There have been a few seasons where I have fallen out of love with ministry. You know you’re there when ministry feels like a grind. It isn’t fun. You get frustrated with people and don’t experience a lot of joy.
If you’ve been in ministry for more than a few years, I’m guessing you’ve been there. Maybe you’re there right now.
How do you get the joy back? How do you fall back in love with ministry?
I’ve learned some things about this, mostly from listening to veteran pastors and ministry leaders.
When an 80-year-old pastor, who instead of being cantankerous and jaded, is full of joy and life, I tend to listen.
So, here are five habits that I’ve picked up from veteran ministry leaders who are still experiencing joy in ministry.
Connect with Life-Giving People
When I’m not feeling joy, I look for opportunities to connect with people who are life-giving. You know how this works, some people breathe life into your soul, and others, well…leave you feeling more empty than you were.
If you’re in a season where you feel empty and the joy is missing from ministry, invest in your emotional health by spending time with life-giving people.
One of the best places to start is by scheduling a few lunch or coffee meetings with people who just make you smile and laugh.
If you want to pursue a rhythm of life where joy is constant, make spending time with life-giving people a high priority in all seasons.
Make Gratitude a Discipline
Let’s be real—negativity is so easy. It’s natural. At times, it feels like the automatic response of our fallen hearts.
Something I’ve learned from ministry leaders who still have joy after decades in the game is that most of them pursue some sort of gratitude discipline.
My senior pastor, who has been in ministry for just under 40 years, begins every day by writing down “3 gratitudes.” Three specific things that he experienced the previous day that were blessings from God.
In his words, he doesn’t do this because he is naturally a grateful person. He does this because he doesn’t want to become a crabby and cantankerous 80-year-old.
Gratitude is linked to joy, but it doesn’t come naturally. It’s a discipline that needs to be cultivated.
Rhythms of Rest
I’m a monster when I’m tired. Just ask my wife and kids.
One of the most challenging aspects of ministry is that it is emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausting.
We carry the emotional weight of other people’s problems. We work on the weekends. Ministry is exhausting.
If you’re going to make it, if you’re going to be a joy-filled ministry leader 5 years from now, you must pursue rhythms of rest. If you don’t have this, you (like me) will turn into a monster.
When is your sabbath? You need one. Mine is Friday.
When is your next vacation? Schedule vacations far in advance! When you find yourself saying, “I need a break, I should schedule a vacation,” it’s too late.
Joy and rest are linked. This is why God commanded his people to stop and take a sabbath rest.
“I Get To”
Sometimes, joy is as simple as a subtle shift in your attitude toward your work. For example, instead of saying, “I have to…” Shift your vocabulary to, “I get to…”
This week, there is a funeral I HAVE to officiate.
Wait. Shift your thinking.
Serving families in grief, as challenging as that work is, is a gift. It’s something you GET to do.
Work is a gift. Ministry is a privilege. You have been gifted by God to do meaningful work. You “get to” do this.
Something I try to do is correct my wording any time I say, “I have to” do something. I literally stop and verbally correct my attitude. “What I meant to say is, I get to…”.
Focus on Celebration
Church work is about transformation. Stories of transformation bring us joy. They remind us why we do the work that we do.
If you are in a season where joy is lacking, consider adding a question to every conversation you participate in.
“What are you celebrating right now?”
Sometimes we just need to be reminded of what God is doing in, through, and around us. Let the stories of how God is moving encourage you and restore the joy of ministry.
Have you fallen out of ministry? Is joy lacking in your work? Pick one of the five habits described above and make a commitment to pursue that habit this week.
And, if you find yourself in a tough season, my hope and my prayer for you is that God might begin to restore joy in your heart through one of these habits. God bless.