Sunday, April 22, 2007

Fighting Discouragement in Ministry-Part 4

Chapter 4-Research Results/What Your Peers Are Saying

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.

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