Thursday, April 26, 2007
Any other time I would be overjoyed at the chance to share at this church. After all, I invested 4 years of my life there and I am still close with several of the people who attend there. I am struggling though with where to go with my message as there is alot going on there right now. Just to let you know here is the rundown. The senior pastor who took my old boss's place was voted out the last part of March. Since that time there has been a significant amount of tension among the members there. Having been a pastor there I am very nervous because of all the tension there and I do not want me asking to speak to be misinterpreted by the outgoing pastor as my way of unofficially "candidating" there-which could in turn be misinterpreted as me trying to get him ousted in the first place. Does this make sense? I support him, and honestly I am not sure the church made the best decision in the first place by voting him out, but now I have to walk into it.
Please pray that God will give me the words to say and that I will be very cautious in the way that I share. I am leaning toward talking about what the church needs to do in the world today instead of talking about healing and moving forward after what has happened, but I am pretty sure that avoiding the subject completely would be like trying to avoid a giant pink elephant in the room. I am just not sure where to go, I am honored by the chance to share, but I am scared to death as well. I still believe that God has awesome plans for this church and I want to add to that-not take away from it by feeding the tension that is there right now.
Thanks for your prayers!
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The "Idol Gives Back" 2 day special was pretty decent. I could have done without the Celine Dion/Elvis Presley duet, but most of the other performances were pretty good. Of course I'll have to admit being the U2 fan that I am that anything that Bono backs is cool with me...I just wish he had sung along with the contestants.
Speaking of the contestants, it is getting more and more difficult to predict who will go home. I was pleased that they opted not to send anyone home tonight. All of the performances were great, but my guess is that Chris Richardson would have gone tonight and that would have been okay with me because his voice just doesn't wow me. It will be a tough pick though as they all did a GREAT job last night on the inspirational songs. I am still hoping that Melinda will take it home, but there sure is a lot of buzz around Jordin. I like her don't get me wrong, but I would still pick Melinda over Jordin.
On another note, I am glad that Idol chose to take a stand against poverty, but I'll have to admit, I felt a little convicted. I am so blessed and I forget how much I take for granted everything God has blessed us with. Another thing that sort of frustrates me is that we have to have Hollywood setting the standard for making a difference in the world in the area of fighting poverty and AIDS in Africa. It is great what they are doing, but I just get frustrated that the church is not doing more. I think sometimes we miss the boat and we focus so much inward as churches and we miss what being a Christ follower is all about and that is serving others. I know I was challenged. I need to do more and I am praying that God will show me how I can play my part in helping to make a difference beyond the four walls of my church. I did call as many times as I could last night since they were making donations...does that count?
Well that's my rant for this week. Next week I predict Chris will go, but we'll see what happens...until then (in the words of Ryan Seacrest)...McKee OUT!
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Monday, April 23, 2007
1. How do I create categories for my entries (i.e. family, youth ministry, rants, etc.) If I do this can I do it with my archives or just posts as I post them?
2. What is all the stuff about "feeds" (i.e. RSS Feeds and all that)? I hear about it all the time and see a notifier on my browser about it, but it doesn't make sense to me.
Thanks for the help all you technical gurus!
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Everything you have just read is what I have worked through in my life over the last few months. I was ready to give up and call it quits. I was ready to get a “real” job and be done with this thing called ministry. I felt alone and wasn’t sure if I was going to make it any longer. This was because I was in a depression caused by discouragement in ministry. It was crippling, it affected me on a daily basis. There were some days where I even struggled to get out of bed and do anything productive whatsoever. It was a time filled with self-doubt, questioning where God was in my life (if I even knew Him), and how I was going to survive, whether in ministry or just life in general. It was very real and is a very real issue among pastors in the world today.
Discouragement in ministry is very real, I have lived through it, and I anticipate again, in the future. If left unchecked it can lead to depression and possibly even someone leaving the ministry. However with this tool we have just provided you may find encouragement that will help you through discouragement the next time you are faced with it. This project has been designed to be a tool that someone who is facing discouragement can use to work through the difficult time in their own life.
You have looked at several resources that address the issue and how to solve it. Additional resources are provided in the bibliography which follows. In addition to this, you heard words from your peers who are in the trenches with you. By answering the questions provided to them, they show what some of the warning factors are that we can be aware of before we even face discouragement. We know most of them to be things like lack of support, unrealistic expectations, self-doubt, apathy and poor communication among staff. The better aware of these stressors we are the more equipped we will be when we face discouragement. Finally you saw some practical ideas to put into place now before you ever face discouragement. If you choose to put into action the material provided in these pages you will be able to solve the problem of discouragement in your ministry. In fact, you may even be able to take discouragement and use it for your benefit the next time as a way of showing how awesome God is in your life and the lives of those you minister to. I pray that this has been a helpful resource to you and let me leave you with this blessing from Numbers. It is still one of my favorite passages of Scripture of all time:
“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26
Always remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Akers, Tony. “Survival Skills for ‘Lifers.” Group September/October (2004):100-104.
Baker, Tim. “Avoiding the Crash: Understanding the Difference Between Passion and Adrenaline.” Youthworkwer Journal November/December (2002): 22-28.
Borthwick, Paul. Organizing Your Youth Ministry. Wipf & Stock, 2004.
Burns, Jim & Mike DeVries. The Youth Builder. Ventura, CA: Gospel Light, 2001.
Chromey, Rick. Youth Ministry in Small Churches. Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, 1990.
Curtis, Brent, & John Eldredge. The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997.
Erickson, Ned. “Who’s Following You?” Group May/June (2006): 86-94.
Evans, Len. “An Army of One.” Group September/October (2006): 92-96.
Fields, Doug. Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry: A Personal Practical Guide to Starting Right. El Cajon, CA: Youth Specialties, 2002.
---. What Matters Most: When NO is Better than YES. El Cajon, CA: Youth Specialties, 2006.
Hart, A.D. Coping with Depression in the Ministry and Other Helping Professions. Waco, TX: Word, 1984.
Johnston, Jon. Christian Excellence: Alternative to Success, 2nd ed. Franklin, TN: JKO Publishing, 2004.
Jones, Tony. “What’s on My Mind: On Sabbatical.” Youthworker Journal November/December (2002): 20.
Lawrence, Rick. “3 Dirty, Rotten, Youth Ministry Lies.” Group September/October (2006): 74-79.
Lloyd-Jones, D. M. Spiritual Depression: It’s Causes and Cure. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965.
London, H.B., Jr. & Neil B. Wiseman. Pastors at ‘Greater’ Risk. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2003.
---. The Heart of a Great Pastor: How to Grow Strong and Thrive Wherever God Has Planted You. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1994.
Matty, Danette. “Under the Gun: Dealing with Pressure from Above (Church Leadership, Not God).” The Journal of Student Ministries March/April (2007): 30-33.
McCartney, Bill. Blind Spots: What You Don’t See May Be Keeping Your Church from Greatness. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2003.
Parrott, Les III. Helping the Struggling Adolescent: A Guide to Thirty-Six Common Problems for Counselors, Pastors, and Youth Workers. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.
Penner, Will & Dan Sanders-Wooley. “Youth Workers and Pastors in Partnership.” Youthworker Journal January/February (2003): 23-26.
Peretti, Frank. The Wounded Spirit. Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 2000.
Seely, Andrew. “Youth Pastor in Exile: Grieving Over Losing My Job.” The Journal of Student Ministries Online March/April (2007). 17 April 2007. www.tjsom.com.
Stier, Greg. Ministry Mutiny: A Youth Leader Fable. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006.
Van Cise, Glen. “Ministering to Job. The Journal of Student Ministries March/April (2007): 40-43.
Warren, Rick. “Fighting Discouragement.” 30 Nov. 2006. Called to Be Free. 18 April 2007 http://calledtobefree.org/article.cfm?id=82.
Yaconelli, Mike. “Dangerous Wonder: You Just Hang On.” Youthworker Journal January/February (2003): 63
So we have looked at various research, we have conducted research and shown results, we have examined the scriptures. Now we must ask the question what next? This chapter is where the rubber meets the road. We will rehash some of the thoughts from earlier and move forward to how all of this plays out in our ministries today. This chapter brings it all together for us and fills in the blanks.
