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!

 

The Alphabet for Marriage

The fundamentals of maintaining a caring marriage are easily summed up in The Alphabet for Marriage. Read through each letter and it will help you think of some ways to improve your marriage. God’s name isn’t mentioned in this list but I guarantee you can see there are spiritual principles to back up this practical advice.

Ladies, don’t let the ministry (of house, children, and church work) get too busy that you neglect your husband. Your purpose of ministering is to do it together, as a married couple because marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. This list came from a special sermon I found (more on that at the end of the post) and hope it will bless your heart too.

The Alphabet for Marriage

Adaptability – Cultivate a liking for the other’s tastes.

Belief – Trust one another.

Children – Be of the same mind on the subject, whether boys or girls, or money. Agree on their training.

Devotion – Not only feel love but show it.

Entertainment – Keep each other amused and interested.

Finesse – Handle each other with love and tact.

Generosity – Don’t be stingy with love, money, or praise.

Health – Keep well as long as you can.

Interests – Enter into everything the other does. Play the same games, read the same books, like the same people.

Jokes – Learn to make ’em and take ’em.

Kindness – Never fail to share with each other tenderness and sympathy.

Love – Never let your supply of that run low.

Money – Is for both and should be for the mutual happiness and well-being of each other.

Need of each other. – Make yourself necessary to your husband or wife’s happiness.

Observation – See what each other needs and supply it. Notice when your husband or wife looks nice.

Politeness – Show as much courtesy of each other as you would to strangers.

Quiet – Don’t argue, keep a peaceful home.

Respect – Show deference for each other’s opinions and intelligence.

Sportsmanship – Take marriage on the chin, don’t complain of hardships you may have to endure.

Tenderness – Whatever you are to other people, be all heart to your husband or wife.

Understanding – Enter into thoughts or feelings of your mate so you will know when each other is low.

Virtue – No philandering around on either side.

Willingness – Both husband and wife must be willing to help each other pull weight in the boat.

X-tra Attention – especially when down-hearted or sick.

Yes Them – Be agreeable as you can as often as you can.

Zero – Your marriage will never be a zero if you follow these rules.

~Author Unknown*

This was found in my great-grandfather’s sermon notes. My husband inherited his books and many files when he passed away and a yellow legal sized paper appeared after recently going through our personal library. I just loved reading it and truly believed it was his own outline until I saw just under the letter “z” that it was copied. *If you know the author of The Alphabet for Marriage please let me know and I will gladly update it on this post.

Ideas: This would be a great help to use at a couples retreat, banquet, or even marriage counseling. This could also be used as a fun wedding shower devotional or as a thoughtful thing to read in a married Sunday School class.

 

A Roadblock to Your Own Comfort

“You’ll never understand unless you go through it.” I understand the heart where this phrase comes from but I wish it did not exist.

Lately, it seems like I run into people who are going through an extreme life-altering circumstances, whether it is the loss of a loved one, a divorce, or even something like overwhelming debt. Their popular phrase while trying to filter through their grief and difficulty is “You’ll never understand unless you go through it.” I do not disagree, but then again I do.

One of the common threads in all of life’s difficulty is loss and sorrow.

The reason why I hate the response, “You’ll never understand,” is because the hurting person who usually says this fails to fully acknowledge the person trying to help and comfort them. They discount that person and their personal losses and pain. The pain they have experienced in their lifetime…. and survived. They require exact suffering  before they allow someone to help them. God created individuals who have individual experiences, therefore no two people will ever have the same experience in their lives, everything about us and  is different.

Roadblock to Your Own Comfort

 The Roadblock to Your Own Comfort

Many of us have been trained to deal with people in tough circumstances wisely. I have been taught you are never supposed to say to a hurting person, “I know exactly how you feel,” because there is no way that we can know how any one person would feel because we are not them and we have not lived their life. This is true! But when it comes to  the “counselors” needing the counseling and comfort they forget the other side of the coin and create roadblocks of rejection to their own comfort.

Requiring others, when you are hurting, to have exact suffering hinders the power of comfort through the Holy Spirit’s leading.

The Bible instructs us in I Corinthians 12:26, to rejoice with those who rejoice and to suffer with those who sorrow. The church body should be able to feel when one of their members is hurting and help them without feeling shamed for their lack of experience in that specific area.

I just fear that we sometimes demand that the comforters be exactly like us before we allow them to have any credibility. The truth is, no one will ever be like us and no one will ever know our heart’s sorrows like Jesus (Isaiah 53:3,4).

What I wish I could say…

Often I have reached out to offer love and support and found closed hearts and rejection. It has made me want to cry because I hurt with them whether they realize it or not. In the quietness of my heart I want to say, “I know hurt and loss too, and I’m sorry that you’re hurting. I know life is not easy and God does not always explain the reasons why He does things, even to His servants. In the darkest hours, when you feel rejected and despised, God still loves you. Please do not be so harsh when people try to be kind. I do not always know what to say or say it correctly but God has put in me a heart of compassion to extend a merciful hand of comfort. Please accept my words of consolation as genuine extensions of acknowledgement that you are hurting. I am hurting because you are.”

I want to go on to tell them, “All sorrow is painful no matter what form it comes in. I know the sorrow of not having a father in my life. I know the loss of divorce and the struggle of being in a single-parent home. I know the loss of friendships and material things when we lost our home in a fire. I cannot change my losses or suffering because God did not plan my life to be exactly like yours. I do not know precisely what you are going through but I can relate.

Please do not reduce my past hurt and the experiences God has led me through and exalt your own.  God has taught me so much and perhaps a few of the gems He gave me along the way were supposed to be shared with you. Sadly, you won’t allow me to share them with you because I’ve never experienced what you’ve gone through before.”

“When you are hurting not everyone will say the right things. You may be hurt because others are ignorant or selfish. Look for those that are reaching out to you in a special way. Give them a chance to possibly be the channel in which God comforts you. Please accept my love and concern as a touch from God.”

The last thing I would say is this,

“Reach out to God and boldly approach the throne of grace to help you through this trial you are going through. Then, look for those who are reaching out and accept their love. I want to be an extension of God’s love and comfort to you, if you’ll let me. Trust me, it will do a soul and body good! Lord willing, down the road, your trial will be able to help someone else in your life and ministry. “

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

I know that I am not always understood when I try to comfort those with different circumstances than mine, and although I hate that phrase that I can still bring them and their needs boldly before the throne of grace in prayer. I will not be offended when people create these roadblocks to their own comfort but will do my best to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in what He wants me to do toward them.

Lord, please guide me and help me know how to help people who are hurting and allow this article to help them understand the other side of the coin.