As a young pastor, I was encouraged to never make any major decisions on a Monday. The reason was simple — often pastors are not experiencing a lot of joy on Mondays.
However, when do you make decisions when all the other days feel like Mondays?
In my experience, this loss of joy was a slow drift. The joy didn’t leave all at once, the gaps just widened between the moments of joy. Finally, I found myself thinking about walking away from a calling in which I had invested many years, a lot of effort and most importantly, a commitment to God. I can only imagine how this feeling may be amplified by pastoring in the midst of a pandemic.
The good news is that Christ revealed to me the path back to a ministry filled with joy. My joy was not taken from me or stolen as we often say. The truth be known, I simply gave it away little by little as I allowed the busyness and seemingly urgent ministry to draw my attention and affection away.
I feel my journey is a common path walked by many pastors. My calling is to help pastors fulfill the call on their lives with joy and effectiveness. We can recapture joy by being spiritually and emotionally healthy disciples, who have a proper view of God, themselves and family.
Following are ways we can acknowledge and grow in these three areas.
Proper view of God
The first area we must protect in order to joyfully fulfill our calling to pastoral ministry is our personal worship and devotion. I am reminded of how Isaiah saw the Lord in Isaiah 6 and how it radically changed him as he saw how desperate he was for Him. I had lost sight of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus in Luke 10. I had let the cry of many good things draw me away from what my soul needed most — Jesus.
As you live out the calling God has extended to you, be diligent at carving out time for your personal relationship with Jesus. In order to be effective in your ministry, you must be effective in the spiritual disciplines of Bible study, prayer and listening to God.
In the busyness of ministry — especially amid a pandemic — have we allowed ourselves to falter in our spiritual disciplines? What changes do you need to make in your schedule this week to make these things a priority?
In my experience, this loss of joy was a slow drift. The joy didn’t leave all at once, the gaps just widened between the moments of joy.
Proper view of ourselves
In addition to a proper view of God, we must have a proper view of ourselves. Technology is a great tool for the proclamation of the gospel. The internet allows people the opportunity to listen to the best proclaimers in the world. And that is a great thing. The downside is that pastors can begin to compare ourselves to others and begin to feel inferior. We easily forget that God has created us uniquely and specifically to accomplish the good work He has for us.
Understanding how God has gifted us allows us to be more effective at the work He has for us. When we understand the areas that are not our strengths, we can surround ourselves with volunteers or staff who can help us in that particular area. This self-awareness also provides a lens to look through when making decisions about investing our time and efforts. When we are sure of who we are and what Christ has called us to do, we can experience great freedom and confidence in ministry.
Do you really know who God has created you to be in Him? Can you verbalize the purpose He has for you? Do you have the personal clarity to intentionally lean into His purpose for your life and ministry?
Proper view of family
Finally, it’s vitally important to have a proper view of your family. Pastor, your first task in shepherding is to shepherd and care for your wife and family. I was so fortunate to have several pastors encourage me early on to make my family a priority. It’s heartbreaking to see a pastor struggle with marriage issues or children who resent the church because it took their father away from the family so often.
Pastor, keep the proper order in your ministry. What is that proper order? God, wife, children and then the church. One way to make this happen is to put your family time on your calendar and protect that time. Don’t let every little thing that needs to be done draw you away from time with your family.
Are you sacrificing your family on the altar of your church? Your relationships within the church will only reach their greatest potential when relationships at home are flourishing.
There is great joy to be found in pastoral ministry when we have these priorities in line. If you feel you have lost your joy in ministry, take some time to evaluate each of these things in your own life. We can recapture joy by being spiritually and emotionally healthy disciples who lead with joy and effectiveness.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a four-part series on how pastors can lead well. Here are other articles in the series: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.