The Hardest Thing for Some People in Ministry to Do

Teenagers Serving A Meal To A Man

I was talking to the Executive Director of a homeless ministry recently. Everyday, she feeds hundreds of meals. Every night the ministry boards dozens of men and women. They clothe people. They help prepare people for job interviews. It’s an amazing ministry, doing great work, but the leader is tired, the budget is stretched, and the volunteers are thin and everyone is worn out emotionally and physically.

What’s the problem? The challenge?

It was easy to diagnose. The leader never has time to do board development. She never has time to fundraise. She never has time to cast the vision. She never has time to plan and dream. She never has time to invest in anything that lasts bigger than today.

It’s a problem. It’s a challenge.

And, if she’s not careful…and I hate to be the one to say this to such a wonderful ministry and passionate ministry leader…eventually, it has the potential to tremendously cripple the ministry. If fact, the future of the ministry, in my professional organizational leadership opinion, is in jeopardy now.

Show me a over-worked and tired leader. Show me stressed volunteers. Show me a thin budget. Show me a ministry with more demands than the resources or people to meet them…

And, I’ll show you a ministry that is headed for certain trouble unless something is addressed.

It reminds me of the hardest thing I’ve seen for ministers to do who love doing ministry.

If he or she has a heart to serve others. If he or she loves helping people…connecting with people…ministering to people…

The hardest thing to do…

Is to step back and see the bigger picture.

They have a hard time stopping ministry long enough to explore longer-term issues. They have a hard time doing, what seems to be at the time, unproductive work. There is always one more person who needs to be fed. There is always another hurting person. That’s why the ministry exists, right?

My advice: Be willing to stop feeding one so you can feed dozens more in months to come.

Spend time developing the board. Spend time recruiting more volunteers. Spend time raising more funds. Spend time casting the vision to the community. Spend time simply resting.

It will seem you’re neglecting the ministry for a time, but in the big picture, you’ll be building a better and stronger ministry.

What do you need to stop doing now so you can see even more done later?

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13 thoughts on “The Hardest Thing for Some People in Ministry to Do

  1. Almost seems like there could be room for some kind of public advocate/liaison position, one who is passionate about the work and can share that with others. People tend to support the passion rather than the work. Or have some kind of manager come in to take care of the day-to-day matters to free the leader to become a true leader. Not to separate the leader, of course, but to truly free him or her.

  2. I think sometimes as a leader I feel like there is no one else who can do what I can do and if I stop and take a step back the ministry will come crashing down. However, I try to remind myself that it's not "my" ministry and God doesn't really "need" me. So sometimes the reason we don't take that step back is because we assume that we are vital.

    Great post! Thanks for the reminder!

    • I'm learning that trust is the core issue here. I'm a skeptic as a result of my experiences and as so…I find it extremely hard to just naturally trust that others will get it done with excellence. I too am learning to pass things off to others, to let go of some details so that I can busy with the big picture. Great word Ron – thank you so much for reminding me to focus on what's most important instead of what seems to be most urgent.

  3. I can see where one can get lost in that! It is so much easier to see all that is right in front of you, and justify the need to keep going. I can also see where that same one can get burned out very easily! Thanks for the post!
    Twitter: bryankr

  4. Important advice Ron. We must be able to feed the greater mission. And as leaders that likely where we can use our skills and gifts better to serve more people.