10 Joy-Stealers in Ministry (and How to Get It Back)

I know. There are many unhappy ministers in our local churches. Such is not a judgmental statement, but a statement of reality. Indeed, I count myself among those who have struggled with joy in ministry on more than one occasion.

In this post, I share 10 of the most common reasons pastors and other church staff members lose their joy in ministry. But I don’t want to just dwell on the negative. Next to each reason, I offer suggestions to counter these joy-stealers. Indeed, I have learned both the reasons for joy-stealers and the reasons joy returns largely from you readers. Over the past few years, you have been my teachers in many ways. I am so grateful for you.

What are the joy-stealers? Even more importantly, what are pastors and other church staff doing to recapture their joy? Here are 10 common responses.

  1. Seeing the underbelly of Christian ministry. Christian ministry means working with sinners just like you and me. It’s often not a pretty sight to see what we see in local churches. And while we don’t condone sin, let’s learn to demonstrate grace and love like Jesus did and does.
  2. Constant criticisms (“death by a thousand cuts”). I received my first criticism as a pastor on my third day of ministry. I was crushed. May we be men and women who seek to please God instead of people. And may He give us the strength to be godly and gracious when we do receive criticisms.
  3. Fighting among Christians. A non-Christian recently told me that he has been observing Christians on blogs and social media the past several months. He said: “You Christians are some of the meanest people I’ve ever known.” Ouch. We will know Christlike joy when we act like Him, and not like the world.
  4. Busyness that turns to prayerlessness. We will always lose our joy when we neglect our time in prayer. When we pray, we are connected to the Source of all joy. If we are too busy to pray, we are too busy.
  5. Unreasonable work hours. Many in Christian ministry become workaholics to the detriment of their families and themselves. It is ultimately our choice and our responsibility to have a balanced life. When we don’t, the joy goes away.
  6. Attacks on our family. This is an especially difficult joy-stealer, because we sometimes feel powerless when it happens. Be even more diligent in prayer to seek His wisdom. Let your family know they come first. Confront the perpetrator, if necessary. But do this all in a spirit of prayer and love.
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Thom Rainer
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.

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