Managing Ministry Life

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By John McKinzie

One of the most challenging words in the world of ministry is balance. Although I understand the heart behind the idea of balance, the reality is that in ministry, there’s no such thing. We can never achieve perfect balance between work, home, God, hobbies, etc. I believe management may be a better word to describe the ideal to which we should ascribe; we should manage all areas of our lives with as much health and wisdom as we possibly can.

A few weeks ago I was reading Perry Noble’s blog about ministry burnout. Below is his list of indicators that you’re not managing your life in ministry well:

*Your desire to quit is steadily becoming stronger.

*You feel trapped, isolated and alone.

*Social media is the dominant voice in your life.

*You are becoming more distant from your family.

*Your love for people is decreasing.

*You begin to make easy decisions rather than right ones.

*You really do believe there is no way out of what you’re going through.

As I reflected over my years in ministry, I was able to identify times in which I experienced feelings of burnout and a lack of health. I’ve had to learn, and continue to practice, the management of the tensions between life and ministry in order to escape those feelings. Below are some of the strategic areas in our lives that I’ve identified the need to manage this tension and endeavor to walk in health.

Our Ministry: In ministry, we are living with the daily pressure of always doing and being enough for everyone. People always need us for something and we have to handle this tension with grace, but also with the understanding that sometimes it’s okay to say no.

Our Family: Many of us have the pressure of marriage – of making sure we are building a healthy relationship with our spouse, spending time together and communicating in the ways he/she needs. Some of us have the pressure of being a parent – knowing the importance of needing to spend quality time with multiple kids, dealing with teenage challenges, and making sure our family knows they are a priority in our lives.

Our Relationships: We feel the pressure of inter-office relationships. Some of us feel the pressure of too many friends and not enough time to invest in them all. Others may feel the pressure of having no friends, feeling as though you have no community with others and no one with whom to share your burdens.

Finances: Some feel the pressure of finances, whether mismanaged or lack of – either way it’s hard not to feel the heat when the bills need to be paid. This pressure can be personal or at the office. It can be nerve racking when you are about to break ground on a new building that is desperately needed, yet you wonder if the money will come in.

Most of us face these pressures every day – and they are not going away.

Did Jesus feel the pressure of ministry? Absolutely! (Remember the garden?) Did Paul the apostle? If we look at 2 Corinthians 11:21-29 we see how Paul felt incredible pressure. This is one of several passages where Paul listed all the difficulty he faced.

2 Corinthians 11:23-29 (NLT): “Are they servants of Christ? I Managing Ministry LifeBy John McKinzie know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?

“The question is never, “When will the pressure end?” The question is, “How do we manage the pressure?” While we are certainly not the only profession to feel pressure, ours seems to be unique and is often extremely draining and overwhelming.

In order to manage the pressure I created a list of priorities that I’m going to share with you. As simple as my list sounds, it has made the difference in my life for the last 28 years. I’m hoping, at the very least, they will motivate you to create your own.

All day long conversations with God.

In 1 Thessalonians Paul encourages us to pray with out ceasing. I believe in this. Yes, it’s important to have a time of intercession and scheduled prayer, but I think conversations with God all day long are just as important. It’s made a difference in my life and leadership.

God’s word/life verses.

His word is a lamp to our feet, and a light to our path (Ps. 119). Sometimes as pastors and ministry leaders we study the Bible for messages or talks but allowing it to speak to our lives personally can be a challenge. Books, devotionals and blogs cannot take the place of God’s Word.

Regular and creative Sabbaths.

We have to find time to rest – and I mean rest. Sleep. Don’t do anything. If God can do it, we should too!

Deep Community.

We need friends. Best friends. We need to be known by a few people who can journey life with us and provide encouragement.

Bottom lines.

A long time ago, I made a list of “bottom lines” in my life. One of them is that I’m not going to let anything or anyone steal my joy. I believe it’s important to create some bottom lines.

Healthy marriage and family.

No marriage or family will be perfect, but we need to be healthy. There is nothing wrong with getting help (counseling) to get your marriage and family on the right track.

Develop outlets.

I believe hobbies or interests in our lives is absolutely necessary. These outside outlets from ministry have made a huge difference in my life!

Counseling.

Bill Hybels and other ministry leaders have done a huge service in taking away the stigma of getting counseling when we need it. If you sense yourself slipping, GET HELP!

Pressure in ministry is always going to be there. The burden of our call is weighty. That’s normal – every ministry leader in the Bible experienced it. Let’s work hard to manage these pressures with health and wisdom. It will make all the difference in the world!

John McKinzie has been in full-time pastoral ministry for more than 25 years. He is the Lead Pastor of Hope Fellowship located in Frisco, Texas. In the 12 years of its existence, the church has consistently grown—now ministering to nearly 6,000 people each week across three campuses. Because of John’s visionary leadership, the people of Hope Fellowship have become a group of believers striving to impact their local community and the world with the love of Jesus.The phrase that’s heard the most around Hope is “If lost people matter to God, then they should matter to us!”

To learn more about John and Hope Fellowship, visit http://www.hopefellowship.net