I was once talking to a staff member of a large church who was so frustrated he was ready to quit. But he couldn’t. For a multiple of reasons, most important the fact he didn’t feel God had released him yet, he knew he was going to be in this position for a season.
He was frustrated because he had given everything he knew how to give, but nothing seemed to matter. He felt under appreciated, under utilized, and unfulfilled. He felt his supervisor never acknowledged his accomplishments and controlled all his efforts. He had tried confronting gently, firmly and directly, but nothing seemed to make things better. He was going home every night wishing he didn’t have to return the next day. He was ready to quit, but, again, he had sensed no release from God in this position and believed he was supposed to stay at the time.
What he was experiencing was not depression, in my opinion. It could have turned into that at some point, if he was not careful, but at the moment it was simply frustration. Severe frustration.
And though the problems were more external than internal – they were work related. they were impacting every other aspect of his life. They always do.
So what should someone do in this situation?
(By the way, I don’t think God always leaves us in situations like this. These times always serve a purpose in our life, but many times God releases us to pursue a healthier environment. Don’t confuse loyalty to a bad leader with obedience to God. They aren’t always the same. That requires walking close enough to God to discern His will.)
There will be times when, apart from any God-calling, the economics, timing or other personal or family situations dictate you stay for now. What do you do then?
Here’s the reality I had to share with him: The truth is we can’t control our environment. We can’t control other people and their reactions to us. We can only control how we respond to life.
Here are a 7 things I encouraged him to do:
Pray – That’s an obvious answer, but it’s the most powerful answer. The question I had for him is have you really prayed? Have you prayed for God to change the circumstances or for Him to change you? There’s a huge difference in those two prayers.
Remember the good times – I keep a file of memories. Notes I’ve received of encouragement. Emails that came at “just the right time”. I store them in a special file and, on especially difficult days, I pull out this file and review better days. My life has been filled with seasons. Some good and some bad. I want to remember the good times when I’m experiencing the bad. And I’m always encouraged looking back that life is seasonal. There will be better days ahead again.
Share your burdens – Now is not the time to be proud. You need some people with whom you can share your burdens. Be honest. Don’t believe the lie that pastors have to live life alone. You don’t. Find someone in another church. Find a trusted leader in the church. Don’t share with a motive to stir trouble and don’t gossip, but be honest. Share your side, not anyone else’s. The goal is to get the support of a listening ear you need. (Don’t be afraid to get professional help if needed.)
Rest – Many times, in my experience, these days come most when we are tired. Our emotions get the best of us. Would it be better to disappear for a short time or disappear altogether? You can’t sustain your best work long-term when you are experiences this level of stress and that will only make your life more miserable. Get away and rest. NOW.
Renew your heart – Remind yourself of the vision to which you were called. You weren’t called to an environment, or the pastor of a church, or even to a church. You were called to a person – Jesus. He loves you. He wants to invest in you. He has a plan for your life. Lean into Him again and allow Him to restore your passion for Him that is bigger than the place where He has you now.
Do the best you can – Do the best work you can within the ministry context you are called to do them. You may not be able to impact the entire church, but you can impact your individual ministry, even if it’s only by impacting the people within your ministry. You’ll need to find your fulfillment in smaller wins right now, but allow those moments in ministry to fuel you and keep you going.
Learn all you can – We learn most in the hardest days. Those aren’t necessarily helpful words to hear in times like this, but they are so incredibly true. Keep a journal of your experiences – what happens and how you feel about them. You will use these insights in the days to come and look back on this as a significant growth experience personally and professionally. If you learn things that make you better later this won’t be a wasted period of your life and ministry, but may even prove to be a valuable period.
That was my advice. (Update – his supervisor has sense moved on to another church and things have greatly improved for him.)
Have you ever been in that kind of situation?
Join the discussion 23 Comments
really informative post thanks for sharing, really helps me alot
Ron, What about as a pastor? I have been the Senior for five years and took the church from inward focus to "Oh heck no we are not doing that!" The culture is, "The pastor does it." I cannot seem to break it. I took a $10000 pay cut to keep the church a float. We have no debt minus basic operational expenses. Every event I have the same 3-5 people show up and ask, "What can I do?" I have casted the vision, I encourage giving, I preach well rounded messages and topics. As a church we have an outreach plan, that my wife and I usually end up doing alone. I try to train up men in the congregation but still to no avail. I keep running into the same wall of, "Its your job pastor". I am frustrated beyond means and I am losing my love for ministry.
Thank you for listening (reading)
There are healthy churches. And people. I'm praying for you.
I am in this battle right now, and this post has helped me tremendously. As well your other posts on "Leadership".
Thank you. Praying for you
I feel like I am here right now! I would love to hear your thoughts on when a staff has one toxic member. It's so frustrating. This staff person is alienating so many talented members of our staff, but there are never any consequences. I'm not sure how appropriate it is, but I feel like if nothing changes, then I can't stay. That makes me so sad and even more frustrated! I love this church and the staff, but I do not feel like I can continue to work in the same environment as this person. I have tried to speak to this staff member and the situation only got worse. I have taken my concerns to my superiors and senior pastor and was told they would "handle it." I'm just not sure how long to wait until I call it quits.
Thanks for letting me ramble, I enjoy reading many of your posts.
That's a good blog topic. Thank you for the idea. Praying for you.
Excellent post. Though written in the context of leading a religious community, I whole heartedly believe these lessons can be applied to just about anyone's life. Just shared this on Pinterest, if anyone would like to have a look: http://pinterest.com/blessingsdaily/never-quit-li…
Thank you so much
We went through a time like this several years ago. It was so frustrating, and really seemed pointless to stay where we were. However, God had not released hubby from pastoring that church. Sometimes I look back and wonder what was to gain from such a discouraging and painful situation. I think I personally learned to lean on the Lord alone, to forgive like He did, and to never, never, never, ever give up! As for points above, having a trusted friend who does NOT know the people involved is good advice. Sometimes, venting helps. Also, protecting your wife was a very good suggestion. Hubby could not protect me from everything, but there were things that happened and said that I will never know. And rightly so. Thank you for this blog post today.
Thanks for your good contributions to these posts.
This article works great for church support staff, and I will pass it on through my website and Wednesday blog. Thanks, Ron.
Good thoughts. As someone who has been in this situation before, I can definitely say that finder a trusted person to talk to is huge. I would also add to try not to let that person be your wife. Tell her what is going on. She deserves to know, but you don't need to bombard her ever day with your misery.
Great post, you knocked the ball out of the park on this one. There are alot more folks going thru this than we realize.
Yes. I think so too. Lot more.
Very nicely put, start to finish. Anxiety and paranoia are so destructive when a leader is ruled by them. It makes sense that future spiritual leaders would be tested by it for a season. The discomfort you describe can expose how much God has become for us a means to an end rather than an end in Himself. It provokes the tough question: what do I want more: God or just relief?
Great thoughts, Ron. I appreciate they way you encourage leaders. You are adding a lot of value to alot of people.