Having served in the full-time ministry for the last 16 years, I can relate to the struggles and challenges that ministers often face. I understand that it can be very easy for life and ministry to quickly mesh into one, and not always in a good way. And if you’re not intentional, one’s spiritual and family life can often suffer because the “work of the ministry” begins consuming and controlling your life.
There is also a real danger that as pastors and staff, we can easily become good at thinking about ministry in all the wrong ways. It’s often not even on purpose, but before you know it, we are subconsciously taking on one or more of these faulty ways of thinking about ministry.
Here are 5 dangerous misconceptions every staff person needs to mentally avoid:
- Viewing Sunday as a day of Work more than a day of Worship. Technically, Sunday is a day of work for a church staff member. But sometimes it can be to the point that we become so focused on ministering that we forget to allow ourselves to be ministered to as well. Amid the sermons and schedules and various ministry stuff, we inadvertently forget that this is actually the Lord’s Day – a day of worship meant for us to rejoice and be glad in it. This requires that we intentionally enter every Sunday (and the work that it involves) with an attitude of worship, having prepared our hearts in advance to both minister and be ministered to.
- Treating volunteers as Pawns rather than People. While it’s never our intention, we can quickly become so focused on making sure that all the spots are filled and all the boxes are checked that we actually forget that we are shepherding people, not herding cattle. Our volunteers are not our cheerleaders, who are there to make us look good. Rather, we are to be theirs. We are there to minister with them and to them. This is why an acknowledgment of their service, a spoken word of praise, or even a simple compliment can go a really long way with your volunteers. Yes, they minister out of a desire to serve the Lord, but they also desire to please you and are greatly benefited and motivated by your approval.
- Feeling obligated to be more of a Martha instead of a Mary. Let’s get really honest here… we get very busy serving our people, and rightly so, but may we not get so wrapped up in serving others that we forget Who it is that we are really serving in the first place. We are serving the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And more than He wants our service to His church, He first and foremost just wants us – all of us. He wants our adoration more than our activity. He wants our heart more than our help. Our natural tendency is often to be more of a Martha, but He also longs for us to learn to be a Mary.
- Looking to Be Served rather than looking To Serve. While it’s always nice to get that pat on the back, that compliment to our sermon, or one of the special ‘perks’ of being a pastor or church staff, it’s even more important that we are constantly looking for ways to compliment, encourage, praise, and ultimately serve those who serve with us. For every kindness shown to us, may we four-fold (or maybe ten-fold) have first shown that kindness to our people. May we never adopt an attitude of entitlement or expectation in the ministry. But rather, may we humbly strive to be a servant leader like Jesus, constantly looking for needs to be met and people to be helped.
- Mistaking our service to the Church for equalling our service to Christ. No matter our position, we are a Christian first, a pastor or staff second. It is very easy to forget this. Many ministers who do forget this end up facing an identity crisis, having linked their identity as a Christian solely to their ministry, rather than to their relationship with Christ. Our service to God does not end when we leave the church building. Rather, our service to God is an extension of our life as a Christian, not an extension of our ministry to the church. Think about it… Our people volunteer their time “after hours” to do things that we are getting paid to do “on the clock”. So the next time we’re tempted to complain about having to study at home in the evening or make significant sacrifices of our time outside of our normal schedule, let’s not forget that many of our people are doing exactly that every single week – as volunteers. May we never be guilty of confining our service to the Lord to this box that we call “ministry.” Because being a child of the King is So Much More than just that!
I hope that this 5 things challenge your thinking, and cause you to evaluate your own heart and motives to align them with God’s. May the people we serve see what Christ intended for them to see in and through us as leaders and ministers of the glorious gospel. May they see in us a standard worth striving for in order to become more like Christ.
I Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
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