The first thing we need to reaffirm is that discouragement in ministry is a very real problem. Restating the statistic from earlier in the paper, “45.5 percent of pastors say they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.” (Wiseman & London, 175) We will face discouragement in our ministry at some point in time throughout our service, but we don’t have to fall into that statistic. If we anticipate it coming just as a receiver anticipates where the quarterback is going to throw the football we can prepare ourselves for the difficult time we will face.
Second we realize that we are not alone in our struggle with discouragement. Others have been where we are and many may be walking with us right now. It doesn’t matter if you are a rookie or a veteran, you are not alone. Doug Fields points out in his book Your first two years in youth ministry that his journal entries today read almost the same as they did 23 years ago. Here are two small excerpts from those journals. In 1979 he wrote, “I feel so alone. Things are going okay, except I feel like I question my call to ministry everyday…even several times a day.” In 2002 he wrote this, “I’m feeling better today, but it seems like it has been several weeks that I have been in the pits.” (Fields, 44)
Now here is a guy that many of us consider to be the one that literally “wrote the book” on youth ministry. If he has struggled with discouragement and still does today, and he is the one so many of us look up to, we can have hope that our discouragement that causes us to feel so alone really isn’t that bad and we aren’t alone after all. It is still common among all of us. The other day I opened up an online article on the website of the Journal of Student Ministries (www.tjosm.com) that opened with this phrase, “By the time you read this I will have left my position as a director of youth ministry. This decision comes after much counsel, prayer, and pain. In the simplest of terms, I’m leaving this position a hurt person, both emotionally and spiritually.” (Seely, www.tjosm.com) This guy is one of us. He isn’t some famous author who is out there; he is one of us in the trenches of ministry just like we are. So realize if the pros still deal with discouragement, and everyday youth pastors like us deal with it, WE ARE NOT ALONE.
Third we need to realize the importance of networking. Since we know we are not alone we need to network with those who are fighting the battle right alongside of us. This can take three forms and perhaps more, but these are the most important.
1. Find a mentor/someone to disciple you: Doug Fields offers us a few tips for finding the right mentor in Your first two years-
· Who impresses me as spiritually mature?
· Who inspires me?
· Who intrigues me?
· Who has reached some of the goals I have set for myself?
· Who do others speak of highly?
· Who do people go to for advice? (Fields, 51)
Once you find this person, ask them specifically to mentor you and have a specific agenda to follow through on. If they are going to help you on your journey you have to have a map of where you want to go.
2. Hang out with non-ministry friends: When we are caught up in the busyness of ministry often times we forget to network with friends outside of our ministry circles. Foster these friendships away from ministry as long as they are friendships that will build you up and not contribute to your discouragement.
3. Find a network near you: One of the most encouraging times to me is the monthly meeting that I have with several of my brothers in Christ here in Pensacola. We are from all walks of life and denominations but our monthly meeting is a time to vent, fellowship, and pray for each other. It is so beneficial to me and has helped keep me off the “edge” during these past few months of discouragement. If you don’t have a network check online to see if there is one in your community. A great website to look at is the National Network of Youth Ministry (www.nnym.org). If there is not one listed in your town, call around to some of the churches to see what may be available in your area. If there isn’t a network-START ONE! Even if it is people from similar churches, get with people who know what you are facing and where you are coming from. It is living out Proverbs 27:17.
Fourth, realize that there is no perfect ministry out there. No matter where we go we will be faced with problems of some sort. The church is made up of people. People are sinful by nature. Sin makes us hurt others. Hurt people hurt other people. No matter what there will always be someone who will have some complaint about some aspect of your ministry. You are not perfect, so be willing to admit when you are wrong, offer a listening ear if necessary, and do your best to love those who choose to hurt you. With time, you will win over your critics if you love on them just like Christ loves on us. There are banners in Christian bookstores everywhere that read “bloom where you are planted.” That is the key to having a successful ministry and confronting discouragement in ministry head on. If you honestly have sought to do God’s will for your life and He has placed you in a ministry that seems tough, trust that He has something for you in that ministry, no matter how difficult it may seem.
Fifth, learn to take time for yourself. Ministry is about giving 95% of the time, but we need to learn to take time for ourselves. If we give all the time, eventually we will find ourselves empty which will ultimately lead to discouragement. Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Take your day off: unless you are bi-vocational, most likely you have some time off throughout the week. Be deliberate about this. Guard it like a valuable gem. I understand sometimes things will come up, but try to protect it as much as you can. Turn your phone off, leave the emails alone (unless they are for pleasure) and just rest. Do something you love and do it with all your heart. If you will, you’ll find yourself refreshed.
2. Get away occasionally/take a retreat: One “lifer” in youth ministry that I look up to is Mark Ostreicher, the president of Youth Specialties. Once a quarter he will take a 3 day silent retreat designed to refresh and relax him and gear him up for the next quarter. You may not be able to get away as often, but plan some purposeful time away. For me recently when I was battling my deep depression because of my discouragement in ministry I planned a vacation to Disney World. It may sound childish, but for me it was the first opportunity in a long time to get away, forget about difficulties and learn to laugh again. GET AWAY at some point each year.
3. Set clear boundaries for you and your family: Have a regular date night. There will always be people pulling at you for your time, however the person most important to you is your spouse. He/She can make or break your ministry so be deliberate about setting boundaries and guarding your time together. Do not let ministry get in the way of what is most important in your life. I was always taught to live be this mantra, “God first, family second, and the church third.”
Sixth don’t be afraid to write it down. Until I was faced with this very difficult time of depression and discouragement I wasn’t much of a person for journaling. Now I cannot live without it. Here are some thoughts about journaling that will help you as you work through this battle with discouragement:
1. Write about anything-I do not always write about the struggles I am having. I write about whatever is on my mind and I enjoy. I have become an addict of blogging as my personal way of journaling. One of the ways I battled this depression was to write about whatever came to mind. Sometimes it was spiritual, sometimes it was “fluff” such as who should stay and go on American Idol. Just write it down it clears your mind and might even begin to help you process the very thing you are struggling with.
2. Don’t be afraid to share your struggles. You don’t have to have it all put together. It is okay to struggle-share that with other people. It proves you are real and who knows, what you write may encourage someone else who is going through the same thing or it may spur someone on to pray for you
3. Don’t be afraid to share your victories. When God comes through for you or you find yourself encouraged, write it down. Tell someone. Share your joy with others. Just as before what you say may help someone else.
Finally, Commit to being in it for the long haul. This world is full of letdowns-Especially in the lives of young people. Many of the kids we work with come from broken home situations and generally just face bad stuff on a daily basis. We may be the only sense of normalcy they have, so if we give up just because we are discouraged, what hope do they have? God is in it for the long haul with us, so we need to be there for them as well. When we get discouraged- be real, rely on God and work through it. You’re not alone God is right there beside you and you will make it through it (and even learn something) if you don’t give up.
We have now taken the time to look at practical resources dealing with discouragement through books and journals as well as words from our peers in ministry. With all of that said, it is time we look at the idea of discouragement through God’s eyes. We do this by spending time looking at the Scriptures for information and encouragement that can help us as we fight the problem of ministry discouragement in our lives.
In the following pages we will look at various passages of Scripture that show us the following three things: First, you are God’s and He has a plan for you and your ministry. Second, you are not alone. Others in the Bible have faced the same discouragement we face today thousands of years later. Third, Ministry takes time and will be fruitful if God is in it with us.
You are God’s and He has a plan for you and your ministry
Genesis 1:27- “So God created man in His own image. In the image of God He created Him: male and female He created them.” With this verse we have the promise that God made us exactly who we are IN HIS IMAGE. Everything about us, He created. All of our short comings and failures, all of our little quirks that affect us, everything about us God made in His image. How can we be discouraged if we take to heart what this verse says? We are the Lord’s he made us who we are and no matter how hard things seem to get, we have this promise from His word.
Joshua 1:9- “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Wow! What a promise. No matter what we are facing, God tells us not to be discouraged because He will be with us wherever we go. That is simply amazing and should be such an encouragement to us when we are facing discouragement in ministry.
