My wife Tammy and I first met while she and her family were missionaries in Germany. I later proposed to her in a little café just outside of Hamburg. Now 27 years later, we’ve been in full-time ministry together the entire time and have five kids. We’ve lived life—and ministry—together.
Just like any other married couple, we’ve had our ups and downs. But I can honestly say that other than my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with my wife continues to be the best part of my life. When others ask for our “secret sauce,” I give the credit to God, to Tammy and to the principles our parents taught and modeled in front of us. Amidst the many demands of ministry and family life, over the years five principles have become especially important in sustaining our relationship. On the next few pages, I share them, prayerfully hoping that these insights can help you make your marriage ministry-proof.
There are few vocations that can engender burnout like the pastorate. The demands on a pastor’s time, emotions and energy can be overwhelming. When I was a pastor, I often felt at least the symptoms of burnout.
I recently spoke with 17 pastors who had experienced burnout or who felt they came precariously close to burnout. The good news about these pastors is that they moved out of burnout, and now they are re-engaging in exciting and visionary ministries.
So I asked them the obvious question: What did you do to reverse the dark spiral of burnout? The question was open-ended, so they could respond with as many answers as they desired. When it was all said and done, I tabulated 12 different responses from the 17 pastors. Obviously, many of them gave similar answers.
I have a heart for leaders. Especially church leaders. I’d love to help others learn from my mistakes. In fact, that’s a huge motivation for this article.
With that in mind, here are seven simple leadership tips:
1. Fight fewer battles where the win doesn’t matter as much. Okay, honestly, this is hard, because usually people are bringing the battle to you. The petty complaints. The constant grumbling. But it’s nothing new. Read the Old Testament. The key is to remember the overall vision. What’s the end goal? Go for that, and don’t be distracted by the things that won’t matter in eternity.
Pastor Jeff is at it again—this is his third week in a row without a break.
Monday is his day off, and he takes it. But most weeks, it looks like this:
1. Get up early to “enjoy” time with the kids (who are not morning people and therefore not very enjoyable).
2. Then, once the kids are off, he sits to have quiet time. Lately, whenever he opens the Scriptures, he sees options for his next sermon and starts jotting them down.
3. The morning quickly fades, and the “honey do” list needs attention. Jeff mows the lawn, fixes the gutter and trims the hedges.
4. To ease stress on the family and give his wife a break, Jeff decides to make dinner.
5. The kids need shepherding through chores and homework and, at long last, it is time for real rest.
6. But it is almost bedtime, and tomorrow morning is staff meeting. Jeff takes a few moments to collect his thoughts for Tuesday and finally falls asleep.
Every leader faces overwheming moments. Elijah had one of those moments after he faced and killed the entire squadron of Baal prophets while simultaneously calling the people of Israel back into right relationship with God.
Elijah did everything right, but he was completely worn out. There are times in ministry when you just have too many critical issues at once. These times can wear you out.
So, how do you recharge and maintain stability in the maelstrom of ministry?
God loves to turn around the things that you think are absolutely hopeless. How does God take a minus and turn it into a plus? How does He take the negative things in our lives that are bad and use them for good? He makes a cross out of them.
Just because God has called you and decided to use you in ministry does not mean that you aren’t ever going to fail. You are going to fail in your ministry sometimes and you’re going to make mistakes. And when you fail, you are still God’s person. You’re still called and you’re gifted and you’re anointed and filled with His Spirit.
What really matters is how you respond to your failures. Coming soon, I want to share with you some right ways to respond to your failures, but for now, I’d like to share with you three ways NOT to respond to your failures …