Let’s face it, sometimes the ministry of the associate pastor can get pretty routine. The deadline for the lesson plans and rehearsals come around every week. We attend the same meetings every month. We have budgets to maintain, reports to write, attendance to turn in, meals to manage, and several other things on our to-do list which are not the things that called us with excitement into ministry. There will even be seasons when all of this will make us feel stuck in the proverbial rut, moving from Sunday to Sunday without much newness or excitement.
Like the lost sheep in Jesus’ parable, we didn’t set out to get far away from the shepherd, it just happened. While we had our head down, moving from one tuft of grass to the next, we lost our focus on the big picture. Suddenly we look up one day only to find we are far from where we want to be.
If you have been in ministry for several years, you may even be able to predict when it will happen. One of the times for me is right now, the post-Christmas/pre-Lent season. Other times it will catch you by surprise. You wake up one morning filled with dread about another day in the office doing things which “don’t really matter.”
When those times come, and they will, make an intentional move back toward your first love.
Write a mission statement for your ministry (not the ministry your serve, but what you do) – Remind yourself of why you do what you do in a sentence or two, and make a wallpaper for your desktop, screensaver, or post it someplace you will see it often. The reminder may help you focus on your call to ministry rather than the next thing that needs to get done.
Give something up – A couple of weeks ago, I posted about repenting from task hoarding – giving some things on my to-do list to qualified people. If you are doing things you don’t like, find someone else who would love to do them for you. Not only will that free up some of your time, it will offer someone else an opportunity to use their gifts to the glory of Jesus Christ.
Take some sabbath time – OK, I get it. You’re tired of hearing it, but it’s true. Many of us don’t rest enough, which can quickly lead to stress and burnout. Take a day without opening up your work email, thinking through next week’s lesson, listening to music for the praise team, checking out the Christian bookstore for ideas, etc. Read, journal, catch an old movie on Netflix.
Get started – In the words of the marketers at Nike, “Just do it!” I know there are reports to file and another weekly gathering for which you need to prepare, but follow your love. Get started on what is burning in you. The reports will still be there tomorrow.
Reminisce – Having served in youth ministry for many years, I have lots of memories of kids I have had the privilege to know throughout my ministry. Some are still Facebook friends, and others I get to see on their spring breaks and holidays. Take a moment to remember the impact God has made in the lives of others through you.
Finally, don’t beat yourself up about feeling what you are feeling. I know it doesn’t feel good to do ministry from a rut, to be bored with what you feel God called you to do, but it happens. Every pastor I know has been there at one time or another. You are not alone. The problem is it is tempting to stay there, to wallow in it. Don’t let that happen. When you finally look up and see how far you are from where you intended, take a step back in the right direction.