Proverbs 3:5-6- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Ministry is tough at times. When we are hurting or discouraged, it is tough to trust. This verse shows us that if we will simply place our trust in Him, especially during the difficult times, He will guide us. I don’t know if you have ever been lost on a winding back road before, but it is not easy to see where you are going. It is the same when we get discouraged in ministry. We begin to focus on just trying to maintain and get by. However if we would simply place our trust back in the Lord knowing that His plan is ultimately better than my plan we will be encouraged because HE will direct is through the difficult time we are facing.
Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Wow what awesome words of encouragement God offers us in this passage. We have already established that there will be times of discouragement in ministry. There will be times when life and ministry just doesn’t make sense. However we know that no matter what we are facing God has a plan for our lives. He is not going to put us through anything that would cause us harm. Difficult times are still a part of His plan and we can learn from them if we will allow ourselves to.
You are not alone
There have been others thousands of years ago who faced discouragement just as you have and will. Let us look at a few of them and see what we can learn from their discouragement.
Moses- Here is a man who grew up among Egyptian royalty and then was asked by God to lead His people out of the bondage of slavery. Talk about an overwhelming task. He led the people through the desert for 40 years and faced discouragement of His own. He had to deal with people who wanted to turn back toward bondage every time it got tough. Ultimately his frustration and discouragement led him to do something against God’s plan for the people. In Numbers 20:12 we read these words, “But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I will give them.” Wow, talk about your mistake to make when you are discouraged. The lesson here is for us to realize that we cannot act on impulse when we are facing discouragement. If we do, we may miss out on God’s best for our lives. Moses did show us though that even the best get discouraged, so take heart, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Elijah- In 1 Kings 19:4 we read these words, “I have had enough Lord. Take my life: I am no better than my ancestors.” Now if you are like me when you read this passage you scratch your head. Here is a man who has just had a hand in one of the greatest miracles of all time. He was a key player in an event where God came down and proved that He is the one and only true God. 450 prophets of Baal were slaughtered and God’s people saw that He was the one to follow. You would think that Elijah would be on the greatest spiritual high of His life. Instead we see him asking for the Lord to just let Him die. There are two things that we should take from this passage. The first is this- we should expect extreme lows just as we expect extreme highs, and often these will come after great times of victory. If we are aware of this, we can prepare for it and make the best of the situation when it comes. The second thing we see is that the first thing that Elijah does after this event is he rests! As we minister to people on a daily basis, we MUST be deliberate in making time to recoup ourselves. If we do, we may find that discouragement does not come as often since we are refreshed and ready to go.
Ministry takes time
Ecclesiastes 3:1- “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven.” This verse is more than a classic rock song from the 1970’s. It is proof that ministry takes time. Too often when serving, we try to make things happen in OUR time. The world we live in is results driven. We want what we want now and most of us have the resources at our fingertips to get what we want when we want it. Because of this we have become tainted. We expect the same to happen in ministry. As we are working with students, we expect to see results in their lives right away. We expect them to be spiritually mature without experiencing life. When this doesn’t happen we tend to get discouraged and frustrated. This if we are not careful can start us down the slippery slope of discouragement that can lead to depression and possibly leaving the ministry. Our time is not God’s time. There is a season for everything, and the sooner we realize this, the sooner we will face less discouragement in our result driven minds of ministry.
Matthew 13:3-9- “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop-a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Obviously we know this passage of scripture as the parable of the sower. Jesus goes on to explain the parable as it relates to the lives of those we work with later in the same chapter. This is an important story to us as youth pastors for one reason.
We cannot reach everyone. Ministry, especially youth ministry is about planting seeds. Although we want to see results right away, we may not because a deep relationship with God takes time to cultivate just as the crops did in this passage. In addition to this, not every seed we plant in the lives of our student will sprout. We may not be the ones to reach a certain student, but that is okay. All we can do is plant the seeds in their lives, it is up to them to cultivate them. The thing to remember though, is that the final yield of the crop was much more than was sown. It can be the same as well in our ministries. We may not get to see the results of our hard work this side of Heaven, but some of the seeds we are planting will take root and one of these days we will meet countless people who have been touched because we touched the life of one teen who perhaps we didn’t even think heard a word we said.
If we are to battle discouragement in this results based world, we must realize the truth in these two passages. Ministry takes time. If we know this and we remember it, when discouragement comes because we are not seeing the results we want we can take heart in knowing that in time we will see the results, so in the words of my pastor, “Hangest thou in there.”
In this chapter we will look at all of the results from the survey/interview questionnaires. The purpose of this is twofold. The first reason is to provide the information given from the research method and the second is to show that if you are struggling with discouragement in ministry you are not alone. There are some common themes running throughout these surveys, see if you can pick out which are prominent and perhaps you are facing as well. Again, the more aware we are of potential causes of discouragement in ministry, the more likely we are to be able to prevent it or face it head on in order to not be blindsided by it. These results are in no particular order and I will include all of the major information, leaving out what is not relevant to this study. If you wish to read all of the surveys in detail, they will be provided in an Appendix at the end of this project paper.
Youth/Staff Pastor 1:
This pastor has been in ministry for 11 ½ years with 9 ½ of them being in his current setting. He has a Master’s of Divinity and is serving full time in a smaller church of 80 people in a city that is largely based around a beach and tourist area. He serves as co-pastor along with his wife and his primary areas of responsibility include youth (all activities), music, evangelism/outreach, fellowship, preaching (on a rotation basis), and dealing with the church finances. He invests 75-80 hours a week in his ministry.
As it relates to a support network within his church he feels that there is a high level of support among parents (8), students (9), and lay members (9). He describes himself as a team player, and has the support of those around him for his ministry.
He lists his primary frustrations within the ministry as being apathy among members, expectations, lack of support, time, and resources. In addition to this, he wishes there was a willingness to go deeper spiritually among the students he works with as well as frustrations with the parents (specifically referring to their pushing the students to be involved in extra curricular activities beyond church above church.
He obviously has a very open relationship with his senior pastor since he is married to her. He lists no frustrations in that area of ministry. He is very deliberate about taking his day off, has devotions on a daily basis, and feels that he is very organized as an individual.
When it comes to discouragement in ministry, he lists that he only feels discouraged occasionally and rarely has considered leaving the ministry because of discouragement. He does feel that the main reasons ministers leave the ministry due to discouragement are issues such as lack of communication, lack of organization, lack of resources, lack of a team effort, lack of leadership, and a lack of training.
Youth/Staff Pastor 2
Our second staff pastor has been in his current position for 9 months and the ministry for four years. He does not have a specialized degree in ministry, but has had ministry training. He is serving full time in a mid-size church in an urban area with a youth ministry average of 50 to 60 kids and average Sunday attendance of 400. His primary responsibilities include worship/media and youth ministry (assistant). He invests 30-60 hours a week in his ministry depending on the responsibilities for that week.
As it relates to support in his ministry, he feels there is adequate support for his ministry (parents-7.5, students 10, lay members 8.5). He describes himself as a dreamer meaning that he doesn’t like to do things alone, but does not have the team support he would like to have.
His biggest frustrations is the “small box” mentality his church is currently locked into and feels that the biggest frustration among his students is that they seem “zoned out” and disinterested in growth. He also feels frustrations in unrealistic expectations placed on him as well as a lack of support (involvement) among church members.
When it comes to his senior pastor, he sees his pastor as his boss/supervisor and someone who he only interacts with when an issue needs addressed. The senior pastor views him as someone who needs constant watching.
Personally, he is moderately organized (gives himself a 7), very deliberate about his day off, does his daily devotions “every chance he gets” (signifies not as often as he would like), and notes feeling discouraged in ministry once or twice a month. He has only occasionally considered leaving the ministry because of discouragement and gives frustrations with church members as the primary reason for this consideration. He believes that one of the main reasons youth pastors leave the ministry today is because of the individual’s lack of ability to mold the youth ministry in the way that the individual sees fit to lead (making it his own ministry and not someone elses’).
