Congratulations! Your church is on the move. Let’s say you are feeding the hungry. You are praying for and visiting the sick. You minister to those in prison, jail, and the nursing home. You work hard to clothe those in need, and connect with the homeless. You even have a community garden. You are meeting your goals, whatever they may be, and then some.
So how come you feel empty inside? How come it never feels like enough? You may be unwittingly sabotaging your own efforts. And the soul of the church. Find out if you’re engaging in these self-defeating behaviors and how to turn them around, before they kill your spirit, or worse.
With so many needs in the world, it’s hard to know when enough is enough. Even if you have strong emotional intelligence, you may be blind to these dynamics of self-sabotage. As leaders, it’s crucial to get a handle on these self-defeating behaviors. Left unchecked, they bleed the soul of a church. But when you turn them around, they unleash a whole new source of energy and inspiration.
Secret Sabotage #1: Work Non-Stop
Jesus himself was driven to do ministry. To announce the Kingdom. To heal people. To be proactive on behalf of God. It’s a good thing to be driven, isn’t it?
Yes, and no. Don’t forget that Jesus also took plenty of time away to get recharged. He dodged the crowds on a number of occasions. He went off by himself to be with God. He even dragged his disciples off to retreat with him from time to time. Like other Jews of his day, Jesus observed a Sabbath day of rest and took a break from many of his activities.
So, be driven not only to produce results, but to rest from your labors. Non-stop work depletes a body and a soul. It also depletes the good will of the church. Rest and refreshment is the natural counterpart to ministry, activity and bearing fruit. Both are needed for a well-rounded ministry.
Secret Sabotage #2: Neglect Celebrating Wins
Lately, I’ve met with several dozen church leaders to assess their growth to this point. More than a few have been uncomfortable acknowledging their wins. I get it. We don’t promote a culture of “look at me” in the church. But when you refuse to celebrate your wins, it deprives the congregation of much needed good news. Your people need to know that their efforts are paying off.
Humility is a virtue. But self-hate is not. Check yourself to see which is motivating you. We can’t always see the fruits of our labors. Even in our own lifetimes. But we can pause and count the efforts we are making, celebrate the people we are involving, and the lives and institutions we are touching. These celebratory moments give strength for the journey. They also allow you to pause long enough for God to whisper in your ear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Secret Sabotage #3: Go Too Fast
Remember we are in it for the long haul. Ministry is a long-distance race, not a sprint, as my Staff Parish Relations Chairperson used to regularly remind me. Adjusting our pace for the long haul allows us to include others in crafting and implementing a vision, gathering resources, and planning ahead. It also gives us time to get to know and enjoy each other. That’s key for well-functioning teams. Jesus and his disciples spent three whole years together. That was a lot of meals, trips, laughs, and opportunities to learn together. The time you spend building deep community will serve you well in the future.
Lastly, adjusting your pace gives you the space to tune in to the Holy Spirit, and to receive much-needed guidance for the journey. We are co-creators with God. I find the more time I spend cultivating conscious contact with the God of my understanding, the more aligned I am with the powers of the universe. Conversations come together in synchronous fashion. Funding flows in from unsuspected resources. Hearts are prepared with a common vision.
Bottom line: if your church is on the move, congratulations! Don’t blow it by refusing to rest, rejoice, or relax. These self-sabotaging behaviors can hinder leaders and followers alike. Give yourself and others the luxury of rest, celebrate good news with your congregation, and adjust your pace so you can go the distance, with God.
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