The last two years of my life some could categorize me as “AWOL” – absent without leave. However, I would say I was “AWL” – absent with leave. After having served on the staff of local churches as a Children’s Ministry Pastor and some of the many complexities of such a role I found myself in a place where many ministry leaders find themselves at some point in the journey of serving – in a place of utter burnout! After launching a ministry to community kids and families, graduating from seminary with a masters degree, relocating from one geographical area to another, experiencing health challenges, etc, I found out that God had one plan for this high energy, deeply committed individual. That plan was rest! As would be expected, I learned a few things from my journey as a pastor. As I reflected on ministry and life as a single woman in ministry there were many lessons gleaned.
Self Care is essential. Ministry is like a ravenous beast that can devour both men and women, especially the borderline type A personalities like myself. As a single woman I have to guard this area constantly. Take care of yourself or you’ll find yourself unable to take care of anyone else.
Being a “people pleaser” is a self defeating goal! My mother used to say “you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” I found out that she was right and now Aiming to please God alone is a more peaceful place.
Not every place who is willing to hire you is a place where you can thrive. It’s important to make sure that the place where you are invited to serve is a place with matching values and vision.
People are more important than programs. Loving God and loving people should be the foundation of all that we do as leaders.
Clarify and ask the hard questions on the front end. Though there are always questions that can be missed, it’s important to think through some of the things that matter to you about the church, beliefs about children/families, expectations of staff members, and what types of boundaries can be established and tons more.
Being single as a ministry staff person has challenges unknown to married staff members. I learned that many churches place unrealistic expectations on the single person, assuming that boundaries are not as necessary because we don’t have children of our own or a spouse to give our attention to. I also discovered that chances are that a single person will get paid less – enough said. Connect with a place that celebrates and respects boundaries.
Support Systems are Nonnegotiable! No one makes it in ministry alone. It’s not God’s design for us to go solo. Every leader needs at least one or two people whom they can be utterly and totally honest with.
One person cannot do it all! Equip others to be leaders and delegate, delegate, delegate! As a Children’s Pastor I find that some churches hire for this position assuming that this person will be the person who spends time with the kids. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a pastoral role in the truest sense of the word – equipping others for service, preaching, teaching, training teams, pouring into other leaders, and a ton of administrative duties that go with the job, supporting parents, kids, and team members.
Ministry is not easy, and some challenges can’t be avoided – it comes with the package. But God can provide wisdom for navigating our way through the tough stuff. It feels GREAT to be back in the game!!
What are you learning about life and leadership?