personal relationships that can bring us life during difficult times! Before difficult times come, foster your important relationships. Experience tells us that a bump in the ministry road will come. When it does, you’ll be ready to lean into your positive personal relationships to help you make it through.
Downtime, disconnected time, “away time”—these are all SO important. When things are going well in our ministry, we don’t feel it if we lack margin. However, when we hit that difficult situation or bump in the ministry road, the lack of margin can be deadly to our long-term success.
When I protect the margin in my life, I find that bumps in ministry are a little easier to get past. The “mountains” don’t seem so big and interruptions in my day are manageable. Here are a few ways to do this: Put your cell phone away. Take a break during the day, even for an hour, or better yet, take days off! Get good sleep (issues look smaller when we are well rested). Do not schedule meetings so close together during the day that you can’t breath.
If we live life every day at the very edge of our margin, it won’t take much to push you over. Fight for your margin so when the push comes you have some wiggle room.
Clear Vision – First Things First
Some of my hardest times in ministry were caused by the lack of a clear vision. When the vision is not clear, it is easy to mix up your priorities allowing arguments, conflicts, and other difficulties to take the spotlight. A clear vision can help you focus on what’s important.
If you already have a clear vision, what are you doing to remind yourself of it? Do you consistently put reminders of your vision where you will see them during that day? During difficult situations in ministry keeping the focus clear can make all the difference.
I started in ministry at a very young 18 years old. During those first years, it was difficult to take the lead. A lesson I learned then that continues to impact how I lead today is this: Regularly stop and remind yourself who is really “running things.”
It is God who called you to your ministry position. He will equip you for the task. Worry, stress, and anxiety can oftentimes be a byproduct of forgetting this truth. I’m not in charge. I am not the ultimate leader. God has called me!
When you find yourself in a difficult situation stop and seek God’s will. Ask HIM to give you the peace and confidence you need. Ask Him to give you the wisdom to navigate a tough situation.
There have been times that I have realized God was simply waiting for me to remember this truth. He had me walk through a difficult situation simply to come back to the realization that my role in ministry is because of Him and it’s HIS Ministry.
Focus on the wins
Frequently in sports, a player goes into a slump and it seems that the more they focus on it, the worse it gets. Ministry can be just like this. If we let it, the difficult situation or problem we are working through can become all we think about. We can become so focused on fixing things that we forget to stop and look around at what God is already doing. As you enter or walk through a difficult situation, remember to schedule times to look around. What can you celebrate? What prayers did God answer today? What can you find that is going well?
When you forget to remind yourself of the ways God is using you, when you stop celebrating the wins (no matter how big or small), it’s easy to be consumed by the difficult issues. If you’re in the middle of a tough situation, take a break today and celebrate some of the things God is doing through you.
Difficult times in ministry will come. The good news is that if you seek balance in your relationships, fight for margin, clarify the mission, remember who is in charge, and focus on the wins, you will be well equipped to navigate them.