According to recent data from Gallup, there are twice as many “actively disengaged” workers in the world as there are “engaged” workers who love their jobs.
The serious demands of ministry can often separate joy and work, leaving us drained or worse, full of dread. Because the work of the ministry is more of a calling than a career, 0ur level of work joy is inseparably linked to our spiritual, emotional, and mental health.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” ~Steve Jobs
Remarkable things happen when leaders love their work. When people ask us what we do at Slingshot Group, our associates will often say, we help people love their work. We believe the abundance Jesus offers extends into our vocation as ministry leaders. Here are a few helpful tips you can use to rediscover abiding joy in your calling as a kingdom leader.
- Know your True North.
If you’ve ever driven your car in an early morning dense fog, you suddenly appreciate the value of unobstructed vision. Even a few miles behind the wheel in low visibility can be a white-knuckled adventure!
Rediscovering your Why?
When you hit a patch of fog in your work, the once clear path from here to there becomes clouded by circumstances beyond your control. At some point in ministry, the future you preferred will seem uncertain or even impossible to reach. In moments like these, work joy can feel elusive unless you orient your internal compass toward a deeper sense of purpose, your True North.
Remember, just because you can’t see the road ahead doesn’t mean you have to change your destination. While you can rarely control what goes on outside, you can always control what goes on inside. One of my mentors used to say to me “never make a permanent life decision based on a temporary storm.”
Often, our first reaction when we encounter difficulty is to try to do more than we’re capable of doing. But, you don’t have to burn out to break through! If you’re struggling for clarity, take a day off, get away for the weekend with your spouse and kids, call a trusted friend or mentor, or even take a long nap! A quick pitstop to check your instruments won’t set you back as much as you think. It could be the very thing that prevents you from crossing the center line or hitting a ditch.
- Stay hungry.
When I dove into full-time ministry as a naive 20-year-old, a mentor challenged me, “Once you discover what you’re good at, you have a responsibility to become great at it.”
In our field research, even the best leaders experience a loss of joy and satisfaction in their work when they stop feeding themselves. The weight of responsibility that comes with 52 Sundays a year in the local church can subtly become more duty than delight. Fighting the tyranny of the urgent often feels like waging war against the wind, robbing us of lasting joy.
Ministry monotony can drain you slowly. To avoid apathy, you’ll need to fight boredom aggressively. At Slingshot Group we often ask candidates, “What sources are you looking to for inspiration?” If a leader struggles to answer that question we know they’re already in danger of dying on the vine.
Although it’s helpful when someone comes along to help kickstart us out of our funk, what happens when you don’t have a cheerleader in your corner? Rediscovering work joy starts with a personal commitment to getting better. When we raise the bar on ourselves, those expectations will eventually help us develop new capabilities.
Stop expecting your boss to do for you what you won’t do for yourself. Ask to go to that leadership conference, but don’t stop there. Sign up for a seminar, download a new podcast, put together a book list by getting recommendations from those you admire. If you find your work joy tank getting low, maybe it’s time to light a fire under yourself again!
- Count What Matters.
If you’ve ever seen an interview with a professional athlete after winning a championship, at least one reporter will ask something like, “What does this win mean for your future with this team?” More often than not, the athlete responds, “I’m not trying to think about what the future holds right now. Tonight, it’s about celebrating this win.”
Ministry leaders often feel relentless pressure to perform. Don’t be so quick to move on to the next thing before giving yourself time to relish your victories. When is the last time you slowed down long enough to celebrate the impact of your ministry? Remember that even God paused to step back and observe his creation. He called it good. Sustaining work joy is possible only to the degree we permit ourselves to exhale.
Step away from your desk for a minute. Survey the contributions you’ve made in your work. Don’t allow what hasn’t been accomplished to determine your level of joy. Count what matters. Ultimately, what you choose to celebrate is the leading indicator of what you value.