Lessons We’ve Learned From an Extended Ministry Transition

Lessons Learned From an Extended Ministry Transition

Ministry and transitions seem to go hand in hand, as time ticks on the ever-changing river of life goes on winding in and out, leaving ministry workers regularly relying upon God for His guidance. This article is pin-pointed to help those in a ministry transition between one job or service and the next, for those who may have months or years between “official” ministry titles and vocations. It’s not an entirely unique situation, although it may feel like it, to be in a holding pattern until the Lord makes clear the next path He would like you to travel.

Embrace a Short-Term Rest if Possible

I don’t know if you’re like us but when we travel on long road trips we often prefer to stop at rest stops, following the blue sign into the area, taking a bathroom break and allowing our 5 children to run around and stretch their legs. Transition times should be thought of as a Rest Stop, not a stopping place to get settled but a location where you can break away from the life you’ve lived and take a breather before stepping into the next place God is moving you.

We personally took a 2-month break to travel. First, we rented a cabin and spent several days in the mountains hiking with our then, four children. Next, we traveled to see family and ministry friends in between moving from one state to another. We had time and we had money because God had provided both of those things for us. It also happened because we made it a priority to rest and do something different. If your family needs rest, find a Rest Stop.

“Rest Stop” opportunities do not always become available to people because of pressing needs of financial means, housing, needing to move, etc. Whatever happens, at the very least pay attention to the next point…

Pray Before Moving Into Another Ministry Position Hastily

The Bible speaks about making hasty decisions (Proverbs 14:29, 19:2, 21:5, 28:20) and one of the worst things you can do is to hastily jump to what looks like an ideal opportunity just because you’re desperate for a place to work and live. Or because the opportunity you are presented with seems like the ideal opportunity you’ve been dreaming for. Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but all that glitters is not gold even in the ministry world.

You don’t want to find yourself compromising standards or convictions because you flew too quickly at the first offer presented. I’ve heard many stories about how people who had a bad ministry experience in their first ministry who quickly went on to another church to only have another bad experience because they did not know the pastor or ministry where they were going well enough. Others found that while the pay was good at their ministry position, it caused a lot of sacrifices in other ways they were not expecting.

I am sure most of us would never be guilty of praying too much about a situation (we don’t pray enough!) but family transitional times are KEY times to invest in solid and dedicated fervent prayer time. You want to have peace and confidence in knowing where God is leading you so that no matter what occurs in your next ministry experiences you can rest in the fact you followed God’s plan for you and not your own.

Waiting Is Not Easy

Waiting on God is not for the faint of heart. It is like the dog trained to sit still next to its master as its beloved ball is thrown into the grass. The dog waits eagerly and will move impatiently in that spot until told “Go fetch!” and it runs furiously to retrieve its prized toy and return it for another round. You may wait in anticipation with no ball to retrieve for a while, but it does not mean that your obedience in waiting is wrong or ill-timed.

We often align our ministry thoughts with the common idea, “If you’re not moving you’re dead,” and the unsaid philosophy of accomplishment being a goal to be achieved greater than obedience. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit that must be trained and allowed to grow in the times of waiting for God to work and move you into the next place of service.

Backsliding While Waiting is a Danger

Backsliding can easily occur in a stepping out by faith process. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). When you cannot see faith and what it consists of on a daily basis, because it is intangible, it is easy to become backslidden. You can rest in what you know and get comfortable with the waiting process. Backsliding is a natural fleshly response away from spiritual growth. The longer the wait the more temptations you face, especially if you are no longer serving in a church regularly and your spiritual accountability has lessened.

Take the Next Step Toward Ministry

I don’t know where you are in your ministry transition, for us we felt like we stepped out in faith and looked at an open road before us, but we had no directional signs immediately telling us where to go. We knew rest and serving were in our hearts but we also had asked ourselves if there was an option God was taking us out of ministry altogether. We had no disqualifications from ministry to lead us to believe that the door would be closed for ministry forever and this is what God kept telling us through advice and preaching:

  • “The next step you take needs to move you toward ministry.”
  • “Don’t just settle because you have no answer, a secular job with no ministry involvement will be a hole you will become trapped in.”
  • “Remember and possibly move toward the burden you had in college toward specific ministries and/or places.”

When God kept confirming this truth we didn’t have to worry as much about what He wanted us to do, it became a matter of asking, “Where do you want us to serve?”

Join a Church and Serve

We spent five months discerning the Lord’s will on where He would have us go so we attended a small church for a while. Then, after we felt God moving us to my husband’s home state, we joined the church where my husband grew up and attended there for about six months. Then the Lord led us to help in a church planting ministry where we served for around 18 months. God recently moved us into an established ministry with my husband as the music and choir director. He does bi-vocational ministry work now.

The danger some ministry couples get into is that they think they can fly under the radar and church-hop to an extent visiting other ministries instead of finding a pastor and church. Visiting and attending can be good, an encouragement, but should only be done on a short-term basis.  We, even ministry folks, need to be a member of a local church for spiritual accountability and growth. Even if you are not fulfilling every role you ever did before in ministry, you can and should use your talents and skills in some way serving in a local church. It will keep your mind busy and your heart tied to God and His work.

