Monthly Archives: January 2012
I am writing you as I sit among a mountain of boxes in my living room. I feel like just when things start to get comfortable and familiar, we move. Is there ever stability in ministry life?
You know you have moved a lot when the people around you start commenting that you pack so well you could be a professional mover! Personally, I relate to that scene in The Incredibles where the wife has just unpacked the last box in her house after three years and Mr. Incredible is calling to let her know that it’s time to move.
I’ve known many pastors’ families who have served their churches for many years without moving. Sometimes God plants us in a community and He uses deep roots and longevity of relationship to work in the hearts of people around us. Other families I know have moved numerous times in the course of their ministries and God has used them in special ways “for such a time as this” at each of the churches where they have served.
I don’t know what God has in store for your family, but I do know that while God might not always move us physically, He constantly challenges our stability. Even if you have the privilege of serving in one place for your whole ministry, you might not ever feel completely comfortable or stable. I have some friends who have served at the same church in Youth Ministry for 20 years. In that time, they have had at least six Senior Pastors. Even though they have lived in the same house, there has been nothing stable about ministry life!
Ministry life is about challenge. It’s about the refining of your faith. It pushes us beyond what we thought we could handle so that we finally understand what God can handle. So as you sit among the boxes, don’t long for the comfortable. It’s in the unfamiliar where God works! I hope you grab all you can from Him on your next adventure.
My husband is a full-time paid youth pastor. At every family gathering, we hear the same question, “When is Mike getting a ‘real job’?” How can we make the family understand that this IS a REAL JOB?! Urrrgh! I’m taking someone down if I hear it one more time!
Hittin’ Below the Belt
Dear Hittin’ Below the Belt,
Repeat after me…Serenity now…Serenity now! 🙂 Put away your boxing gloves for a minute and consider something with me. When you were on the other side of the pew as a church member only, what did you think the staff did for work? Did you imagine that they worked more than a couple of days a week? Did anything about the staff EVER cross your mind at all unless they were in front of you during church? The reality is this: unless you grew up in a ministry family, you don’t have any idea how much time, energy, effort, or pizza goes into youth ministry! You don’t know about the midnight crisis phone calls from parents. You would think it was a joke if someone told you that they were “working” while on Facebook. Taking 40 teenagers to an amusement park looks like the easiest way in the world to make a living! It’s on the other side of that church bus key where you discover what it really means to WORK in youth ministry. Give your family a break. Take some hits on the chin for Jesus. The reward for your work is coming from Him anyway and He knows from personal experience how demanding full-time ministry can be.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Colossians 3:23-24
My wife is on staff at a church. Any time she needs anything, I am there for her. I build sets, I haul stuff, I sponsor events, I even fill in when she needs a last minute volunteer to help with something on stage. I am very proud of her and I love being a part of what she is doing. How do I tell her that I need a break?
Dear #1 Volunteer,
When I read all that you do for your wife and her ministry, I’m almost sure I heard a collective “aaahhhh” from the ladies out there. Do you do dishes too?! What a blessing you are to your wife, her ministry, and your church!
However, no one can do it all, not even the perfect husband! It’s convenient and easy to ask our family members to be the “fill-in everythings” at church. It’s more difficult to ask a church member to make those sacrifices. But, in the long run, it will be better for you, your relationship, and her ministry for her to expand her volunteer base. At this point, you may not be able to just step out cold turkey. I suspect that she has become a little dependant on what you do for her. I would start by telling her that you need a break. Let her know that you love supporting her in ministry but you need to step back. Pick the one thing that you are most passionate about helping her with in ministry, and let her know that you will continue to do that one thing only. Make plans with her to take a total ministry break sometime in the near future. The break should have a definite starting time and ending time so that she knows you are not going to be gone forever! When you come back from break, you won’t need to be her #1 go-to-guy because she will have been forced to develop alternative solutions to her volunteer needs in your absence. This may be a little rocky to employ, but every minister wants their volunteers to be fresh and excited to be serving in the ministry. If you don’t step back now, you may begin to resent being the #1 Volunteer later. And that would be very disappointing for all the “aaahhhh” ladies who read this blog!
My husband has been the youth pastor at a church for the last two years, and we have wanted to leave for the last year and eleven months. We tried to find a new job this past summer, but it never worked out. My husband is frustrated and so am I. It is hard to sit through a church service without getting angry at our Senior Pastor. I am tired of my Sunday mornings, the time I have to spend with God, being filled with frustration. Our Senior Pastor is visionless yet refuses to step down. We see problems in every direction we turn, but are powerless to change anything. My husband is looked at and treated like a kid by most of the staff and board. We desperately want to go but do not understand why things have not worked out for us to leave. How do we keep it together when we are at a dying church that we are so desperately longing to leave?
Longing to Leave
Dear Longing to Leave,
I can just feel the frustration radiating from the words in your letter! You are definitely in a difficult place in your ministry and I hear how desolate you are feeling. It’s so disheartening to serve people when you feel unappreciated and dismissed.
Now for some truth…God usually sends pastors to churches that are sick. In Mark 2:17, Jesus said “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Sometimes that even includes the Senior Pastor!
Surviving the dying churches and desert places in our lives is dependent on keeping our focus on the reason for our calling. Why did God call you to this church? What is your purpose in being there? What is it that you have that your church might need? Despite how hard this is, what do you have to offer for “such a time as this”? Is there even one person’s life that has changed because you are there? Does that one person matter in God’s economy? Would one life changed make your two years of sacrifice worth it? Spend more time focusing on God’s purpose and will for you in this sick and difficult place and you may be surprised at how peaceful and fulfilling it is to be right in the center of His will. For now, the one place you would rather not be is the place where God wants you. Seek Him first, pursue righteousness, and don’t worry about tomorrow. (Matthew 6:33-34) While you patiently wait for the next step in ministry, do all you can where you are and look for the unique lessons that God is actively teaching you and your husband. Someday, in retrospect, you may find that these trying years were full of value way beyond what you can see in this moment.