Ministry is like most occupations: there are times when, in the immortal words of Johnny Paycheck, when you want to take this job and shove it.
So what do you do when you’re a pastor and Mr. Paycheck is singing to you? For you?
Well, as a survivor of a few of those Shove It seasons, here are the five best ways to respond:
1. Focus on what you do well rather than trying to shore up your weaknesses. At those times when pastors feel failure acutely and when the criticism comes the most freely, it is so tempting to respond with an accelerated effort to improve those areas that are getting you in trouble. Don’t. That’s ministry by reaction rather than ministry by calling. Instead, take a breath, and get to work on those projects at which you excel and which bring you life. In my case, there were always more sermons to prepare and hospital patients to visit.
2. Don’t air your complaints or struggles on social media. And in a related matter, don’t “sub-tweet” your frustration with certain parishioners or even staffers. That’s passive-aggressive and only serves to diminish your ministry.
3. Do have a trusted advisor/counselor/therapist/support group. And yes, I’ve had all four. Those connections are why I am still here.
4. Understand the genuine source of your opposition’s opposition. Most ministerial malaise stems from opponents within the congregation. In those instances, I have found it helpful to realize that most of the time, clergy and churches are convenient outlets for people’s frustration in other areas of their lives. Folks are really mad at their parents, their spouses, their bosses . . . but because they’re powerless to do anything about those relationships and frustrations, they take it out on you.
5. Check your Encouragement File. When you feel like you are a failure and have never done anything of eternal value for Jesus, check your Encouragement File and read the notes and cards people have sent you through the years. It will make you realize that the truth is in those testimonies, not in the lies running around in your head. Oh! You don’t have an Encouragement File? Then today is the day to start . . .
Some of these ideas are found in Chapter Four of my new book, Solve. That chapter is called Oppositionists and communicates the core truth that God sends opposition to grow desperation. You can order Solve here.