In the 1992 presidential race Ross Perot coined the phrase, “giant sucking sound,” to describe his concern that a proposed treaty would cause American jobs to go overseas. I believe it aptly describes how ministry can sometimes feel to church leaders. Every day church ministry demands that we sooth someone’s hurt feelings, solve a ministry problem, seek new ways to grow our churches, or satisfy what seems to be some church members’ increasing expectations. Ministry does feel like a “giant sucking sound” that can suck the life out of us. How do we know if our ministry is drowning us?
Major crises can certainly increase our stress as church leaders. But often lots of small stresses converge at once that unless we see the warning signs, we can end up casualties of ministry. Several years ago several church issues converged at once and I found myself not liking ministry, feeling stressed, and not being a very nice person to be around. I had to step back to re-calibrate my life. My first step was to take inventory and define reality.
I’ve listed below what I saw happen to me as I got sucked into ministry stress. As you read these, ask yourself if you can identify with any.
- I felt like I was skimming my most important tasks as the senior pastor in an attempt to get to everything else that was screaming for my attention.
- I felt so tired when I got home that I wanted to go to bed at 8.30 every night. Sometimes I did.
- I easily began to do mind-numbing stuff like check Twitter every hour.
- When I went home all I seemed to talk about were the problems at church.
- What I’ve always enjoyed doing (looking and dreaming ahead about new ministry ventures) I now had little internal drive and motivation to do.
- My daily devotions suffered.
- I felt achy all the time.
- I felt anger floating just beneath the surface ready to quickly surface when faced with another stress.
If you hear that “great sucking sound” in your ministry, I suggest you take inventory as I did as a first step in gaining a healthy balance in ministry.
What have been indicators of that “great sucking sound” in your ministry?