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I have found that one of the hardest things about being in ministry (for me now for well over two decades) can be maintaining fervent faith. Yes, I just said that.
The ministry is a wonderful calling—an adventure in walking with Christ that’s a little off the beaten path compared to many vocations. In being called to full time ministry, I have been invited to walk a path similar to the path Jesus walked—dependent on God through His people for my salary, called to serve and lead this beloved, sometimes messy group of people called the Church.
Ministry is not unique in having intense pressures. What makes ministry unique is that it is so intricately bound with our faith. If I did not love God, there will be no interest for me to even be in ministry. But the pressures, criticism, workload, lower pay (relative to many professions) and higher expectations can have an adverse effect on a person’s spiritual life if he or she is not careful. Outside of a daily, protected time with Jesus, there are a few things I have found to help me keep my faith in Jesus central to my life as I endeavor to serve in this wonderful ministry.
Take intentional time away from the ministry to be reminded that you are first and foremost a child of God.
Several years ago, I took a sabbatical—I was burned out, and frankly way too young to be that way. For much of my sabbatical, I traveled and stayed with dear friends who just loved me. Without question, the most valuable thing that the Lord did deep inside me was to remind me that I am first and foremost His daughter. I don’t think you need to take a sabbatical to learn that lesson (although I think more ministers would be healthier if they did!), but it must be learned. I was called into relationship with God before I was called to ministry. That has to mean something.
Have friends outside of the ministry.
My friends are lawyers, social workers image consultants and nurses—they own their own businesses and work at places like NASA and somewhere that has to do with Defense (which I may or may not be allowed to know about). As I interact with my friends, we don’t talk much about what’s going on in my job (insert Selah here!). We talk more about our relationship with God than my to-do list. I am not the leader in our friendship. I’m a friend and a sister and another follower of Christ.
Remember that God really doesn’t need you.
The simple fact is that God can do this work without me. Yes, He wants me to be involved (which is why He asked) and He wants to partner with us to see His Kingdom come to earth (and He always will), but He really doesn’t need me to make sure it all happens. When I keep this in mind, I can’t help but respond with gratitude for being a part of this work. There are times when I literally say to God, “Thanks for thinking of me for this role.” Gratitude nurtures a healthy relationship with God (or with anyone, really), and that’s a great way to stay Christian in the ministry!