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Is Ministry a Friend or Foe?

13 Jan Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on Is Ministry a Friend or Foe?
Is Ministry a Friend or Foe?

Learning to run hasn’t killed me yet.

It was a bad idea. I was 59 and decided to start running. I’ve played sports all my life but never enjoyed simply running. I began by following a “Couch to 5K” training program and hated every step of it. It was hard work and I was worried no one would find me when I died along the road! It was awful, but I kept running, even when I desperately wanted to quit.


A funny thing happened after about four months, I began to look forward to my 3.5 mile runs. It still takes effort, but the runs have become easier. I enjoy the running now. Actually, the hardest part is just getting out the door. There are plenty of things to distract me from trying to stay healthy. The weather can feel too cold, too hot, or too wet. Some days my bed feels too comfortable. Sometimes I feel too tired or too ________. Fill in the blank and I’ve wrestled with those distractions.

Physical exercise keeps us healthy to a point, but as followers of Jesus, we are well aware that spiritual disciplines are essential to keeping us spiritually healthy. That’s not a secret. However, many of us wrestle with the various distractions that hinder us from exercising those spiritual disciplines. You may enjoy journaling, reading scripture, reflecting, praying or being in solitude but distractions can rob those sacred times.

Distractions come in many forms but one stands out from all the others.

The Best Worst Distraction

Recently I was with a group of student ministry leaders. A number of them had expressed they were “tired.” Ministry was wearing them out. So, at their request I had helped prepare a day retreat. We located a beautiful, secluded cabin and designed a full day to simply retreat- to be alone with God. It was a beautiful time of resting, healing and hearing from God. Open wounds began to heal and souls began to be refreshed. However, I left our time together profoundly saddened. Here’s why…

The majority of those wonderful student ministry leaders could not commit a full day for a personal spiritual retreat. Some came late, others left early, and some did both. No wonder they felt “tired.” They were so engaged in ministering to others they couldn’t take time to care for their own souls- even when they were burning-out.

Here’s the point. For many of us involved in ministry, our biggest distraction for caring for our own souls is ministry itself. We’re so busy shepherding, caring for and nurturing others that we don’t take time to shepherd, care for and nurture our own souls. Perhaps your ministry is helping many others, but what’s the point if you’re withering from the inside out?


It’s like walking toward a cliff edge in your soul. We’re so busy focused on all the external activities that keep the ministry functioning that we ignore the multiple signs warning us of an impending internal disaster.

Healthy Leaders produce Healthy Ministries

At Project Renovation we often say, “Healthy leaders produce healthy ministries” and it’s true. These are signs that ministry is distracting you from caring for your own soul.

  • You are physically, emotionally or spiritually tired
  • You feel too guilty to take a personal retreat
  • You consistently work more than 40 hours a week
  • Your spouse has told you they need your help and you haven’t delivered
  • You feel that a job change is your best option

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s imperative that you carve out time to care for yourself.

“There are a whole lot of people who are so freakin’ busy – they’ve so cluttered up their lives – they’re at their wits’ end. And if they’d only just stop for a minute, they could hear the God of the universe whisper to them, ‘I love you.'” – Mike Yaconelli

You know how to minister to others, now, use those abilities to minister to you. Allow me to blunt, if you don’t start caring for your soul today, the ministry that you love will wreck you. The good news is that God is a redeeming, restoring God who always shows up in times like this. And, my friend, he’ll show up for you too! Let us know how we can help.

May God richly bless you as you care for your soul.

Jerry Higley
Executive Director at Lebanon Valley Youth For Christ
Jerry Higley is the Executive Director of Lebanon Valley Youth For Christ and an adjunct faculty member at LBC teaching Student Ministry courses at both the undergrad and graduate level. When he's not at work, he loves spending time outdoors hunting and fishing with his grandkids.