Invest in Your Future

Rest Stops are great places to fill up your personal and spiritual gas tank. We personally used our couple time in the evenings discussing spiritual matters, goals, and desires for future ministry. We read books and internet articles to sharpen us as we waited. Think of yourself as a Bible student that can take time to study particular topics of interest or grow in areas needing attention. Whatever additions you can make into your spiritual life can be used in the future.

Invest in your family! During our transition we enjoyed our family time differently than when we had a full ministry schedule. This in it’s own way helped us reshape our family values and see particular needs in the hearts of our children that needed to be cultivated and attended to differently. Whether your kids are young or older, investing in your family is never a waste.

Don’t Compare Yourselves With Other Ministry People

Ministry transitional time is not the time to begin to compare  yourself or your experiences with what other people have done or are doing in their ministries. Biblically, in I Corinthians 10:12 this is explained as being unwise at all times , but the trap exists. “…but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”

When in times of waiting it is easy to look at others while you are on the sidelines, comparing and wondering. You can begin asking yourself why another family may have left their ministry and received a new position quicker than you have. We cannot see from a human standpoint how God is working on our behalf. His mysteries lays out a path for a particular family in one way and designs another family’s place of service and ministry uniquely for Him, and are His secrets and His purposes. Don’t be jealous of your friends or other servants of God, don’t be mad at God, just trust in His timing and be thankful God is faithful to those who are His servants.

Conclusion

  • Rest if you can.
  • Pray fervently.
  • Wait well.
  • Don’t backslide.
  • Take the next step toward ministry.
  • Join a church and serve.
  • Invest in your future.
  • Don’t compare yourself with others.

These are the lessons we have learned from a ministry transition that took a lot longer than we expected. We hope someone will be able to take our lessons learned and be able to make sense and purpose of their own ministry transitional time. Keep in the Word friends and keep serving the Lord!

 

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Pen Pals for Our Boys {Free Printable Pen Pal Themes for Boys}


Pen Pals for Our Boys

Writing and boys do not always mix well but a ministry mama and I sparked an idea that it would be good for our boys to get to know each other. We live across the country and three time zones apart from each other but hey, who doesn’t need more friends of like faith!? My boys are eleven and ten years old and her boys are about the same age. The boys do have a lot of things in common already but they do not know it… yet!

This dorky writer of a mom may be a little more excited about their pen pals than they are because of my positive experiences of having pen pals. You can read my last article 3 Reasons Ministry Kids Can Benefit From Pen Pals.

After digging around for pen pal ideas for boys (on Pinterest, of course!) I was coming up very empty-handed because most of the ideas are girly. It challenged me to come up with a pen pal theme list for boys to write about or for little things to exchange. Our plan is to have the boys try to write once a month so these ideas won’t break the bank if we send out any of the fun items on the list — like socks, stickers, paper airplanes, rocks, etc. The list also includes creative things to write about or send to each other that won’t cost more than a bit of their creativity (Christmas card, drawings, a secret code, and more!).

My friend and I decided to have the boys use snail mail with these pen pals. My oldest son has already been writing a friend via e-mail who had moved away many years ago. He uploads pictures of our outings and likes to add in emojis to his e-mails and usually keeps them short and sweet. I love both types of pen pals because it gives him experience typing and writing by hand! <– Homeschool mama is coming out there.

Here’s how we’ve started:

These are things I printed out so our kids could share about themselves with their new friend.

All About Me Freebie by Science Doodles on Teachers Pay Teachers*

All About Me Selfie Template by Angela Jerpe on Teachers Pay Teachers (Free)*

This is a free letter writing help for those who may struggle with creating the draft of a letter or need guidance on how to make sure there letter is neat and ready to mail called the Pen Pal Writing Process by Alexandra Henry on Teachers Pay Teachers.*

And a free downloadable Pen Pal Set for Kids from Beyond the Inspiration, complete with downloadable stationery. Some of the papers have lines, others have lines with pictures.*

And here is the Pen Pal Themes for Boys printable I created for our boys. It’s a fun way to keep the excitement of writing your pen pal going and contains gift ideas to send or swap with pen pals. The list is geared toward boys but could be helpful to girls too!

Pen Pal Themes for Boys (<—-Download)

Our oldest son, Uno, chose rocks from his rock collection to share and Dos chose to send an “All About Me” paper with his first letter. I don’t know where these pen pal friendships will take the boys or how long they will last but I hope in my heart that it will be a great experience! We did Flat Stanley many years ago and it was a fun adventure to see all the places Flat Stanley traveled.

Ministry and family life doesn’t have to be boring… keep it fun Mamas, be creative, make connections, and ENJOY!

*Not affliliate links.