Youth/Staff Pastor 3
Our third volunteer has been in ministry for 24 years and has been in his current position for 7 years. He has a degree in church music and Christian education. He is serving full time as the high school pastor at a mid size church in a metro beach town. He has a youth ministry of approximately 75 kids and an average Sunday am attendance of 420.
He invests 50-60 hours per week in his ministry and feels that he has a fairly high level of support among his church membership (parents 8, students 8, lay members 10). He describes himself as a team player.
His biggest frustrations lie in the area of apathy among the students, lack of time for everything, and a lack of a deep commitment level. His frustration among parents lies in their lack of willingness to volunteer as youth workers within the ministry.
He has a very open relationship with the senior pastor giving it a 9 on a 10 point scale. He sees his senior pastor as a mentor and friend, and the senior pastor sees him as the expert on teens. They have an open line of communication and he sees it as a healthy relationship.
As an individual he is very organized (9 out of 10), is very deliberate about taking his day off and does his devotions “most days”. He admits to feeling discouraged in ministry 1 to 2 times a month, but has only occasionally considered leaving the ministry because of discouragement. The main reason he has considered leaving the ministry is because of financial reasons, but he feels the reason most staff pastors leave the ministry is because of a lack of support from parents or the senior pastor.
Youth/Staff Pastor 4
The next individual has been serving in his current position for nine months and has been in ministry for a total of ten years. He has a degree in youth ministry. He is currently serving full time in a medium size church in a rural setting (full of retirees) with an average AM attendance of 298 and a youth ministry of 30-40 kids. He is responsible for planning and implementing all activities related to the youth ministry at the church (he lists the following-youth group, Sunday school, outings/activities, Bible quizzing, service projects, mission teams). He invests approximately 75 hours per week into his ministry.
He currently feels that the support level in his ministry is low with parents being a 6, students being a 7 and lay members being a 5. He currently sees himself as a lone ranger, but falls more into the dreamer category since he wants a team, but does not yet have the support needed for it.
His current ministry frustrations include apathy, lack of attendance (but expectations for attendance), lack of support, and lack of time. He feels that the students just do not care for anything at the moment. He also deals with a frustration with parents in their apathy toward the ministry, unrealistic expectations, and lack of support and involvement.
He sees his senior pastor as a boss and supervisor. They have an open line of communication between them, but they are not close as individuals. They interact mainly only when an issue needs addressed.
He sees himself as moderately organized, and who is somewhat deliberate about taking a day off. He only does his devotions occasionally.
As it relates to discouragement in ministry, he feels discouraged 3 to 4 times a month and considers leaving the ministry once or twice a month. When asked why he has considered leaving, he lists feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness as well as loneliness. Sometimes he said he feels as if the students would be better off without him. The main reason he feels that youth pastors leave the ministry is because of lack of support, high pressure, loneliness, and lack of ability to meet everyone’s selfish wants.
Youth/Staff Pastor 5
The fifth individual has been involved in ministry for three years in her current ministry position and this is the first ministry position she has been a part of. She has no degree in ministry but is pursuing ministry training through correspondence with the Church of the Nazarene. She is currently a middle school pastor and describes herself as serving full time at a part time salary in a medium sized church in a metropolitan setting with a youth ministry of 75 kids and an average church attendance of 400. She is responsible for all of the middle school activities at the church (all middle school programming) as well as teaching full time at the Christian school associated with the church and leading the church’s outreach ministry through karate.
She feels that she has a fairly high support level at the church rating all areas with a 9 for support. She is a team player and depends on those around her to help her stay successful in ministry.
Her biggest frustrations in ministry relate are in the areas of apathy among the people and expectations placed on her and the ministry she is a part of. Her frustrations at the student level deal with their lack of willingness to sign up for activities until the last minute and their lack of realizing how their words and actions affect those around them.
As it relates to her senior pastor, she sees him as a pastor/teacher and friend. She feels that he views her as trustworthy, compassionate, and someone who shows their love in an appropriate manner. She sees herself as close to the senior pastor and they have an open line of communication that benefits their working relationship together.
As an individual, she is somewhat organized. She is not very deliberate about taking a day off-other things take precedence often. She also averages four times a week for her devotions. She reports feeling discouraged only occasionally and has rarely considered leaving the ministry. The main reasons she feels that pastors leave the ministry are parent/church criticism, disunity among staff, and a desire to “move up” to a bigger church.
Youth/Staff Pastor 6
Our sixth volunteer is currently in his 12th year in ministry with almost two years in his current position. He has a bachelors in pastoral ministry and is currently serving full time as the associate pastor in a smaller church in a metropolitan area. The church averages 90 in attendance and he has a youth ministry of 15 students.
He is responsible for all areas of student ministry and Christian education with specific leadership over the teens and 20 something groups. He is also in charge of the drama ministry for the student ministry and church as a whole.
He ranks his support at the church high with scores ranging from 8-10 in all of the areas. His biggest frustrations in ministry right now are expectations placed upon him and lack of physical space for student activities. His current frustrations with the students are their satisfaction with “the way things are” and a lack of desire to move forward. With parents, he sees a lack of support and involvement on their parts.
He has an open relationship with his senior pastor who sees him as the expert on teens and a partner in ministry. He sees the senior pastor as his boss/supervisor, teacher/mentor, and friend. They are not extremely close, but he feels they have a good relationship with each other.
He is somewhat organized (there is room for improvement) but he does his devotions on a daily basis and is very deliberate about taking his day off. He admits to rarely feeling discouraged in ministry and has never thought about leaving the ministry due to discouragement. The main reason he feels that pastors (youth pastors specifically) leave the ministry is because it is not what they expected it to be. They come in expecting something and when they don’t get what they were expecting, they leave.
Youth/Staff Pastor 7
Our final candidate for the survey has been in ministry for eleven years and has been in his current ministry position for three years. He has a master’s degree in religion. He is the full time associate pastor of a larger church in a metropolitan area with a youth ministry of close to 100 kids and an average Sunday attendance of 600. He is responsible for all activities and programming for junior high, senior high, post high, and young married couples. He averages 50 to 60 hours per week in ministry.
He rates his support level as high in all areas and is a team player. His biggest frustration in ministry right now is the lack of time to manage all of the areas of responsibility. His frustration with students relates to their level of commitment at school versus church. His frustration with parents centers on their lack of understanding of and availability to their children. He says the parents don’t seem to have time for their kids.
He has a very open relationship with his senior pastor. He feels very close to his senior pastor and they have a very open line of communication. In fact the senior pastor gives him the same level of authority that he has and sees him as the number two person. He is transitioning into the lead pastor as the senior pastor is nearing retirement. He is more than a staff pastor, he is a co-pastor.
He is very organized, is deliberate about taking observing his day off, and does his devotions at least five times a week. He rarely feels discouraged in ministry, and rarely considers leaving because of discouragement. When asked why he feels that most pastors leave the ministry, he mentioned financial reasons as well as discouragement that comes after attendance falls or an event fails.
Now that we have looked a cross section of staff pastors, let’s look at some of the common things that occurred that I feel point towards potential sources of discouragement in ministry. It is important to note that these are only potential themes and not necessarily concrete since we had such a small test group for this project. Here are the themes that seem to stand out.
The size of your church does not equal more or less likelihood of discouragement in ministry: According to these surveys there was no greater discouragement among those who were serving in smaller churches than those who were serving in larger churches.
The amount of training one has does not seem to affect the discouragement level of those who are serving: While most of those interviewed had some formal training, there did not appear to be a higher level of discouragement among those who had less specialized training in ministry.
Support in your ministry is a key to avoiding discouragement: Those who had a higher level of support seemed less likely to deal with discouragement in ministry. Those who were team players who had a large support network were less likely to struggle with discouragement than those who either were lone rangers or who did not have a team to help and support them.
Your problems are not any different than others in ministry: Each person mentioned almost the same frustrations in ministry. While there were a few that might be considered church specific or area specific, most of the struggles and frustrations mentioned where the same in each ministry. These seem to be apathy (among students and members), lack of time, lack of support, lack of deeper relationships with God, and lack of results. Hang in there; you are not alone in your struggles.
