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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When God Closes a Door – What do you do?

When God Closes A Door

Have you ever been in line at a store or public event to receive a special freebie they were handing out. Only to be disappointed that by the time you arrived at the front of the line, they run out? I have and it feels like  a wave of disappointment washes over you and you are left empty-handed.

Similarly, is the feeling that may occur in your life when what is perceived to be an open door of God’s perfect will for your life is closed. You may feel disappointed and left empty-handed and down-hearted.

What do you do when God closes a door?

You keep walking and you keep waiting.

  1. You keep walking with the Lord.

Don’t turn and run away from God because the door is closed. Think of the lyrics of Trust and Obey, the familiar hymn, by John H. Sammis:

When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way. When we do His good will, He abides with us still. And with all who will trust and obey.

Keep praying and talking to the Lord about your disappointments and desires.  Listen to His still small voice’s reassurance of His presence in your life as you read your Bible, He abides with you still, just trust and obey.

2. You keep waiting on His perfect timing.

The Bible has many reassuring accounts of God’s perfect timing in the lives of His people:

  • Abraham and Sarah’s waiting for Isaac
  • Christ’s perfect timing to be born after the promise of His coming hundreds of years before His birth by the prophets
  • Mary and Martha’s waiting four days for Christ to appear after the death of Lazarus to see him resurrected

God’s timing is marked throughout the entire Bible and when it is waited on and carried out it is perfect!  Your life and walk with the Lord is not any different that the examples of faith and timing that were mentioned above. God’s design is still the same, His timing will reflect a conscious plan for your life in the same way.

Watching and waiting. Two simple words that can explain a great principle of obedience in the questionable moments of life. Read Psalm 27:14 “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”

 

Taking God’s Responsibility

Taking God's Responsibility

I don’t know if it’s being a woman, whether you are in ministry or not, we have tendencies to feel responsible for things that are not our responsibility. When I attend homeschool conferences, a common saying is that “Homeschool moms go to bed at night worrying about whether they are doing enough to help make their kids successful for life.” I feel like that about marriage, ministry, parenting, finances, and friendships, A LOT. I understand the character trait of responsibility is very important, but how many of our burdens come from taking responsibility away from our husbands (as head of the home) or away from God(as the Shepherd of our souls)?

We feel responsible for people when they do not get saved.

We feel responsible for staffing ministries when at times people are not even growing in the Lord and ready for the responsibilities we try to plug them into.

We feel responsible when our children do not get saved at a young age even though we are teaching them regularly about salvation.

We feel responsible when people do not respond the way we think they should.

We feel responsible for making people happy all the time when the reality is, it’s their choice whether they want to be happy or not.

Let’s stop feeling responsible for every little thing in life, because God has bigger plans! Things are going to change, people are going to be and do whatever they want to be. God may not be working things out in your “favor” because He has an alternative plan.

On the morning we were set to leave on our vacation I lost it. You know, one of those, “I can’t handle this,” losing it scenarios. The previous two weeks before our vacation had been jam-packed and honestly, it was just too much for me even with my husband there bearing the load too. We got out on the road two hours later than we planned because we had so many loose ends to tie up before we headed out-of-town. The pressure was bearing down on my soul.

Some of the things that came out of my mouth were:

  • It is my responsibility to make sure that everything goes right on this trip.
  • If I don’t have things ready in the car for the kids to do then it will be my fault if they get bored and are unhappy.
  • If things had been different, then I could have gotten everything taken care of ahead of time.
  • If I don’t get the snacks and lunch ready in the cooler then you (husband) will feel like you have to spend money. It is my responsibility to make sure our spending money lasts.
  • I wish we had not done ______________ so that I could have gotten these things done.

Hours later in the car, after finally feeling a little more free from the burdens I placed on my shoulders, God began convicting me. He reminded me that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh (Luke 6:45). I was trying to take everything out of God’s hands and was making everything personal. It wasn’t just that I had an “I” attitude, but it was bearing the weight of the situation as if everyone’s happiness was dependent upon me and what I did or did not do. We do not have the ability to make people be happy in life. That was not my responsibility. I “know” that but my heart was not remembering at the time because my fear of disappointing people was in the way.

God also prodded me about not putting Him in the equation of our lives first. In those extremely stressful moments, I could not get past my feelings or my thoughts. They were holding me back from the truth of God’s Word that my husband had even taught about in our Sunday School Class the day before. The lesson was titled, How To Deal With Stress. That is sort of ironic, isn’t it? Or does God know our future ahead of time and give us what we need to be able to deal with the circumstances that come along? I failed His test.

Two major things were wrong in those heavily self-burdening moments.

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Farmer loading hay bales onto a trailer.

1. I was not casting my cares upon the Lord. Christ calls us to exchange our burdens for His, because they are light. I Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” I love how this verse describes giving our cares to the Lord as “casting” them upon Him, it’s like how you see farmers loading heavy hay bales into the back of a large trailer and driving away with the load. We have this promise that He will take these burdens of life and sins by taking care of them for us. Why? Because He cares for us. When we are struggling with stress one of the biggest things we believe is that we are alone and no one cares. We have a promise that God does care, ALWAYS!

2. I did not consider my stress to not trust the Lord as a sin, that had a temptation that I fell for. If you don’t understand, then I will say it like this: In temptation of any sin, God promises in I Corinthians 10:13, that He will always make a way of escape to those who are His children. He provides the way to escape, we just have to look for it and use that escape route. When I committed the sin of worry and distrust toward the Lord, then there was a way of escape from my wrong thoughts and fears somewhere along the way. The escape should have been taken to keep me from a heart filled with worry that burst forth with those things that came out of my mouth the morning of our vacation.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. I Corinthians 10:13

Conclusion

Take the time when you feel like your eyeballs are going to explode because you cannot possibly handle one more stress or frustration, sit down and start casting every. single. thing. over to the Lord. Then, take the responsibility off of yourself. Things that you cannot handle, like the timing of situations, responses, spiritual matters, etc. should be cast where they belong on the Lord. Talk to God first when you start to notice those things are bothering you, don’t wait until the load is too great. That is why we need to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17).

It is a little hilarious that as I was scrolling through Facebook the night this all occurred and saw a saying that said, “Give it to God, and go to sleep.” That’s basically it in a nutshell. Don’t take responsibility for everything, give it to God, and go to sleep.

I pray that next time I will not take on God’s responsibilities, and I will trust better than I did that day. There are times you just never know the things in your heart until they come out of your mouth. So listen for the things in your heart as you speak and ask the Lord to help you recognize the way of escape when you are burdened down and prone to worry. He’s there and He will take that load!