Warning: if you like stuff that all wraps up in a nice, tidy bow at the end, this may not be the blog post for you. Because when it comes to the question of how much is too much ministry, I don’t have the answers.
See, one of the great things about being part of the body of Christ is that we’re each gifted in a unique way. We get to see the ways that our particular skills and gifts might be used to encourage and build up the body of Christ. But sometimes, our attempt at ministry can instead cause us pain. Instead of the opportunity to help others, we feel tired, and in the worst case we can feel used up or abused by others who take advantage of our service.
A friend of mine once said, “You know you’re being a servant in Christ when you don’t mind being treated like a servant.” I tend to agree with him, while at the same time adding the caveat, “But that doesn’t give us the excuse to treat others like our servants.” This whole idea is something I’ve been struggling with lately. Where is the line between serving God and doing it as joyfully as we can as unto him, and reaching the point where “doing ministry” is bad for us? Is there one?
I know that Jesus didn’t promise us continual happiness and that everything would be peachy every day. So I’m not saying, “Once it gets hard, bail out!” Jesus has overcome the world, our problems are small comparatively. But at the same time, if volunteering at church (or any activity really) starts to interfere negatively with my family life, or impacts my health in a negative way, or ends up with me being bitter about the whole thing instead of serving with a great heart, I think it’s time to stop and think.
Let’s look at those three things:
It’s hurting my family.
This can mean a lot of different things. If it means you’re gone more evenings than you like, that might be a different situation than if you’re feeling overworked, over-tired, and that means you’re less likely to spend time with your family when you can. Again, this can be your choice to an extent, but other factors to consider might be the age of your kids and the make-up of your family. Families with young kids or a blended family may be more sensitive about what equals priority time with your family. That’s up to you.
It’s having a negative impact on your health.
If this is the case, you at least owe it to yourself and your loved ones to take a break for a bit. If you’re literally hurting yourself in your service, you’re not really helping anyone, and your service is worse off for it. Get some rest, see a doctor if you need to, and when you’re back up to 100%, reassess what parts of what you were doing contributed to health problems and decide if you can continue to do what you were doing before with some adjustments, or if you need to look at serving in a different way or direction.
Let’s be clear: your bitterness isn’t caused by your situation. It’s your decision. There may be factors that have contributed to how you feel, but at the end of the day, you decide whether you’ll be bitter or not. This is one of the ways you can help any ministry situation that seems hard: choose joy and a right attitude. That might turn everything around.
You’ll notice that all these problems are very personal. Do they equal walking away from a ministry, or merely reassessing and knowing the challenges? I can’t answer that for you. But if you are facing any of these situations, spend time in prayer and ask God what He would have you do. The one thing I can tell you is that if you ask that question, He’ll definitely answer.
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