Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Riding on Empty: A Minister's Guide to a Full Tank

Disappointments in ministry are inevitable. Slow growth, limited resources, and lack of support can all leave you emotionally drained. Overbuilt expectations undergirded by our compelling vision for the future soon collide with reality. Barriers, setbacks, defects, all of these cause expectations to come crashing down. Desperate for encouragement you find yourself caught up with unsafe people who at first seem willing and eager to use their giftedness for the betterment of the ministry. Then out of nowhere this gift from God turns into a nightmare from Elm Street. The pain of someone once known as a friend rebelling against you leaves you emotionally wrecked. But in ministry you can expect encounters with unsafe people.

So, how do you deal with these inevitable realities?

By developing a style of life that covers you emotionally.

First of all, pray like David prayed. No one else in Scripture emptied their heart out more ferverently or candidly than David. He spent real time with God. Pour out your heart to Him and allow Him to pour into you.

Secondly, clear time for yourself. A regular day off each week can work wonders for the mind, body, and soul. Find things to do that replenish you emotionally. It may be reading, fishing, or needlepoint; whatever makes you happy. The trick is to truly be off, no phone, no e-mail, no work, period.

Thirdly, take a lesson from Timothy, study. Ministry finds us continually pouring out instruction and guidance to the masses with no real avenue for replenishing ourselves. An annual sabbatical for the purpose of study can renew both spiritually and emotionally. Be intentional about carving out time about four to six weeks a year, to obtain information that can fortify you in ministry. During this tine you can develop strategies for discipleship and church growth, lessons for teaching, and participate in leadership training.

Lastly, set boundaries for yourself. Why, because it’s not uncommon for those around us to believe we should be able to perform in capacities not necessarily aligned with God’s call for our lives. If we aren’t careful, we can begin to believe our own press. When this happens we begin to experience the proverbial “too many irons in the fire” effect and find ourselves drained.

Enduring in ministry requires personal responsibility and a plan of action for the stressors that present themselves.
Employing the steps outlined here can help you to steer clear from the moral failures experienced by many ministers. Careful thought will allow you to stand during the inevitable crises that will occur and allow you to continue God’s assignment for years after they are over.

Cheryl Lacey Donovan is an author, educator, and inspirational speaker. To learn more about Cheryl visit

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