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.
- 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!