Staff relationships are extremely important: Those that reported a healthy relationship with their senior pastors/supervisors that featured some sort of mentorship/teaching relationship with open communication seemed less likely to be discouraged than those who had a relationship that is strictly employee/supervisory. There are a couple more things unrelated to the survey that we should put in here though:
· You cannot make your senior pastor someone he is not-not everyone is highly relational. Some senior pastors and supervisors are looking for someone that can take the reigns and run with the ministry without having to be micro managed. If you find that you are a person who needs to have that mentoring/friendship relationship to be successful and encouraged in your ministry, make sure you are aware of what you are getting yourself into.
· You always MUST have an open line of communication, regardless of your relationship with the senior pastor. Even if you are not close friends with them, the more you keep them informed, the better the relationship will be. Your pastor cannot go to bat for you when conflict arises if they are not aware of what you are doing in and around your ministry. So remember communication is KEY!
The more organized you are, the less stressed you will be: Less stress equals less likelihood of facing discouragement in ministry. Work on your organizational skills, be deliberate about taking your day off (whenever it is) and make your spiritual walk a priority (not just for planning meetings and using this as a devotional time). Those who did all of these things appeared to have a lower frequency of ministry discouragement.
You are not alone: Everyone, regardless of any of the factors listed previously has admitted to feeling discouraged at some point in time. It is not just you facing this problem. Now that you realize that, be encouraged and find others who are struggling just like you are. Network with them and build relationships with them. Establish a Proverbs 27:17 relationship and encourage one another.
The number of those considering leaving the ministry is not as high as thought: While discouragement is a very real problem we will all face at some time in ministry, the number considering leaving is not that high. This was a little bit of a surprise to me, but even in the books by London and Wiseman there is proof that most pastors will stick it out because of the calling God has placed on their lives. If you are discouraged, do not give up, hang in there, rely on God and learn from your discouragement. All things happen for a purpose.
Remember these things- This information comes from your peers. These are the people that are going through the same stuff. They celebrate the same victories we have and suffer the same failures we face. If we can grasp this, we will be well on our way to fighting discouragement in ministry when it arises.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
We have looked at several literature resources, but if we are to determine that discouragement is a very real problem, we must put faces to the problem in order to establish that it is a very real concern in ministry today. This was done in two ways, through the research of literature above and through an interview process with several youth and staff pastors from around the United States. These people were selected at a regional youth event in the Church of the Nazarene. In addition to those at the regional event, several other ministry people that I know were willing to provide information as well. This allowed us to spread the region out from not only the southeast, but also as far north as Michigan.
These men and women have been in ministry for various time periods, are in various positions, and are in various types of churches (the churches vary in size and denomination). In addition to this, some are paid staff, some are volunteers, and still others are currently unemployed and looking for a position. The hope in choosing a variety of people in various ministries/positions is to see if common ground does exist when looking for causes of discouragement in ministry.
It is important to note that with the small size of people interviewed with these surveys we cannot make concrete statistics about discouragement in ministry, but with the surveys we can begin to see some potential patterns that exist among those dealing with discouragement in ministry. With further study with a larger contact group we may be able to gather more definitive information, but the purpose here is simply to look for patterns and similarities that may exist among the surveys. Each of the surveys covered general areas of ministry including personal information, church background, and their relationship with the senior pastor, and time management/personal life management. These areas seem to be common sources of discouragement so it was important to see what the individuals had to say about each of the areas.
A copy of the survey is listed on the next page. We will cover the results of the survey in the next chapter.
Name/Age (will not be used in the paper):
How many years in present position?
How many years in ministry?
Do you have a degree in ministry or specialized training? If so specify:
About your church/position
Where are you currently serving (city/state only)?
What is your position at the church?
Church size (average AM attendance)
Size of youth ministry?
What type of area is your church located in?
· Other (please specify)
Please list all of the areas that YOU personally are responsible for planning:
How many hours per week do you invest in your ministry?
How supportive is your church of you? Scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest
Which of these best describes you:
· Lone ranger (I do all the planning/run the ministry
· Team player (I would die if not for my team)
· Dreamer (I wish I wasn’t a lone ranger, but don’t have a team)
· Other (please specify)
What are your frustrations with your ministry (if any)
· Lack of support
· Lack of time
· Other (please specify)
What are your frustrations with your students (if any)
What are your frustrations with parents (if any)
· Unrealistic Expectations (fix my kid)
· Lack of support/involvement
· Other (please specify)
Your relationship with your senior pastor
1. Would you describe your relationship with your senior pastor as (mark all that apply):
Other (please specify)
2. How do you think your senior pastor views you?
· A big kid
· The expert on teens
· Someone who needs constant watching
· Other (please specify)
3. How often do you interact with your senior pastor?
· Only when an issue needs addressed
· Senior pastor who?
· We have an open relationship with good communication
On a scale of 1-10 how close do you feel to your senior pastor?
1. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being very organized and 1 being “what’s a calendar” how would you describe your time management skills?
2. How deliberate are you about taking a day off? (10 being very good, 1 being “what’s a day off)
3. How often do you do your daily devotions?
4. How often do you feel discouraged in ministry?
· 1-2 Xs a month
· Occasionally (every so often)
· Rarely (almost never)
· Discouragement what is that?
5. Have you ever considered leaving the ministry because of discouragement?
If so, how often?
· 1-2 X’s a month
· Occasionally (every so often)
· Rarely (almost never
If you feel comfortable sharing, why have you considered leaving (this would be extremely helpful, and remember all of this information will be confidential)?
Example: lack of support, financial reasons, etc.
Could I share this in my paper-without revealing your name?
Why do you think youth pastors leave the ministry/change churches so often?
Chapter 2-Literature review
As a part of this project there were several resources that I referenced to gather information. I will not take the time to reference each of them in this chapter, but each of them will be listed in a bibliography at the end and quotes from some of them may appear at various points in this project. The following resources though are the ones that have proven most useful to a better understanding of the problem of discouragement (more specifically in ministry) and how to solve the problem when it arises. Again the goal is to be aware of the problem of discouragement so that when faced with it we know how to handle it leading to a lifetime of ministry instead of a crippling depression.
Parrott, Dr. Less III. Helping the Struggling Adolescent. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.---
Before we can address the problem itself, we need to be aware of the problem and how exactly it affects us. The following book covers issues such as anxiety which can lead to discouragement and depression which is the result of discouragement going unchecked. There are several things that were helpful in this resource.
The first are the causes of depression. According to Parrott, “feelings of discouragement can take on the debilitating characteristics of depression.” (Parrott, 117) This thought reaffirms the thought that if we let our discouragement go unchecked it can lead to a depression. He also lists several characteristics that we need to be looking for in order to know if our discouragement. A few of these are loss of interest, being easily agitated or irritated, feelings of inferiority, worthlessness, and helplessness. (Parrott, 117) As depression worsens, one can notice additional symptoms such as loss of appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia, social withdrawal, difficulty in concentration, and an inability to enjoy pleasurable activities. (Parrott, 117) We need to be aware of these so as we face discouragement if we notice any of these trends we need to find help in some way before we slip into a deeper state of depression.
There is some hope provided in this resource as well. Parrott lists several types of depression in three main categories-“endogenous (chemical related), reactive (brought on by real or imagined threats), and neurotic (a lifestyle response to stress and anxiety). (Parrott, 117) Most of the depression that comes from discouragement in ministry is more than likely a reactive depression due to some circumstance we are facing in ministry. This provides hope since according to Parrott since “this usually lasts no longer than a few months.” (Parrott, 117) This is very beneficial to us as we look at solving the problem of discouragement in ministry because if we just hang in there and persevere, the depression will pass with time as will the discouragement.
Now that we have looked at a resource that better helps us understand discouragement and depression and what it is, let us look at some resources that help us to better understand how to battle these two when faced with them.
Fields, Doug. Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry. El Cajon, CA: Youth Specialties, 2002.---
While this resource is primarily a “how to” manual for those starting out in youth ministry, Fields does offer some very useful information on fighting discouragement in ministry. In addition to this, he also offers a chapter on staying spiritually fresh (which can prevent discouragement or greatly help when one is faced with it) as well as dealing with difficult people (which can be another source of discouragement among pastors). The greatest help in solving our problem though comes in the chapter specifically called “why do I feel this way? Dealing with discouragement.”
