How to Survive Ministry

Ministry has been the biggest part of my life from the first day I took a breath – my dad entered vocational ministry nearly a decade before I was born, and my parents planted a church when I was still in elementary school. I grew up with a league of volunteers, youth workers, and students who my parents pastored. The Church raised me. I’m now a fourth-generation pastor’s wife, and my husband is a student pastor at my parents’ church. If there’s anything I have experience in, its ministry.

Last week, one of my Instagram followers asked if I had any blogs about being a youth pastor’s wife, and it confirmed what I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. This month, I want to give y’all practical tips for surviving capital-M Ministry, starting with the biggest issue I hear about as a pastor:

Feeling unappreciated.

Just last week, I tried to encourage a volunteer who doesn’t feel appreciated or seen for all she does at our church. She serves well, often in the shadows, and has been loyal to our church since she was young. I’ve been in her place, my husband has been in her place, and I’m sure some of my own volunteers have been in her place. It’s a constant issue in any church, and it will continue to be until Jesus returns. I want to share what I told her, because I know someone reading this needs to hear it:

ministry is not the place to be if you want to feel appreciated. 

Ministry isn’t about you, but it’s so easy to slip into that mindset. In every other career field, venue, or business, those who work hard will rise to the top. Churches are unique, because they’re carried on the backs of those who are willing to work for less than they deserve. Focus on serving others well, instead of trying to be served. That’s what Jesus did! He healed, visited, fed, prayed for, and listened to the very ones who would call for His crucifixion. Talk about not feeling appreciated! If you’ve been showing up early and staying late every week for the last _______ (fill in the blank), I want to encourage you to keep doing it. God sees every moment you’re in that church building. He sees your heart when you console screaming babies, make coffee for women’s Bible study, set up chairs for a youth event, clean vomit off the concrete in the foyer, refill toilet paper rolls without being asked, pass tissues to a weeping teenage girl, and most of all… He sees your heart when you stumble into bed at night, ready to do it all again next Sunday.

In 2 Corinthians 1:10, Paul tells us to place our confidence in the Lord, and promises He will continue to rescue us. Paul was rescued by God more times than I can count, and he faced trials I pray none of you ever do. If there’s anyone who gets brutally honest about burnout and abuse in the church, it’s Paul. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that his letters fill such a large chunk of the New Testament. As leaders, we have to go to the Lord for advice and wisdom instead of people. If you look around at what the world says you should be doing, you’ll fail. The Bible is the sweetest place you can turn for fulfillment. Paul’s letters to the church are the perfect books to turn to if you serve in a church: Romans 8 describes the process of salvation, 1 Corinthians 12 details spiritual gifts, Ephesians 2 reminds us of our worth in Christ, and Philippians 4 encourages believers to fight for truth. There’s no struggle the Word can’t help you through. Keep a running list of go-to verses in your Notes app, write truth on your heart, tape scripture around your house, do whatever you have to do to remember why you’re in ministry. Being a pastor, a pastor’s wife, a staff kid, a ministry director, or a loyal volunteer is a calling that God has created you for. Even if it’s not your full-time job, you have been chosen for your specific ministry for this season, and God will sustain you. Through every moment of exhaustion, stress, crisis-management, and conflict, He will sustain you.

I know people can say the most hurtful things. People can expect far too much and leave you out to dry. People can gossip about you, go behind your back, and desert you. People are messy and sure to disappoint, but God is blameless and ever-merciful. You’re not alone, and you’re not wasting your time. He’s using you to change lives, and you’ll get to see every soul you’ve touched in heaven someday. Keep serving the Lord instead of man, no matter how messy things get.

 

If you enjoyed this blog, let me know in the comments below. I would love to know what you want to see on Sustained By the King, especially concerning ministry and relationships. Share this blog with a friend, and feel free to leave any questions, prayer requests, or messages here.

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