7 Priorities to Navigate the “beauty and the Beast” of Career Ministry

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Working on a church team for few years is great, but when you invest your lifetime career effort and energy, it’s a different ball game. It is clearly awesome, but it requires a different level of intentionality.

Your purpose and calling must be clear.

This will encourage you, there are countless church leaders, including myself, decades in and still going strong and with great passion. It’s not always easy, that’s true, but nothing worthwhile is.

Local church leadership can be a bit like the beauty and the beast, the art is to know how to tame the beast and embrace the beauty.

Local church leadership can be a bit like the beauty and the beast, the art is to know how to tame the beast and embrace the beauty.Click & Tweet!

Tame the Beast: 

  • You are always on.  One pastor said, “I’m constantly being told to take my day off . . . unless they need me. Which is it?” That tension is real. We are here to serve, but we must also learn healthy boundaries and rhythms.
  • The job involves a spiritual battle. The better you do the more spirit realm resistance you experience. How’s that for a performance review? We must learn the power of prayer and experience the value in our community of believers.
  • Your spiritual life can become professionalized. Yes, that is true. But that’s only when you sacrifice your own walk with God for the sake of other’s walk with God. (We’ll come back to this one.)

You could add another example, but let’s go to the beauty.  

Embrace the Beauty:

  • Your purpose and profession are combined. Countless church leaders would say, “This is my privilege, my calling and my great joy. I can’t believe I get paid to do this.” I’m one of those! Gratitude is our best response along with serving others well.
  • People are the beauty of God’s creation. We’re all a little bit weird. I sure am, but how beautiful is each of our individual weirdness. If you love people, full time ministry is a lot like human artwork, and the tapestry is beautiful.
  • Your work counts for eternity. Much of what we do on earth will perish, everything you do in alignment with God’s purpose will last for eternity. That is mind-blowing!

I’m confident you could add more examples, but let’s dive a little deeper.

There’s nothing quite like serving the church with career focus and energy, its truly a gift to those who are called.

7 priorities to help make your life’s work in ministry one you’d say: “I’d do it all over again!”:

1) Understand the difference between identity and calling.

Your work is not the foundation of your identity, but it is the expression of your calling. Your identity is in Christ and your calling to local church ministry fulfills your God designed purpose.

All Christians are called to serve, and we can faithfully fulfill that calling from any choice of career, but there is a uniqueness to full time ministry. It’s not better, but it does carry very distinct facets that require our awareness and attention.

Your identity in Christ is your priority and your purpose and passion is expressed through your work.

Keeping your identity in Christ as the priority helps you remember that family and faith are first, and they serve as fuel for your work.

Your work is not the foundation of your identity, but it is the expression of your calling. Your identity is in Christ and your calling to local church ministry fulfills your God designed purpose.Click & Tweet!

2) Embrace the balance of leadership and followership.

A great way to think about followership as a Christian leader starts here: “Who ever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”  Luke 9:23

  • A disciple is a learner. Leaders are first disciples, and we learn from Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and others who teach us and impart wisdom. A good leader embraces the disposition to submit, learn, change and grow.
  • A disciple is a follower. We follow Jesus. If we struggle to follow our earthly leaders, it is likely that we struggle to follow God as well.

Going the distance in ministry, while remaining both emotionally healthy and strategically productive, requires a willingness to follow and the courage to lead.

3) Give yourself permission to tell the truth.

Not every day is a perfect day in ministry, but don’t listen to the lies. The enemy’s #1 tactic to take you out is discouragement. There is purpose and beauty even in the difficult days.

Be honest with yourself about those days, (or season,) and be sure to talk about it with a trusted friend, mentor or counselor. Don’t let it build up. You have to much value to contribute to waste it by bottling up and storing the enemy’s attacks.

No one expects you to be a perfect or superhuman leader, if they do, don’t fall prey to that expectation. Work hard, do your best, and love people, but take care of yourself.

Candidly we often place those unrealistic expectations on ourselves. Trust God to do what you can’t do.

Not every day is a perfect day in ministry, but don’t listen to the lies. The enemy’s #1 tactic to take you out is discouragement. There is purpose and beauty even in the difficult days.Click & Tweet!

4) Find your way to the best environment over the perfect job.

A frequent conversation with young leaders is how to land their perfect job. It’s a legit question. We all want to be in a role that fits our gifting and ability, but your dream job is not the first priority.

It is wise to find a healthy environment to serve in over seeking the perfect job. Your dream job in an unhealthy environment is often a “beast” of a nightmare over the long-haul.

It’s like a professional baseball player who is a good pitcher, and wants to pitch, but lands a job in a terrible organization. It’s not worth it, is it? It’s better to play another position and in time hope to pitch in a great organization. You are still in the game and it’s so much more enjoyable.

The next question is, can’t we have both? Yes, that’s the dream and prayer. But I’ve found that taking the right job (not the dream job) at the right time in a healthy and productive environment leads to (or becomes) your perfect job.

4) Obsess over hearing God’s voice.

When you give your life to serving others, it’s possible to over give. Jesus didn’t say yes to everyone. Listen to God’s voice, He will give you guidance.

“Obsess” might not be the right word, but I can’t think of a better one to express the passion and importance of seeking after and hearing God’s voice.

Hearing God’s voice ought to be the first bullet in all our job descriptions.

In everything from vision-casting to decision-making to resolving conflict, nothing is more important than hearing from God!

As a spiritual leader in the church, your walk with God is above all else. Set time aside for prayer and lean in to hear His voice.

What is the last thing you heard God say to you?

5) Learn to lead through setbacks and suffering.

Advancing the Kingdom of God is not for the faint of heart, there is a price to pay, but the beauty in the eternal results is far greater than any sacrifice we might make.

From financial setbacks to the suffering of betrayal by a friend, like the narratives in scripture, career ministry is not exempt from challenging circumstances.

Developing resilience in our character to bounce back from setbacks and seeking to grow from our sufferings is part of what brings meaning and beauty to ministry. This is not a morbid idea, it is the example Jesus set before us.

We don’t need to seek setbacks and suffer, that is dark, but we should not run from it by avoiding the tough parts of ministry.

Developing resilience in our character to bounce back from setbacks and seeking to grow from our sufferings is part of what brings meaning and beauty to ministry. This is not a morbid idea, it is the example Jesus set before us.Click & Tweet!

6) Think and play the long game. 

Career ministry leadership is more like a marathon than a sprint. We must pace the run, or fall short before the race is over.

Very few things in the church are microwavable. They take time.

The one great contradiction is our worship services, they arrive about fifty-two weekends a year ready or not. That fact can fool us about the rest of ministry.

The point of ministry is always people, and their transformation cannot be rushed. Neither can your development as a leader along with the pace in which you were designed to run.

If you want to go the distance in ministry, pace yourself by finding margin, establishing boundaries, loving your family and make sure you laugh every day.

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