Unfortunately, it’s the kind of conversation that seems to happen from time to time. A church leader will just need someone to talk to and as God allows it, the conversation will unfold like this…
It begins with a description of a truly difficult situation in which the leader feels the urge to flee – find somewhere else to go, or even worse, find something else to do. Sometimes the person has called simply to say, “If you know any churches needing a worship leader…” and you know the rest of that sentence.
Since I don’t claim to have all that much wisdom for situations like that, I mostly just listen. But, usually I’ll throw this thought in somewhere along the way
Resist the urge to flee and begin to look for what God is doing in your life.
I happen to believe that sometimes God puts us right in the middle of hard things – not just to test us. He does it to grow us. I’m afraid the tendency to flee could actually lengthen the test. As one of my preacher heroes told me once, “You never fail God’s tests – He just keeps giving them to you until to learn what He wants you to learn.”
Here are five suggestions of what to do instead of fleeing when ministry gets hard.
1. Focus on the smallest circle.
We all live ministry in concentric circles – the largest circle is our congregation and community, the next one in is the circle of influence of leaders we lead, and the smallest is our own family. In hard seasons, have the personal discipline to focus on the smallest circle. If you are winning there, other challenges are quickly put in the right perspective. Don’t let the pressure of difficulty in the larger circles affect the one you have the most responsibility to lead.
2. Reset your expectations.
The process of beginning a new ministry is exciting and full of expectations. Sometimes a year or two in, reality takes the place of romanticized expectations and leaves us disappointed and disillusioned. Why not create a new set of expectations now informed by your own perspective and experience instead of living with the tension of unmet – and unrealistic –expectations?
3. Run – but in the right direction.
When you feel disconnected from the vision of your pastor or church leaders, press in even harder to your first love through your walk with Christ. Pursue intimacy with him in what you are reading, in your prayer life, and in your personal moments of reflection. Resist spiritual arrogance and isolation – those are just other forms of fleeing. But, in true humility, make communion with him the goal of your life. Instead of running away, run to him. This circumstance may be the very way God is teaching you how to pray – and how to trust him.
4. Simplify and prioritize.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you feel like you need to flee. Instead of spinning your thoughts over and over on every single problem – no matter how big they may seem – identify the one or two things you could be doing right now that would help. You can’t change the circumstance that has brought your anxiety. But, you can identify the one or two things that need to be done and that you can do now.
What is right in front of you? What is the step you could take right now that would help in some small way? Don’t let disillusionment paralyze you. With God’s help, identify next steps and do them.
5. Don’t run away – rest.
Seasons of challenge come to everyone in ministry. Learning to slow down and let the moments come as God allows them while you maintain a posture of trust will allow each season to have God’s divine intended affect on your life.
If you flee without learning the valuable lessons that come in these challenges, you will take them with you into the next place of ministry and the lesson will start all over again.
So, instead of running away, sit down and wait. God’ glory is just ahead.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.