10 Things I Wish Someone Told Me About Serving In The Church

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I have attended church regularly for 12 years, 9 of which I have served actively in one role or another. Whether on worship team, set up, children’s church, or most recently youth ministry, I experienced some sort of burnout. I’m not alone in this feeling; in fact, a recent survey found that 33% of ministry volunteers experience burnout on some level, and those numbers skyrocket when looking at vocational ministry. While my pride and self-preservation is quick to kick in and point the finger at everyone else, time and time again I find that the responsibility is my own. Even if the situation was bad, 9 times out of 10, my response was worse. But there is hope! Here are a few things I’ve learned (or, more accurately, continue to learn) along the way.

10. Self-Care

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While you can delegate many things in your ministry, self-care isn’t one of them. No one else can maintain your relationship with God. Sure, some ministries may require more intentional self-care than others (setting up chairs on Sunday morning vs. leading a small group), both require a surprising amount of patience and strength from God.

9. Set Boundaries (And Keep Them)

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While it can feel wrong to say “no” within the context of serving in the church, this is actually a sign of really healthy leadership. Not only does having boundaries help people to avoid burnout, it also helps to curb pride. I don’t know about you, but I can have a Christ complex if left to my own devices. Far too easily I find myself thinking that I’m the only one who can fix this problem, or I’m the only one who understands and can speak into this situation. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s time to set up better boundaries!

8. Have Friends Outside Your Church

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Unhealthy churches are all-consuming. We joke about church ministry being a “country club,” or perhaps we shudder and think of it more as a “cult.” Obviously, neither one of these outcomes is what we hope or aim for. It is good and healthy to have friends who don’t go to your church. It is understandable that a lot of your close relationships will be within the community you serve in, but if a crisis happens in that community, or you find yourself stepping down for one reason or another, without outside relationships you’ll be completely isolated and more alone than ever.

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Hailing from the great state of Iowa, Jess currently lives on the eastside of Seattle where she loves to write, crochet, upcycle, redecorate her tiny apartment and play with her cat. Oh, and her husband lives there too.