In this chapter Fields opens with this quote: “Discouragement may be the single most powerful feeling that entices great women and men to exit prematurely from youth ministry. If you can learn how to navigate the ebb and flow of discouragement, many years of youth ministry effectiveness can be listed on your life’s resume.” (Fields, 41) This sums up the whole purpose behind this project and affirms the thought that if discouragement goes unchecked, it can lead to depression and ultimately one’s premature exit from youth ministry or ministry in general.
It is my belief that there are several common causes of discouragement in ministry. I have mentioned some of them in previous chapters, and will go into greater detail about them in a later chapter. However Fields does provide an extensive list of causes of discouragement in ministry and some of them are as follows: “lack of respect, miscommunication, conflict, criticism, conflicting expectations, no support from the senior pastor, minimal support from parents, staff, and volunteers, verbal abuse, and a failed program.” (Fields, 42) All of these are similar to some of the reasons mentioned earlier and those that will be covered in a later portion of this project.
In addition to all of this information, Fields lists feelings that will discourage us in our spiritual journey of ministry as well as shares some of his own personal struggle with discouragement which shows that we are not alone when we face this problem in ministry.
Fields also show us what discouragement is. It is “untimely” meaning it comes when we least want it (usually after a success). It is “selfish” meaning that it places the focus on ourselves and turns us inward instead of upward. Finally it is “lonely” meaning that it is a very dark time in our lives that pulls us down. (Fields, 46-47)
In addition to all of the information listed above, Doug Fields also shares some of his own experience with discouragement in youth ministry. He also shares some practical steps to battling discouragement in ministry. Both of these areas are relevant to the problem we are trying to solve, but since these would fall into another chapter I will make reference to them at a later time.
Stier, Greg. Ministry Mutiny. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006.--
To say that this resource changed my life would be an understatement. This youth ministry resource is written in fable format, but provides some extremely relevant information for anyone who is struggling with discouragement in ministry. In this book Greg Stier tells the story of Ty, a youth minister who has “had enough.” He has written his resignation letter with plans to turn it in after he attends what he believes will be his last youth network meeting. He meets Tony a veteran youth worker who introduces Ty to 6 life changing principles to help revolutionize his ministry with his students. The six principles are:
1. “Listen for God’s whisper (search the scriptures and then reflect, pray write, and listen for what God is trying to show you)”
2. “Get real” (find out where each of your teens stands spiritually and then work with them individually to help them take the next step spiritually)
3. “Go wide” (share the gospel, and encourage your teens to do the same on a regular basis)
4. “Grow deep” (make disciples-instill in your students the 30 core truths about God they need to know)
5. “No More Outsourcing” (Get those in your church involved, especially parents)
6. “Build on values, not fads” (build your ministry and focus your effort around the five values mentioned in Acts 2:42-47 (Stier, 159-162)
My initial pull toward this book came from reading the back sleeve which of course introduces Ty who is ready to give up and walk away from the ministry. As I shared earlier, that is where I was 6 months ago. After reading this book though, I feel that this is an excellent resource in helping us to solve the problem of discouragement in ministry. This book focuses on the programming aspect of ministry. We have been trained over the last few years in youth ministry to focus on the program. The bigger the program and bigger the ministry, the more successful the youth pastor is. This can lead to discouragement though for those who are in a smaller church or who are not seeing the results that the “big event” ministries are accomplishing. This resource provides a great game plan for someone who is struggling with overcoming discouragement caused by the stress of getting results.
Wiseman, Neil B. & HB London Jr. The Heart of a Great Pastor. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1994.---
This book is ultimately designed to be a resource for pastors who need encouragement. It was written primarily “to help pastors renew their sense of self-worth and to revive their passion for ministry.” (Wiseman & London, 11) That statement alone makes this a vital resource in solving our problem of discouragement in ministry. Although it was written more for pastors who lead a church, there are several helpful chapters that can be used to better know how to battle discouragement in ministry.
In the first chapter, “Every Assignment is Holy Ground,” we get the reassurance that God places us where we are supposed to be, and no matter where that is, we have a purpose while we are there. The authors provide some questions that we must answer when we are struggling that will ultimately shape our ministry and determine our effectiveness where we are serving. The questions are as follows:
1. What difference will I make?
2. Why am I here?
3. Who sent me?
4. Is this assignment sacred because God sent me here?
5. What does God want to accomplish here?
(Wiseman & London, 19)
As we are facing discouragement in ministry it is really easy for us to lose our focus as to why we are doing what we are doing. As Fields mentioned earlier in his book, we begin to focus on the “me” aspect of ministry and forget why we are doing what we are doing. These questions help us to refocus ourselves and realize what our true mission is. As we are dealing with discouragement it is important for us to ask these questions of ourselves on a daily basis.
Also in the first chapter, the authors point out that there is potential in every assignment. If you are struggling with discouragement, know that no matter where you are, there is potential there, so stick with it. They point out “There are not enough easy assignments to go around, and most desirable places were difficult until a previous pastor loved the church into greatness.” (Wiseman & London, 26) Ministry is not always going to be easy. They mention that endurance must be transformed into an adventure. Even though things are tough and we are discouraged we can choose joy and happiness in the midst of discouragement. This quote stood out more than any in the chapter. “We can unpack our bags, stop longing for greener pastures and assume spiritual responsibility for our place of ministry. We can claim the territory for God and righteousness.” (Wiseman & London, 27) As you are struggling with discouragement in ministry, know that God has placed you where he wants you to be for a purpose and a plan and no matter where you are there is potential.
Another helpful chapter was entitled “bloom where you’re planted.” This chapter focuses a lot on the idea of how we often look at difficult times when we are discouraged and think that if we could just go some place else things would be better. The truth is that when we are faced with discouragement in ministry we need to make sure we realize that God wants us to grow and serve where we are currently at, no matter how difficult it may seem. We need to rely on God for the health of our ministries and not ourselves. The authors point out this fact that is encouraging: “An absolutely indispensable factor in sustaining a healthy ministry is the willingness for a pastor to view his setting from God’s perspective.” (Wiseman & London, 59)
If we are discouraged in our current ministry setting, we need to look at it from God’s perspective. Another encouraging thing they point out comes from this quote: “Apparently the pastors who long for greener pastures have never considered the reality that every good place requires someone to transform a tough assignment into a special, desirable church by blooming there.” (Wiseman & London, 59) Too often when we get discouraged we want to give up too easily. One of the most popular statistics thrown around in youth ministry circles today is the idea that the average youth pastor stays in one place for only 18 months. Whether or not this is actually true could be debated, but what would happen if we stuck things out and trusted that God has us where we are for a reason?
If we are struggling with discouragement in ministry and that has led to a depression, we may or may not be questioning our call to ministry and whether or not God can even use us. In the chapter “fall in love with your call again” the authors give us a list of questions that can be useful in reaffirming God’s call on our lives even when we don’t see it. Here are the questions:
1. Who called you?
2. Who started you in this work?
3. How does love leak out of ministry?
4. What will it take to make love your most compelling motivation again?
5. Has secular culture strangled significance out of Christian service for you?
(Wiseman & London, 117)
If we are able to answer these questions when we begin to struggle with discouragement, perhaps we may be able to ward off the depression that comes with questioning whether God can and is using you. All of the material in this book is very helpful for battling discouragement in ministry. These questions of self-realization are ultra important to help us to battle the discouragement that comes. If we are able to answer all of these questions honestly perhaps we can prevent some of the discouragement that we will face when ministry gets tough in our current situation.
Wiseman, Neil B & HB London Jr. Pastors at ‘Greater’ Risk. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2003.---
This book is actually a reprint of a book originally published in 1993 as Pastors at Risk. This version is an updated edition that addresses more issues that pastors are facing in ministry today that weren’t an issue when the original book was written just ten years earlier. It is again a valuable resource just as the previous book even though it is written for pastors in general and not just one specific type of pastor. It is meant to encourage and challenge pastors who are struggling and so it fits right in line with our desire to address the problem of discouragement in ministry.
