There’s an old joke that goes like this:
“A mother went to wake her son for church one Sunday morning. When she knocked on his door, he said, “I’m not going!”
“Why not?” asked his mother.
“I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said. “One, they don’t like me. Two, I don’t like them.”
His mother replied, “I’ll give you two good reasons why YOU WILL go to church. One, you’re 47 years old. Two, you’re the pastor!”
There are, in reality, many pastors who feel this way. They’ve either burned themselves out by working long hours, or they have simply lost the passion. When some of us started out as young, vibrant, on fire for God pastors we could do anything! We could face giants if we had to…but little by little over time some of us are at that point where we just can’t seem to go on anymore.
No one enjoys faking it in ministry. No one wants to put up a front in our ministries and pretend it’s alright when at times it’s all wrong. Some pastors will get to the end of their rope and walk away from the ministry, burned out and disillusioned. While some others will hang on at the end of their rope but they are only going through the motions and passion is lost.
Can you identify? Have you been there? Are you there right now? It’s a very uncomfortable place to be indeed! Having no passion to get up in the morning and minister to people that you may find hard to love and lead. Many pastors who are here and try to gut it out by working longer hours and striving harder often find themselves in depression and marital troubles. Why? Because the balance of ministry and family has been altered to over compensate for lack of passion.
How do pastors who are in this situation recover? How do ministry leaders face their flocks when this personal crisis comes along? Some pastors have friends within their congregations but it is often very hard to divulge personal issues with a member of flock. Leaders who go to church goers with their issues can create separate troubles after all. It is very hard to find peers when in a ministry or ‘appointed’ to a location that isn’t home to the pastor in question.
The Solution: (or at least 5 of them)
Steps to Recovering the Passion:
Here are a few suggestions that might help a pastor who is in need of finding their passion and way again:
1. Take Vacation or a Sabbatical:
One of the top reasons pastors find themselves ministering without passion is because they have worked themselves to the bone. Some are working 50 or more hours a week, striving to be ‘Super-Pastor’. This passion over-compensator is very, very common within ministries of all kinds. It’s not that work is to blame, but when one fixates on tasks instead of the purpose of the tasks we polarize our ministries. Getting some perspective, collecting your breath is very important to reclaiming lost passion.
Someone once said that if God rested on the seventh day why do we think that we don’t need rest? And this is true! We as pastors need rest! We can’t work seven days a week and expect to not suffer from burn out or family issues. Ministry is requires a balance of pastoral and personal time and reflection.
Get away. Plan a vacation without cell phone attachments or laptop involvement. Do something that requires you to leave your work at home. Spend time with your family. Focus on improving these vital relationships. Your family is your lifeline and anchor. Without it in your ministry you might float away. Invest in your family by resting together on vacation.
If you are able to and vacation just isn’t enough, ask your church denomination or district for permission to take a sabbatical. Many times a sabbatical lasts between two months and a year. You might laugh at this notion, but which would you rather have a passionless ministry for the rest of your life or a concentrated holiday away for a relatively short period of time?
Rest is a vital component to recovering and reclaiming your lost passion once again.
The topics of our reading may vary but here’s an important tip: Read both fiction and non-fiction books. We all need an escape from the tasks of life, and sometimes reading a good fiction novel is a healthy way to take a break. But don’t just stop in the fiction section; move on to challenging yet inspirational nonfiction. There are many theologians and pastors out there that write excellent books for pastoral demographic. Read up on their insights. Take notes, highlight pages, find topics that inspire you. Ask your peers and other pastors for some good books to read. There is even websites now devoted to the recommendation of good reads. Invest some time in reading more. This investment has the potential of reversing the course of a passionless ministry. Obviously don’t forget to consult ‘The Word’ as well in your search for good reads. God’s word can be a salve in times of need and the Lord can speak to us through its reading.
3. Join a Bible Study
Pastors and others in ‘the ministry’ often spend so much time shepherding and tending to the flock that they forget that they themselves have to be fed spiritually. Even Jesus got away from time to time to be fed by His Father in Heaven. Many pastors suffer from burn out and a passionless ministry because they haven’t taken the time to sit under someone else’ ministry. We need to be fed like any other sheep in the pen. Finding time to do this is difficult, of that I know! But when we allow the time to find a fresh source of spiritual nourishment for us, we possibly reinvigorate our passions.
Perhaps there’s a church in your local area that conducts a bible study that fits into your schedule. If nothing fits, then again look at your schedule. Perhaps you’re so consumed with ‘the ministry’ that you are headed down the road of burn out…and that is not healthy! Find the time! Get to a group that you don’t lead!
Another danger in finding a bible study group as pastors is that we can either want to take control or become overly critical of the leader. Be careful you don’t attend an ‘outside’ bible study solely with this attitude of ‘take control’ or ‘criticism’. You will not be fed within this context and you will undoubtedly cause resentment either within yourself or others attending. Instead enter a bible study group under someone else’ leadership with a humble heart and mind and listen for God to instruct you through these lessons or small group ministries. Finding inspiration and passion in ministry has to have a source of fresh water and life, so to speak.
4. Find a Pastor’s Group/Accountability Partner
Don’t pick a friend, or one who will say ‘yes’ to everything to share with them. Find a mentor or another pastor who is possibly longer in the years of ministry than you are. This may not always be the case, but it helps to create a disciple/discipler atmosphere.
Pastoral associations are okay sometimes…other times they run the risk of becoming a gossip group or a whine session. Avoid these scenarios if you desire to restore your passion in the ministry. Find not only one who challenges you but will pray for and with you as well. We need to be challenged and listened to. Being able to share our struggles with some in a confidential setting is also a vital must!
A Pastor usually can’t go to church member with issues. It just doesn’t work. Pastors, don’t neglect your times of being shepherded! Allow others to come along side you in your times of need. Seek out mentors on your own and learn from them. Share and pray together as well.
There are times when pastors possibly need more than mentor as well. Don’t be fearful of finding a counselor or a Christian therapist either. It’s not a sign of weakness to seek out professional help, many people do. Don’t let old stigmas of counseling keep you away from finding help in the midst of depression or other psychological needs!
Do not underestimate the power of prayer in your lives and in your ministries! Prayer shouldn’t be a ‘last resort’ tool, but rather a primary weapon utilized in our daily lives. Jesus prayed. We should also! Remember the only source and power that will keep us going in our ministries is the power of God. In order to be connected to the power daily and even moment by moment we have to be in constant contact with Him through prayer. It’s our conversation and relationship to Him that ought to keep us going; our love and devotion which propels us onward. This Christian life isn’t easy, and when we add the responsibility or leadership to that we find ourselves facing even more challenges.
Don’t live in a passionless ministry! Don’t simply go through the motions when you get burned out or burned up. A passionless ministry usually indicates something in life is either missing or out of place. Face it. Address it. There are obviously more remedies than the five that I’ve listed but begin here, and my prayer for you is that you find your passion once again!
LOVE THIS SITE:
And the ministry of Mindy Caliguire