It’s no secret that the past couple of years have been extremely difficult. Pastors (and anyone else, for that matter) can too easily slip into seasons of depression, anxiety and uncertainty. While I don’t have answers to cure all of the difficult situations you may encounter, I do have three words that may help: You should quit.
No, I’m not saying you should turn in your resignation letter and start looking for another ministry position or start a Chick-Fil-A franchise (it’s OK to admit you’ve thought about this at least once). What I am saying is you should quit doing some things as soon as possible.
1. Quit measuring success by how many people are in the pews on Sunday mornings.
I remember well riding the roller coaster of emotions from week to week as I’d eagerly anticipate seeing how many people showed up. Over the course of several years, I finally had a very scientific observation about Sunday morning attendance.
Are you ready for this? Grab a pen and paper because you might want to write it down. It’s that profound. Here it is: Some Sundays had higher attendance, other Sundays had lower attendance and most of the time I could find absolutely no rhyme or reason why.
There you go. Believe it or not, that simple realization was life-changing for me. It helped me stop (at least on most weeks) measuring the health of our church by who was (or wasn’t) there on any given Sunday. Some weeks folks were out for any number of reasons and our numbers were down. Other Sundays they were present, and we had a decent crowd.
I don’t advocate giving up counting heads on Sunday mornings, because I don’t think numbers are completely unimportant. They are, however, a pretty lousy overall measurement of ministry success. So quit defining success by the numbers of people who show up. That’s almost always a losing battle.
2. Quit comparing your church to the one down the road.
God has called you to the church you’re serving. Until He calls you elsewhere, this is where He has you. Your church is made up of the people on your church membership rolls. The church down the road has different people with different sets of gifts and talents. No other church on the face of the planet has the same mix of people your church has. So, no comparison is fair. You will drive yourself crazy if you’re constantly comparing your buildings, budgets, ministries, events, etc. with any other church.
We often can get rose-colored glasses when it comes to other churches. We know the inside-out of our own church – the good, the bad and the really, really, ugly. Most of the time we only focus on the good we see in other churches and think, “Wow, if only I had all that.” The fact is, those comparisons most often are not based in reality. You should quit comparing your church to the one down the road.
3. Quit trying to meet everyone’s expectations of you.
Let me let you in on a little secret that I wish I had known years ago: Sooner or later, you’re going to disappoint everyone in your church. Do you know why? Because you aren’t perfect. Now, that doesn’t mean you disregard any and all expectations the church has for you, but you can’t meet every single person’s every single expectation all the time.
You are only one person and, despite all the cool technology we have, you still can only be in one place at one time. That means you’ll have to make decisions about the most important place to be. Often, the answer is that the most important place you can be is at home with your family. That means folks will be disappointed from time to time. You’re not going to make 100% of the people’s expectations 100% of the time. You should quit trying to meet everyone’s expectations of you.
4. Quit making excuses.
Stop putting off that hard conversation and pick up the phone. Stop procrastinating on this week’s sermon. Stop scrolling social media and go make a hospital visit. I know the work of ministry can be overwhelming at times. I also know that sometimes we are easily distracted by less important things. We can so easily say, “I know I should do that, but ….”
I wonder if sometimes we make things far more overwhelming than they need to be because we make excuses and put off things we aren’t excited about. So stop it! You just might find a blessing you didn’t expect in the middle of the hard things. You should quit making excuses.
Published November 9, 2022