Ministry as our Escape

Barbara Graves —  November 2, 2011

Often we talk about how to avoid burnout in ministry.  We address situations that can lead to volunteers working long hours at church, neglecting other responsibilities including their family, jobs, and even their own health.  When we get caught up in the “serve, serve, serve, serve, serve” or “I have to do it all because no one else will” traps, we are on a fast tract to burn out. We talk about balance and how we can avoid being completely burnt out, used up and dead when it comes to our ministry.

But on the other extreme of that pendulum swing, is the person who uses their ministry to hide or escape from the areas of their life that are in crisis.  These can often be  difficult situations at home or at work.  If the situation at our secular job is demanding, we may find it easier to ignore the issues there, and pour ourselves into our ministry tasks.  The same scene can be repeated for issues at home.  If we have a strained relationship with our spouse or teenager, often it is just easier to avoid or ignore those issues and pour our emotions and efforts into ministry.  If in turn, those who benefit from our ministry, whether it be church staff, or parents, feed our need for affirmation by praising the efforts we have put into our ministry, this can easily start a cycle of ignoring those areas of our life which need to be dealt with and corrected.  Instead of facing the issue with the difficult spouse, we ignore it.  Focus on ministry.  And we can easily justify it, because ministry is for eternal benefits.  How can you argue with someone who is bringing the Good News of Jesus to others?  You can’t trump Jesus!!!  But in the long run, we aren’t going to last.

Rather than take time to work through the issues with our teenager, we just bury our head in the sands of our ministry and stay busy.  Ministry will thrive, at least for a while.  But the health of a ministry is reflected in the health of the leader.  In time, the out of balance home life will cause the entire person to crash and burn, often taking the ministry with it.  In order to minister effectively, for the long haul, we have to be balanced.  If the enemy can’t get us to abandon Christ, his next best ploy is to render us ineffective.  A ministry that is led by someone out of balance may thrive for a while, but ultimately, it will reflect the unsettled status of it’s leader.

Effective, enduring ministry flows from the overflow of a God-filled life.  A God-filled life isn’t perfect, but it does have God’s direction,even while working through the difficult relationships.

Don’t use your ministry to hide and avoid difficult situations at home.  Praying and asking God to redeem those relationships will be a great testimony in your life, and as an example to those you are leading as well.

Barbara Graves

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Barbara is a married mother of 4 grown kids. She is the volunteer Children’s Pastor at Momentum Church in Woodstock, GA where she oversees kids from birth to 5th grade. She can often be found driving around north Georgia, usually with a cup of coffee in her hand.

3 responses to Ministry as our Escape

  1. Do you think this manifests itself differently for singles vs married folks? And with men vs women?

    I know the core issue is the same (finding worth/value in ministry, instead of finding our satisfaction in God). I just wonder if you think the motivations and manifestations can be slightly different.

    Thanks for writing this!

    • Joey, I think you’re absolutely right in that this can manifest itself differently with those not married. And even within marrieds and singles, depending on the season of life that the person is experiencing, the motivations change. The bottom line is that wherever we are in life, there are relationships that are going to be difficult around us; family, coworkers, friends, neighbors, etc. As long as we don’t “hide” in our ministry, rather than seeking to resolve those relationship strains, we can serve God effectively. We may not be able to reconcile every one. But, we can do like Paul urged, “as much as lies within YOU, live at peace with all men.” I believe we will find God’s blessing on our lives, if we live them in this way.

  2. Very good reminder! It’s easy to use busyness as a coping mechanism for anxiety.