Pastors live with an unspoken expectation that we should minister in a perpetual state of excitement. Would our members be surprised or disappointed to know that we are not equally excited about everything that is going on in our church?
For example, all pastors are naturally excited about upcoming Easter services. Who doesn’t love celebrating the resurrection and the potential kingdom impact of Easter? Not to mention the candy and crowds! But should we be equally as excited about the Sunday before and after Easter? That is not realistic or authentic in my opinion.
Why would we even try? Maybe, because we have a desire to “serve the Lord enthusiastically” (Romans 12:11). Nothing wrong with that! “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men” (Col 3:23).
Does that mean we should be equally enthusiastic about everything we do in ministry? I just finished doing a funeral…on my day off. Although I “served the Lord with gladness,” I can’t say that I was excited about doing that funeral.
Pastors sometimes feel pressure to show equal excitement about all of the ministries in our church, lest we show a hint of favoritism. Well meaning members and staff lobby for their ministry’s rightful place in the promotional rotation, budget and church calendar. Some of them even pressure the pastor to give a shout-out from the pulpit. Maybe pulpits should come with hidden compartments for pom-poms?
So how do we live with the dichotomy between obedient enthusiasm and authentic excitement? I want to suggest a four practical ways to stay excited about ministry without getting exhausted from it.
1. Streamline Your Church Schedule
In 2005, the book “Simple Church” was published. It was a lights-on, booty-kickin, wake-up call for me. A few years later, I read Church Unique by Will Mancini. This book was the second nudge I needed to dial in our “vision frame” to the authentic strengths of our particular church. It also gave me the courage to streamline our ministries (ie: change, minimize, get rid of).
The resulting vision that our staff and church embraced was, “Making disciples who Worship, Grow, and Go.” Almost everything outside of those three priorities is considered vision drift for my church and my life. I no longer felt the need to be excited about or exhausted from things that were outside of that vision.
The end result is that our church now has fewer ministries, but greater kingdom impact than it did back in those days. Ex: we will baptize more people this month than any month in the dozen years I have pastored here. Exciting!
2. Stop Starting New Things
Eric Geiger, the co-author Simple Church with Thom Rainer, recently blogged a trilogy of posts on the subject of simplicity. It is ministry gold. Here is one of my favorite nuggets to tempt you toward reading his blogposts. “Churches with minimal programming help their people live among the world as missionaries by not asking them to live at the church but to live as the church.”
Once you have streamlined your ministries, you must begin the even harder work of fighting vision drift. Stop starting new ministries that exhaust your staff and deplete your resources.
3. Mobilize Your Church Members
A pastor’s primary ministry is to help people do ministry (Eph 4:11-12). Pastors are either equippers or enablers. If we don’t recruit, train and send our members into ministry, we essentially rob them of an opportunity to glorify God, build up the church and change the world. We also rob ourselves and our families of any hope of a healthy life.
Maybe its time to start giving away ministries that you might can do better than your members. If you are exhausted from doing someone else’s job, then hand off a few ministries to the members who have been called every bit as much as you have (1 Peter 4:10). It’s our job to give them a job, right?
If it is their gifted calling, they will be excited about it, and you won’t be exhausted from it.
4. Get a Life Outside of Ministry
In my next Pastors Today blogpost, “Pastor – Get A Life,” I will suggest ways pastors can tackle exhaustion and have a healthy life outside of ministry.
I have not written the article yet, but I’m pretty excited about it!