By Dale Sellers
A popular saying among those in ministry is that the majority of pastors in America resign every Monday. Or at least they seriously consider it!
After serving in ministry for over thirty-five years, I can say that I completely understand why we feel this way. Pastoring a church is an incredibly difficult job that is not for the faint of heart and is rarely understood by those who don’t do it.
There are the off-handed remarks that those outside of the ministry say about us: “I wish I only had to work one day a week.” Or, “No wonder you are such a great golfer since you get to play so often.” And my personal favorite, “If you had a real job, you would understand what work is like in the real world!” The comments may be made in jest, yet they can perpetuate what constantly lives beneath the surface in a pastor’s heart: the feeling of being overwhelmed and under-equipped to adequately lead his church.
Every pastor has had seasons where they felt as though they were drowning from the expectations of the job. Fluctuating attendance, inconsistent weekly giving, staff issues, board members with agendas, and comparison to other “successful” ministries all feed the notion that we’re not good enough to lead our church. The most difficult part of being a pastor is having to grow and mature ourselves as Christians, husbands, fathers and leaders while constantly being under the spotlight of those we lead. At times, the pressure can almost be too much to withstand. It isn’t long until the greatest threat of all shows up: insecurity!
If you don’t feel capable to pastor anymore or if your confidence is simply wavering, an honest evaluation leading to a positive change may be just what you need. Use these seven questions to get started.
1) Do I Sabbath on a weekly basis?
We teach this principle to our congregations while ignoring it ourselves, making it the most violated area of disobedience in the average pastor’s life. God gave us the principles of Sabbath and tithing to show us our need for reliance on Him. It is only natural to experience the resulting pressure and exhaustion when you refuse to take a day for rest and reflection.
2) Am I leading my home well?
Many of us have witnessed the pastor who attempts to protect all the families within their congregation, only to lose his own family. In 1 Timothy 3:4-5, the apostle Paul told the young pastor Timothy that one of the qualifications for a pastor is to manage is own house well. Nothing will create insecurity more in a pastor than having to hide the issues at home from a congregation. It is both relentless and exhausting, which quickly leads to insecurity.
3) Is my calling to ministry an absolute?
Pastors who endure the times of feeling incapable are different than those who don’t have confidence in their calling to begin with. One of the great failures of many churches today is to empower leaders who do not have the divine call upon their life to a particular ministry. Ephesians 1:18 underscores the need “that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”
The confidence of knowing you are divinely called to the ministry can sustain you through difficult seasons. It’s not a matter of if the storms are going to come. It’s a matter of when. The absolute commitment to our calling is the anchor that holds us firm in the midst of any challenge. Are you sure of yours?
4) Have unrealistic expectations overwhelmed me?
When insecurity grips your confidence, you may easily become overwhelmed. Unrealistic expectations are a major contributor to insecurity. If you put unfair expectations on yourself and adhere to intense expectations from your congregation, you may begin to feel incapable as a pastor.
One of the best practices of combating unrealistic expectations is to simplify your goals by defining short-range, medium-range, and long-range objectives that are consistent with the makeup of your membership and community. Identify the “low-hanging fruit” that can produce some quick wins and then build on them.
5) When was the last time I received training?
I made it a priority to attend seminars in my early ministry years. However, I inevitably allowed several years to pass between these training events, which led to the revelation that growing my leadership skills does not happen automatically. A pastor must continue learning, just like the auto mechanic who must complete yearly certification in order to keep up with new technology. When was the last time you had another ministry worker or training experience pour into you? (Here is one place to get started.)
6) Who do I hang around with on a continual basis?
Your job requires you to lift up those around you, but who fills that role for you? You must be very intentional to bring people around you who hold you up, lift you up and call you up. Notice the direction is always upward. Make a choice to spend regular and purposeful time around life-giving people, rather than those who drain you.
7) Do I have a mentor or coach?
More than nearly anything else, isolation and loneliness promote the feeling of being incapable. Do you have an accountability partner – someone with whom you can be completely honest and who can speak wisdom into your life? When another person shares their own ministry experiences, both of you gain and the resulting changes can be exponential. Be intentional in working with a seasoned and stable mentor or coach. (You can look for one here.)
Denying feelings of discouragement will not make them go away. Second Corinthians 5:7 says, “We walk by faith and not by sight.” That scripture assumes that we indeed walk – often simply by taking one step.
Take one step today to work through each of these questions. It is possible that a new perspective is exactly the needed remedy when those feelings of insecurity arise.
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Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on the 95 Network blog.
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