I try not to speak, think, OR write in the negative, but this list just kept coming to me the past few weeks. There are so many ways to do ministry. There are so many RIGHT ways to do ministry. Discipleship-focused. Evangelism-focused. Prayer-focused. You get the picture.
But really, there are a few habits that will absolutely land you in a world of hurt. There are habits that will undoubtedly leave you miserable in your church and your marriage and family.
For me, my biggest struggle is #7, Replaying Negative Words Over and Over and Over and Over. I have had a 20 year battle with holding onto negative words (and presuming to know the negative things they are THINKING). I wish I could have the hours/days/weeks back of how much time I wasted being miserable. However, I am thankful for the freedom I have... but it takes a lot of work to discipline our thoughts.
That work is always worth it.
But it isn't only work. It takes intentionality to be free and joyful in ministry. I hope that you can find freedom from what holds you back.
Here's my list of what to do to be miserable in ministry:
1. Work 60+ hours a week and be readily available to everyone at all times
This is the way most of us started. Young. Energetic. Ready to conquer. At the top of our physical form...
And... then we got tired. Maybe it was after 2 years or 20, or marriage, children, or getting knocked in the teeth. They we realize that we need to take care of ourselves, and that we aren't Superwoman or Superman. Set boundaries for yourself with your your email, phone, text accessibility.
2. Live by Other's Expectations
Oh boy. I used to be so guilty of this. I am pretty good at remembering (the negative of) what everyone says about me. But I also assume to know what everyone in the world thinks I should do with my time, my career, my life, my ministry... and then I play it out in my head until I just give up and take a nap. And then I KNOW I am a failure, because they definitely weren't thinking I should take a nap.
God has called you, uniquely, for a purpose. He wired you so beautifully, and although the people around us can AFFIRM our calling, I would venture to say that God ALMOST NEVER tells other people what we are supposed to do before He tells us. So, if you sense it, go with it. If you feel a leading, trust it. And live by faith into God's best.
3. Do your devotions only for sermon material
Failing to nurture your own spiritual growth will, over time, stunt your soul and your impact. When Scripture is a means to an end (checking one more sermon off your list), it is time to step back and do some interior work.
4. Stop learning after Bible College
Bible college will get you a few years into ministry.. and then ministry changes. Be a learner.
5. Be critical of the church, staff, and leadership
Complaint and criticism rots your mind, ruins your prayers, sets distance in relationships, and in my opinion it defuses anointing. Control what you can control. Pray for those that you are frustrated with and then have the hard conversations that you are avoiding. Either do the interior work to make it work or make a decision to leave if you can't support any longer. And let God handle the rest.
6. Put your marriage and kids on the back burner until things slow down
There will always be work to do, people to meet with, things to do. This time with your family is precious. No one else can be their wife or husband, mom or dad .
7. Replaying Negative Words Over and Over and Over and Over
Whoa, nelly. This takes a lot of discipline for some of us.
8. Fail to address your warped motivations
Notice that I didn't say "IF you have warped motivations." We all have warped motivations. Here are a few: the need for attention, grasping for power, love of control, sexual lust, and treasuring fame.
Sometimes we need someone to help us through one of these challenges. Here is a resource I provide at Tree by water to help you live rooted in God and freedom in who you are. Click here for information on the Soul Focus Program.
I am sure I missed something here. What would you add? I would love to hear.