One of the first things that stood out in this book was the idea of balance. London points to this concept in an interview with James Dobson. He says, “Their (referring to pastors) most pressing problems relate to time, money, and family. Balance is the principle issue; everyone wants it but few seem able to make it work for them.” (Wiseman & London, 23-24) Another main cause of discouragement among pastors is the issue of balancing all of the expectations and roles we must fulfill. If we are aware of the pulls on our lives and we can begin to better manage these areas we will be less likely to battle discouragement in this area. Another element that the authors emphasize is the concept of perseverance. They mention this statistic: “The typical pastor has his greatest ministry impact at a church in years 5-14 of his pastorate; unfortunately, the average pastor lasts only five years at a church.” (Wiseman & London, 38) Things may be tough, but if we can stick it out and make the best of it, we will see the fruits of our labor in time. Ministry, especially youth ministry, is about planting seeds and waiting for them to cultivate in the lives of our students.
Wiseman and London also point out several “hazards” of ministry in this book. These hazards range anywhere from unrealistic expectations, to leadership struggles, shifting morality, and many more. It is interesting to note again, that these are the same items that cause frustration and discouragement for us as youth pastors. This points us towards the importance of networking with others who are ministering with us. I’ll talk more about the senior pastor/staff pastor relationship later, but perhaps if we look at our ministries this way, we might improve our relationships with our supervisors and seek to work alongside each other a little closer.
The biggest help in this book came in the chapter geared toward “recovery from stress and burnout.” While it is primarily an interview Archibald Hart it provides some valuable insight into learning how to deal with discouragement as well as recover from the burnout that may occur from depression due to discouragement in ministry. One statistic that was somewhat shocking, but expected states that “45.5 percent of pastors say they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.” (Wiseman & London, 175) If you are dealing with depression and are ready to call it quits, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! According to that statistic, it is very common among pastors, so hang in there, realize there are those who have been through it before you and there is hope. Another useful item comes in a list of eight top areas of stress among pastors. These are almost identical to the ones mentioned earlier that will be hashed out in greater detail later in the manual. If we can begin to better manage these and understand where the stress comes from, we can begin to anticipate discouragement, perhaps even prevent it and keep us from heading down the slippery slope that leads to depression and possibly leaving the ministry. Here are the eight areas:
o Life in the parsonage (fish bowl syndrome)
o Concern for children/spouse
o Family dynamics (Wiseman & London, 172)
Since these are common and similar for staff pastors as well, we need to make ourselves aware that eventually we may be faced with stress from one or more of these areas. The sooner we can grasp managing these, the sooner we will have less to lead to discouragement. Wiseman and London even provide some ways to deal with these stresses. They suggest the following in dealing with these stresses and learning to live within the call that God has placed on your life wherever you are serving no matter how difficult it is (Wiseman & London, 185):
· Rethink your day off (don’t just automatically take Monday)
· Welcome your spouse into prevention (don’t be a lone ranger-she is your partner)
· Reach across isolation (you need others and they need you)
· Take charge of your prevention or recovery (YOU have to decide to deal with the burnout and stress that cause discouragement and lead to depression)
· Confront your addictions (Don’t use ministry as your “drug of choice”
· Limit the number of clinging vines (You can’t carry too many emotional people at one time)
· Get back to doing what you want to do (work through the pressing demands to get to the more satisfying areas of ministry)
All of the concepts listed in the book above are essential in helping us to refocus our lives in ministry. If we are able to refocus we are less likely to deal with the discouragement that will come with frustrations in the areas above.
Fields, Doug. What Matters Most. El Cajon, CA: Youth Specialties, 2006.---
This last book is a small jewel that is invaluable to the youth pastor who is dealing with discouragement. While it is short (only 96 pages) it is something that everyone in youth ministry should read. Even if the person is somehow immune to the discouragement we are referring to, this book is priceless. The entire focus of the book is simply about stepping back, looking at our lives and what really matters the most. Do all of the programs, speaking engagements, and activities matter in the grand scheme of things? What good are they to us if they lead us down a road that leads to burnout, which leads to discouragement, which leads to depression? This little book asks us to do the following three things:
1. Define what matters most in our lives.
2. Ask some tough questions of ourselves.
3. Add “no” to our vocabulary (Fields, 96)
Fields suggests that if we do these three things, we are well on the road to a spiritual health in ministry that is way beyond many who are serving today. This is so helpful to solving our problem because one of the major causes of discouragement is being overwhelmed with commitments and expectations. If we learn early how to say no and draw specific boundaries, we automatically eliminate one stress from our lives and that is one less stress that can contribute discouragement in ministry.
All of the resources mentioned above in addition to the ones I will reference later in the paper and in the bibliography are essential in helping us to solve the problem of discouragement in ministry. If we take the time to apply the concepts mentioned in the items like these we are bound to find ways to battle the discouragement that we will experience during our time in ministry.
Hanging out and Hanging Tough:
“Dealing with Discouragement as a Staff Pastor in the Church of Today”
Ministry discouragement is very real. It is not something to take lightly and it cannot be avoided. At some point in ministry almost everyone will suffer from some type of discouragement. If left unchecked, this discouragement can lead to depression or worse yet- someone leaving the ministry. It may be caused by conflict, lack of support, or any other number of things, but the truth is it is very real. It also seems to be especially prominent in the lives of those who are serving as staff pastors in ministry. Often this seems to be caused by things such as multiple responsibilities that can be overwhelming, lack of support from senior staff/supervisors, unrealistic expectations from individuals in the church, or a myriad of other things that affect staff pastors on a deeper level. In this project we will be looking at the issue of discouragement in ministry specifically on the level of a staff pastor as well as how to deal with it when it arises. Discouragement most likely will occur at some point in one’s ministry so if one knows how to anticipate it they know better how to handle it. The end result will be a mini-manual that anyone struggling with discouragement in ministry can use to help them through this difficult time. It will be a combination of the materials reviewed for this project, the method of research conducted (surveys and interviews), Words of encouragement from Scripture, thoughts from professionals and peers in ministry, and a chapter that pulls it together by showing ways of fighting discouragement by being aware of it before it happens as well as tools to remember when one is fighting it.
Have you ever felt like giving up? Have you ever thought about leaving the ministry? Have you ever wondered whether or not God could use you or if you were just in His way? Well, I have as well as many others-and that is why there is a need for a project of this multitude. What am I talking about? I am talking about discouragement in ministry. It is a very real occurrence and it can be crippling. If you have never experienced it, you may not understand, but if you have you will know exactly what I am referring to. The following quotes from my personal blog (http://mattandmeganmckee.blogspot.com/) over the past year illustrate where I have been, what this project is about, and why I am choosing to pursue this problem in ministry. Here are two excerpts-one from last October and another from more recently:
“Honestly for a long while I have felt like I have been dying inside… this year to me was going to be make or break. I was ready to give up. I have felt like I have been pushing and pushing without any results and have felt attacked… by parents and apathy among the youth ministry students and leaders. So I really had been contemplating whether or not I was cut out for this...Or whether it was even worth it or if I was God's man or was just in God's way.
“God I am so discouraged tonight. I just don't understand what I am doing wrong. I don't understand why these teens don't like me. I am pouring myself into them and doing all I can do, yet when it comes to youth night, a fun outing, or spiritual event they don't come. Friday night we had the senior high night out and only 3 came, tonight for the TLW rally only one "wanted" to come and we had to drag the other three to get them to go. I hear things like "they're too busy," "the have to do this school event," or worse yet and the one that hurts the most-"they went to another church with so and so." Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for the ones who do come, but I am discouraged. God I don't know what to do…Am I not fun enough? Do I preach too long? Do I not play enough games? Is it because I sometimes side with their parents or try to help them see that we as adults (parents too) do love them? I have been trying everything I know how to do and yet they still don't come or they bring the mood down when they do come. What am I doing wrong? Are they trying to push me out? Do they want us to leave? We are trying so hard to show them we care and spend time with them as much as we can, but something isn't working. I know you aren't done with us here yet. God I'm not going to give up, but I am just discouraged tonight, please touch my heart this evening, I need your love tonight.” (February, 2007)
When I wrote the first journal entry in October of last year I was sensing that something was wrong, but I didn’t want to admit it. I passed it off as selfishness and accounted it to a lack of a deeper relationship with God. It wasn’t until just before I wrote the second entry that I realized that this discouragement had slipped into something much deeper-depression. I struggled with admitting that it was real because I was a pastor. Pastors are supposed to help people with discouragement and depression, not deal with it themselves right?
