If you’ve served the Lord any length of time, you know that the outward expressions of service don’t guarantee a consistent heart for the Lord.
The same is true of serving on a church staff. Being in the ministry is not a guarantee that you will be strong as a Christian or that you will be diligent in the spiritual disciplines of following God and serving His people. In fact, in some ways, serving in an official ministry position (paid or volunteer) makes you more of a target for Satan’s attacks. For if you fall, you’re influencing others.
So how do you avoid being a casualty in ministry? How do you avoid washing out along the way? Here are eight ways to avoid some of the common pitfalls:
- Maintain a spiritual heart. Spiritual activity can never replace a spiritual heart. Never assume that because you are teaching or preaching or serving in some way around the church that your walk with God is a given.Vigilantly maintain your devotional time with the Lord. Pray—not just before you teach, but in your prayer closet. Respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Keep your walk with God real, passionate, and disciplined.
O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is… My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.—Psalm 63:1, 8
- Insist on a personal soulwinning time. Don’t be content to ride the momentum of a church that is reaching people with the gospel. Whether or not a regular soulwinning time is required of you, make it part of your weekly schedule. In other words, be discontent with not personally sharing the gospel with the lost.
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.—2 Corinthians 5:20
- Insist on hearing preaching. In every church, there are a few areas of ministry (ushering, maintenance, nursery, etc.) where it is easy to go three, four, or more weeks without sitting in a church service and hearing the preaching…and possibly not even be missed since you’re around the church property. Don’t let this happen. Sometimes it is a matter of involving others so you can rotate. Sometimes it is preparing ahead so there are less last minute emergencies. Sometimes it’s a matter of bringing it to your pastor’s attention that you’re not getting preaching. But whatever it takes, have a determination in your heart that you will regularly sit in the preaching services.
But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching…—Titus 1:3
- Beware of timewasting. Benjamin Franklin said, “Doest thou love life? Then do not squander time. For time is the stuff life is made of.” In any area of service, it is easy to let frivolous distractions eat up the time we have committed to invest toward a specific job description. Guard against letting your day be frittered away in ten and fifteen minute increments of distraction.
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.—Ephesians 5:15–16
- Avoid sarcasm or a critical spirit. In ministry, we deal with real life problems…and sometimes it’s messy. But don’t let your spirit become jaded. Be careful about always having a cutting word. Love and invest in people with a faith-filled heart for what God can do.
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.—Ephesians 4:29
- Avoid sharing problems with church members. You know how it feels when you hear that your second-grade child gave a “prayer request” in Sunday school about his perception of conflict in your family? You feel embarrassed and like the teacher didn’t really get the picture of what happened. That is similar to how the pastor feels when a staff member complains about or “shares” problems in their area of service with others in the church.Every responsibility has its burdens. Don’t pass those burdens on to the shoulders of those you are supposed to be helping the pastor serve.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:—Ephesians 4:11–12
- Rejoice in the everyday. There are days of ministry that put you on cloud nine. You get to lead an entire family to Christ. The program you organized is successful. Someone follows your counsel and sees major, positive spiritual growth. These days are awesome.But these days are not every day. There are many in between days where you simply show up, put your hand to the plow, and push forward in mundane duties. You prepare another youth lesson, make another absentee phone call, send another card. And none of these are bad duties! They’re just everyday. And, if we’re not careful, we forget to rejoice in them, living only for the high moments of great victory.
This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.—Psalm 118:24
- Verbalize gratitude. Don’t just be grateful, but verbalize it. Thank your pastor for the opportunity to serve. Thank those who serve alongside you. Thank those who encourage or help you. And publically thank the Lord for His blessings—in your life and in the body life of the church—as well.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy—Psalm 107:2
Avoiding pitfalls isn’t a once-for-all decision you can make. If it were, no one would fall. Rather, it is a matter of being sensitive to the Holy Spirit making adjustments along the way. So look over this list again, and ask yourself if there isn’t an area here that could use some extra attention in your life and for your ministry.