3 Reasons Why Ministry Kids Can Benefit from a Pen Pal

Every ministry kid needs a friend!  Did you ever have a pen pal? I had lots through the years when I was a kid and teenager. I even have a pen pal I have written for the past 3 years and I still love it.

I would encourage you to help your child find a child who is also in ministry or another Christian kid of like faith and practice. Ministry kids need to know there are other ministry children who are doing similar things they do in their family and in their church. I believe the common factor of similar beliefs alone will help establish a good friendship (but Ministry Mamas, we may have to help the kids be faithful to writing… more on that below!) Missionary children can also benefit from pen pals because it helps them be able to express themselves about their life and experiences on the mission field.

The truth of it is, they wouldn’t have to write a child but maybe a trusted Christian you know. A godly person with wisdom who would encourage and cultivate a good relationship with them that points them to Christ. Other people to keep in touch with might be: A Christian soldier who is deployed, a Bible College student, a youth pastor and/or his wife, a young adult on the mission field, or any other godly influence with time enough to sit and write.

 

3 Reasons Why Ministry Kids Can Benefit from a Pen Pal

  1. Writing to people keeps children connected to a broader world. There are lots of ministry kids who are lonely because they go to a church with very few children their age or missionary kids are in a foreign country surrounded by a different culture. Having a pen pal can connect a ministry kid with another child who lives like they do, serving God with their family.  Another lesson under this umbrella is that writing a person who is different lets your child understand variations in personalities and family preferences are common and that’s a good thing! When our children learn people can be different and still love and serve God the way they do then it helps them understand we do not have to be exactly alike to enjoy the company of one another.
  2. It teaches children about the joy of giving and receiving. To keep a pen pal relationship going there has to be reciprocation between letters — I send one, I receive one, etc. (This principle applies in so many aspects of life.) Receiving real mail is exciting! Letters have a mysterious element to them because you do not know its contents until you read it. Ministry kids who may be seeing or experiencing trials or personal struggles can benefit from the blessing of the letters from a friend and giving back. It can also help them look outside themselves by asking about the other person and being interested in their life.
  3. Having a pen pal teaches how to converse and encourage others. Reading letters can help your child learn to read tone and understand the feelings and heart of the other person. This practice of learning about the heart of another person can generate the qualities of empathy, compassion, and kindness. Children may open up to each other about their experiences and it can allow them to be able to have an opportunity to be a prayer partner with their pen pal and encourage them in life’s joys and struggles.

 

Helping Your Child Succeed as a Pen Pal

  1. Create a basket or kit that will have the necessary supplies they need to be able to write to their pen pal. Paper, pens, envelopes, and stamps are the very basics — add in stickers, gel pens, and stamps for more fun. There are great ideas for pen pal kits to send to your pen pal all over Pinterest, check this one out. It does not have to cost a lot of moolah, dollar stores have cheap supplies and cards. You can also teach your children to invest in buying the supplies for writing with money they earn.
  2. Help them with their writing skills. Teach them to write a letter and then teach them how to read a letter and respond with care. Teach them that writing a good letter can contain stories, descriptions, and questions. Writing without “I” as the main subject can be a challenge and should be attempted. Note: Boys may only have a factual type of letter exchange while girls may tend to share anything and everything going on in their lives and that’s okay! Help them spark their creativity with ideas and examples if they need it.
  3. Remind them to write when they receive a letter. There’s nothing worse than being a pen pal waiting desperately for a letter to arrive only to find out that you have been forgotten. It would be better for your child to write to their pen pal explaining why they will not be writing than no explanation at all. Before committing to a pen pal relationship consider the amount of time your child has. If they will be too busy to write it may be best to postpone having a pen pal until a better time.
  4. Be knowledgeable of the content of the letters if you can. Help them navigate even a pen pal relationship if they need help. Your job is to protect and nurture a good relationship. If the relationship goes south because of inappropriate content or the two pen pals are not a good match, then be willing to let that pen pal go. Be there for your child when and if those disappointments come. It is understandable people do change over time and so do their interests and not all pen pals are a good fit with each other.
  5. Spark their creativity! Help them keep the pen pal relationship interesting by being promoting thoughtfulness. Encourage your child to praying for their friend, include drawings, poems, whatever creative medium your child is good at doing. Or teach them to stretch themselves on the behalf of someone else just to be a blessing. You know your child best and can help them use their talents and gifts to be a blessing to their pal.

Hand writing letters is not for everybody so maybe pen pals won’t be for your kid– but what about Skype pals? or e-mail buds? Or phone calls? Or writing cards to missionary or church planter’s kids for their birthdays? There are other ways to “pen pal” and have our kids connect to kids in ministry (and others!) who may not be local.

Encouraging godly relationships is always good for us because we never know how God will use those things in our lives later on down the road! Just recently my husband was reunited with an old acquaintance he attended church camp with in junior high, and it seems they will be working on some upcoming projects together. God’s paths often intertwine in the most unusual ways.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article about how I’m involving our oldest boys in pen pals and for a free printable with themes for boys to write about or gifts/exchanges to make with their pen pal!