Lutheran Church Extension Fund

Lesson Eight: Ministry Threatens the Joy of Ministry


Well done, good and faithful servant. I’m praying that this week you will find rest and recovery from a most unprecedented Christmas season! Seriously. I’m praying for you. I know this is the wrong Dickens reference for Christmas, but even in a normal year, December is, for pastors and church work professionals, “…the best of times, …the worst of times.” Everything that’s great about ministry happens in December. So does everything that makes ministry so hard. December is great. The message that God is “Immanuel,” with us. Everyone wants to be in worship. The music. The spirit of peace, joy and unity in the church is at it’s peak for the year. Celebrating the presence of the Savior among us is why we signed up for this.

December is a ministry danger zone

But December is hard. Extra services. Extra preparation. The pressure to be bigger and better than last year. The only gospel message some will hear for months. Unreasonable congregational expectations. Unreasonable internal expectations. The most important family season of the year, and the time you are most likely to be drawn away from your own family. You’d think that dozens of Christmas seasons of experience would help veterans in ministry navigate the challenges of this season a little easier, but experience didn’t matter this year. No one has ever done that before. This was a tough one. This year you faced an avalanche of everything about ministry that threatens to take the joy out of the greatest calling on earth.

How are you doing?

This is a critically important week for you to pay close attention to how you’re doing, spiritually, emotionally, relationally, vocationally, and certainly also physically. Most people who leave the ministry report that “it just got to be too much.” The too much can hit from all different directions. Sometimes the hours are to much. Sometimes the price our families pay is too much. Sometimes the vast expanse of the never-ending harvest field is too much. The criticism, the expectations, the conflict, the under-appreciation can all become too much. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, and if you’re humble and wise enough to recognize and admit that you are, please understand that you’re not alone. Just about everyone in ministry is feeling that way this week. What you’ve just endured is an illustration of an essential lesson everyone in ministry must learn: ministry itself can drive people out of ministry. This week has to be a season for self-care.

It’s time for healing and hope

This is your official permission to get what you need this week. Hide somewhere. Turn off your phone. Sleep. Cancel something. Eat cookies. Call your “Barnabas” and tell them you need encouragement. Sleep some more. Then count the ways Jesus showed up during Christmas. Welcome the Spirit’s gift of joy. They need you. Put your own oxygen mask on, please. Self-care is not selfish. Thanks for all you do. And thanks for reading. “Ministry Threatens the Joy of Life in Ministry” is Lesson Eight in, “Reclaiming the Joy of Ministry: The Grace Place Way to Church Worker Wellness” a new book from Grace Place Wellness Ministries coming in January.