By Steven Blake
Recently, I returned a call from a local pastor. Within a few minutes, the conversation shifted from the initial reason he had called. I simply asked how Sunday services had been. What happened next surprised me because we didn’t know each other well. He began to share his discouragement and frustration in ministry. As we talked, I could feel his pain, because I have been there too. He is not the first pastor I have had these types of conversations with nor will he be the last.
In the last two years since COVID-19 hit its stride, we have seen a number of pastors feel the pains and pressures of ministry in a more pronounced way. Although a recent study from Lifeway Research found very few pastors decided to actually leave the ministry in recent years, most pastors say they are on-call 24 hours a day (71%) and their role is frequently overwhelming (63%). Half of pastors (50%) say the demands of their job are often greater than they can handle. Many say they feel isolated (38%) and face unrealistic expectations from their church (23%).Most pastors say they are on-call 24 hours a day (71%) and their role is frequently overwhelming (63%), according to Lifeway Research. Click To Tweet
How do we maintain a sense of stability in ministry amid all the pressures we face on a daily basis? Here are eight life principles that have helped me over the years.
1. Stay close to Jesus.
Too many pastors use their sermon preparation as their time with God. While God does speak to our hearts during our sermon preparation time, it’s not the same as daily time alone with God without an agenda. Jesus reminds us of the importance of our time with Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me” (John 15:5, CSB).While God does speak to our hearts during our sermon preparation time, it’s not the same as daily time alone with God without an agenda. — @stevenblake Click To Tweet
Staying close to Jesus is vital to our spiritual health and ministry.
2. Remember your calling.
Being a minister is a calling, not a choice. We didn’t wake up one day and randomly decide that we wanted to become ministers. I love to hear how God calls ministers. Each story is unique and extremely personal. I like the way Paul states it to those in Rome, saying, “God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29, CSB).
Thinking back on our own calling reminds us why we do what we do.
3. Don’t neglect your family.
Many of us in ministry serve the Lord at the expense of our families. I have at times paid the price when for putting ministry over family. Leading our families well should have priority over ministering to others. After all, family is our greatest ministry opportunity.
By caring for our families, we care for ourselves and our ministry to others. Even Paul realized the importance of this. “He must manage his own household competently and have his children under control with all dignity. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?)” (1 Timothy 3:4-5, CSB).
4. Be content where God has placed you.
Just as God has called us, He has also placed us in the location and role where we are serving. Longevity in a place of service is more effective for God’s kingdom than constantly moving from place to place.Longevity in a place of service is more effective for God’s kingdom than constantly moving from place to place. — @stevenblake Click To Tweet
When we move too quickly from where God has called us, we may be saying God has made a mistake by putting us there. You have heard the expression, “Bloom where you are planted.” For us in ministry, I feel it’s more appropriate to say “Bloom where you are called.”
5. Avoid the trappings of comparison.
We’ve probably all found ourselves caught up in comparison at one time. We hear of a church that is bigger and appears better than the place where we currently serve and believe we would be a good fit there. Remember that bigger is not always better (and presents its own set of challenges). Remind yourself the grass is not always greener somewhere else. If we attempt to move when God is not moving us it will not be good for us, our families, or the church.
In Acts, Paul speaks concerning his own calling, saying, “But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24, CSB).
6. Develop relationships with other ministers.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of this. I am a part of a group of pastors that we call our “Roundtable.” We meet every couple of months to talk about things concerning our churches and ministries. We also pray for each other on Sundays, and I know without a doubt I can call on any one of them at a moment’s notice for prayer and support.54% of U.S. Protestant pastors say they personally know and spend time with fewer than 10 other local pastors, including 5% who aren’t connected with any area pastors, according to Lifeway Research. Click To Tweet
A 2020 Lifeway Research study found slightly more than half of U.S. Protestant pastors (54%) say they personally know and spend time with fewer than 10 other local pastors, including 5% who aren’t connected with any area pastors and 8% who only have relationships with one to two other ministers.
7. Have accountability partners whom you trust.
We need a few close relationships with men who can hold us accountable as needed. This one goes deeper than the “Roundtable” I mentioned. We need men in our lives who not only have permission to ask us hard questions, but are also the ones with whom we can share our hurts, challenges, and even our temptations.
8. Suffering is a part of serving Christ.
When I sensed God’s call on my life to ministry, my pastor told me that if I was able to do something other than ministry, I should do that instead. You may be been told something similar. Ministry is difficult and challenging.
Many Sundays it may seem no one is hearing anything we have preached. We face sleepless nights as we toss and turn praying over needs, concerns, or challenges of ministry. But in all this, remember suffering comes with the calling. I am reminded of what the Lord told Ezekiel, “But the house of Israel will not want to listen to you because they do not want to listen to me. For the whole house of Israel is hardheaded and hardhearted” (Ezekiel 3:7, CSB).Ministry is hard and even disheartening at times, yet the reward of service can far outweigh the hardships if we will remain steadfast. — @stevenblake Click To Tweet
Jesus stated it this way. “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12, CSB).
Ministry is hard and even disheartening at times, yet the reward of service can far outweigh the hardships if we will remain steadfast. Let’s finish the course God has set for each of us.
For more, read “12 Ways to Help a Pastor Stay in Ministry” with practical steps pastors and churches can take to improve the odds of perseverance.
Steven is the Pastor at First Baptist Church in Bloomingdale, Georgia. He is married to DeLynn, and they are the proud parents of three daughters and 11 grandchildren.