The truth is that discouragement is very real among pastors. Most pastors at some point will experience discouragement to some degree during their time in the ministry. The problem arises though in how they handle the discouragement. As mentioned left unchecked it can lead to a depression which could ultimately cause the end of a career for a minister.
So the question arises then how do we handle discouragement as pastors? In the next few chapters we will provide a manual that can be used to combat discouragement when faced with it. There will be several elements to this project manual.
The first will be a literature review featuring resources that can be used to better understand discouragement and depression as well as practical thoughts and material that is both relevant to and encouragement for pastors who are struggling with discouragement. These resources will include journals from those in youth ministry, websites dedicated to encouraging those who are discouraged (including blogs), as well as various books ranging in topics from starting out in ministry to staying the course in ministry. Each of these will provide some useful element when fighting discouragement in ministry.
The next chapter will explain in detail the research method used in gathering information about pastors who deal with discouragement. The primary method used for this project featured an interview process and surveys that were given to youth pastors within my district and region in the Church of the Nazarene as well as a select few group of youth pastors/staff pastors in the Church of the Nazarene and other holiness denominations scattered throughout the United States. This research features only a small number of people and will not be able to be used to show concrete statistics about discouragement in ministry, but it will be useful in seeing some possible trends that with further study could possibly be proven. The purpose of the interviews and surveys is to gather information about those serving in staff ministry in order to see what common frustrations they may be experiencing, how the different dynamics of their churches affect their outlook, and how their support network helps or hurts them in ministry. With this information we will be able to begin to understand some of what may cause ministry frustration which leads to discouragement, and if left unchecked depression.
The fourth chapter will highlight the results of the surveys as well as offer words from those serving in the trenches as staff pastors themselves. The results of the surveys as well as comments made by these ministry professionals will help us to gather some possible common causes of discouragement and depression among staff pastors (and perhaps pastors in general). We will look at common themes that arise and see where the frustrations lie that lead to discouragement in ministry. These results will help someone struggling with discouragement to realize that they are not alone, they are normal, and there is hope. These results will also help make us aware of these things so that the next time we are faced with them we will know how to respond and hopefully avoid the discouragement we are currently struggling with.
The fifth chapter will look at discouragement through the eyes of the Scripture. We will look at practical theological thoughts that help us to better understand several things. First we will realize that we are God’s and His plan is ultimately better than our plan. Second we will realize that we are not alone. Finally we will look at some practical applications for our lives through the ministry of Jesus and what He has to say to us about discouragement and depression. Often I have found that discouragement in my life is more prominent during times of spiritual struggle. The more we wrap our minds around the Scripture, the more prepared we will be the next time we are faced with discouragement in ministry. That is why this chapter is so useful to this project.
The sixth chapter will serve as a catch all chapter where we pull it all together. We will have a better understanding of why there are discouraging moments in ministry, what are some common causes of these moments, and how we can deal with them when they arise. Basically I will be pulling everything together from the research and adding some final thoughts on solving the problem that is discouragement in ministry. We will know what the problem is, and this will reaffirm how we can solve the problem, or at least be better prepared the next time we face it.
The final chapter will be a conclusion and wrap up. It will feature some final encouraging words and will serve as a summary and rehashing of everything we have read thus far. It will put all the pieces together and will bring closure to the issue at hand. It may not “solve” the problem of discouragement in ministry, but it will be a resource that someone can use when faced with difficult times in ministry.
Just to summarize where we are going with this project, let me explain things once more. Discouragement is a very real problem for those serving in ministry. It can be brought on by many things which will be examined, and if left unchecked it can lead to a deeper problem of depression. This project looks at this issue and how to combat it now and in the future resulting in a lifetime of ministry rather than a burned out, wounded pastor who leaves the ministry because of depression before his time is done.
Friday, April 20, 2007
- I AM OFFICIALLY GRADUATING! The paper is in, accepted, and the grade is in so I get to walk next weekend so all you folks from IWU and Ohio-see ya next weekend!
- Sanjaya went Bye-Byeuh!!! I can finally watch and enjoy American Idol without no talent boy tainting the screen each week
LIFE IS GOOD!
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Monday, April 09, 2007
After getting off the train it was time to catch the "Jammin' Jungle parade" on its return trip. Traveler's note: This parade begins and ends right in front of the safari. I would suggest waiting for it to go make its trip around the tree of life and then catch it as it returns to Africa where it ends-the crowd won't be as bad, and you'll get a better view. Also around lunch time, keep your eyes our for cast members as they will be granting "wishes" and making people honorary parade marshals (meaning you get to be in the parade). Rating 9 for the costuming.
It was now time to head back Everest for our fast pass ride, but since we had to head back to the middle of the park, we took a detour through the bottom of the tree of life and hit my favorite Disney 4d attraction "It's tough to be a bug." This is still my favorite of the Disney 4d attractions with "Muppet's 3d" taking a close 2nd. The interaction with animatronic figures and effects really do make you feel like you are living in a bug's world and seeing things their way. Traveler's Note: This is a great attraction, however, it does have a fairly high thrill factor with realistic effects-plus it is VERY loud so it may be a bit much for younger kids. I would suggest testing it once before taking them in. I have been in it several times where kids SCREAM as soon as Hopper appears. Just a suggestion. The wait isn't very long usually so it shouldn't be hard for one of you to check it out first. Rating 9.
After catching Everest one last time, we decided to head to catch "Dinosaur" and "Primeval Whirl." I would recommend spending a little bit of time near these attractions, as it is almost like a prehistoric carnival and has a bit of a kid theme to it, with a great fossil crawl through as well as some other neat things. As it relates to the rides. "Primeval Whirl" is your classic wild mouse coaster with a twist-it spins! It is a fun little coaster, but can be a little rough during the spinning. It is fun and will get a laugh out of the kids. Rating 7. "Dinosaur" is a thrill ride that I highly recommend, but suggest you ride it first to see if it is appropriate for your kids. It is a neat little attraction through the dark, but there are some parts of it that can again be a little much for younger kids. Rating 8.
After the park closed, Traveler's note:Animal Kingdom closes earlier than the rest of the parks, so make sure you plan something for your evening. we headed to Bob Evans off property for supper. Again, it is ALWAYS cheaper to eat off property unless you have a dining plan through Disney. After supper, we headed back to EPCOT for their evening show "Illuminations." We headed straight to the United Kingdom in World Showcase, which I have been told is the best place to watch the show and headed for the spot that someone had suggested to watch it from. Needless to say, it was blocked off for a "special engagement." A little bit frustrated, I asked the lady if there was a chance we could get in a little bit closer to the start of the show. She asked how many of us there were and when I explained it was just my wife and I, she produced to special passes for us "dream viewing passes." OUR DREAM WAS GRANTED!So we got to watch Illuminations from the area where we had been told to watch it, with a bunch of newlyweds. It was great and a lot of fun. As it relates to the show, this is still not my favorite production. It is just okay for me, the coolest part is that all of the pyro happens just above the water, so it is pretty cool, but there just doesn't seem to be as much substance and great music as I wanted. Rating 6.5
Traveler's Note: If it is not roped off, the best place to view Illuminations in my opinion is just to the right of the fish and chips stand in the UK. There is a sit down pub there as well, and just to the right of the stand is a walkway that heads down to some benches. Get there at least an hour ahead of time to mark your spot, but note that it may be roped off, so no guarantees.
After Illuminations, we headed back out to our car and were greeted by what is still one of my favorite sights at Disney-Spaceship Earth at night. Then just to keep from battling traffic, we took the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom and back (actually we were hoping to catch Wishes since the park closed at 11 that night, but no luck) before heading back to the hotel for the night. All in all, it was a great day. Next up...MGM and one last go around at the Magic Kingdom.