Unraveling Ministry Hurts

Recently, I had a conversation with a pastor who was dealing with some frustration in ministry.  He was struggling with his staff, the board and the direction they were headed.  He felt misunderstood.  Our conversation quickly seemed to go from present to past.  How long he had been in ministry, all the different areas he had served, the ups and downs of each area, and then another shift. We went from past ministries to past ministry wounds.  He began to open up about pains, disappointments, anger, betrayals, brokenness from his first experience in ministry to today. His story seemed to go from survival to success to betrayal to success to brokenness to success and on it went. But I found one element that seemed to be the common thread through it all, hurt mixed with vindication.

Unfortunately, this story is a common one that we see with leaders. We often hear that when a relationship ends between two people and they enter into a new relationship, they take their baggage with them.  Well, it's true in ministry as well. We all have baggage that we bring to the next place we serve. So, on a basic level, how do we become healthier leaders even with our past hurts?  These are some things you might want to consider to give yourself a clearer perspective of how you are doing, how to connect better and ultimately, how to be better.

Remember that you are not superhuman.

You can't do everything, and you can't be everything—even if you think your congregation expects that. The truth is they probably don't expect it at the level you think. If we continue to paint that picture of ministry leaders, it's easy for people to assume we can do a lot more than we can.  Plus, it has a funny way of letting pride sneak in.

Ask the people close to you how you are doing in your role.

Ask your kids how you’re doing as their dad, your spouse how you are doing as their partner, your staff how you are doing as their leader and pastor. Now, let me be direct, for this to be effective, you must want to know the truth. You must be willing to listen to someone who looks at you and says, “not good" and then you must in humility ask how to do better. We don’t get better in a vacuum. We get better with others.

Do a self-inventory of your past ministry hurts.

Sometimes it's easy to point the finger at people who hurt you in the past, and if we aren’t honest with ourselves about what’s happened, the brokenness can be made worse as time goes on. Ask yourself real questions. The reality may be that you were completely innocent in the difficulties of past ministry. However, it's not often that we didn't have a role to play in that difficulty, however small we may deam. It could also be that you helped cause the problem—intentionally or not.

Own your mistakes.

Own your mistakes. As a leader, the responsibility falls on you. Even if you are only 5% responsible for something going wrong, you're still responsible for that 5%. It will make you better. Oftentimes, unraveling ministry hurts happens with a close friend. It won't be fun, but it'll be healing and eye-opening. It's through these conversations that we reflect and begin to analyze our motives for serving. Sometimes hurts need more than a friend and we would encourage leaders to seek Godly counsel. You can't change the past or why you got involved in your ministry, but you can learn to move past your pain and become a healthier leader. Not acknowledging our history dooms us to repeat it. Begin processing and healing from your past ministry hurts so, that you can take the steps needed to do better ministry everywhere in the healthiest way possible.