One thing I have learned in ten years of ministry is there will be lots of disappointments. Especially, for those of us in Student Ministry, discouragement will be abundant. Students, parents, leaders, members will all let you down and the flip side, you will most certainly let them down as well. So I am writing this to let all of my friends in ministry know how to fix the problem…..
Ready for it…
Get rid of all the people!
There you go. If you eliminate all the people in your church, the problem of disappointment will be gone… unless you are a numbers guy. Now of course I am joking but from time to time we all feel that way. The problem is people, but this is what God planned. Think about it, God decided to use broken and messed up people to help broken and messed up people.
So, if discouragement in ministry is inevitable, where is the hope in ministry? Because, in the illustrious words of the late Charles Siburt, “there is no possible way to contort the human voice to make whining appealing to the human ear.” So how do you deal with discouragement?
1. Focus on YOUR NEED for the Gospel. One of the biggest traps I fall into in ministry is focusing on how much everyone around me needs to hear the message of Jesus, because they are broken and messed up people. When we do we begin to see our self as a practitioner rather than a patient. Unfortunately, the church has lost sight of this truth, expecting for those in ministry to not struggle as everyone else does. We find great joy in the appearance we present to people. In doing this it is “self” that is glorified and not Christ. Paul makes a point to point out his weakness…
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16
People will follow the example we set. If we are unwilling to admit our brokenness, it is pretty ridiculous to expect those we are leading to admit their brokenness.
2. Surround yourself with a close group of people you can share things with, who can help to encourage and pray for you. For me there are several different circles. One circle consists of people in our church, who know me and my ministry very well. They know where I want this ministry to go. They offer an open ear and loving voice. They know my heart and genuinely care for me, not just what our ministry is doing. These are the people I go to with leadership problems, thoughts, dreams. I also have a close circle of 5 or 6 friends in ministry, who are in the trenches, we share ideas and dreams. We seek advice and counsel from each other drawing on the experiences of each other. The most important circle though is my family. This is also my first and most important ministry. I have to focus on taking care of this relationship, because the health of this relationship, with my wife and children greatly affects my mindset in the rest of my ministry.
3. Our job in ministry is not to fill people up, it is to empty yourself. Somewhere along the way someone convinced me it was my responsibility to fill people up to send them out. They were wrong! You have absolutely no control in ministry of how people with respond to the message of Christ. Jesus told us, there would be people who hear this message and want absolutely no part of it. There would be people who say they are a part of His Kingdom and would continue to choose other things. So it floors me, that I get so discouraged when people chose other things over Christ. And just maybe they are following their leader, if we are completely honest. No matter how badly you want someone to know Christ; they might want nothing to do with Him.
Jesus has called us to build His Kingdom here on earth, not our own. It is amazing how easily we confuse the two. Discouragement is something we will always deal with in ministry. Jesus did, Paul did, the apostles did, and the early church did. Get use to it, but by all means do not give up on what God has called you to do and more importantly WHO he has called you to BE!
These are just a few examples of what I rely on, and of course there are many other principles out there. So how do you deal with discouragement in ministry?