I had a deep discussion recently with a young ministry leader. His dilemma was not at all uncommon, so I want to address an often-experienced leadership issue here. Whether you’re a pastor, small group leader, men’s ministry coordinator, or even just an engaged Christian that ministers to your brothers and sisters wherever you can, this will fit in “your wheelhouse.”
First, this leader has a group of 15-20 people that ask to meet with him individually on a regular basis and, essentially with many, they have the same conversation every time. The symptoms may change some, depending on the crisis of the day, but the root issue and the advice from my friend are always the same. So, he ends up dreading the meeting, because he knows the drill, and he knows nothing changes, but because of duty, responsibility, calling, and yes, even guilt, he takes the meeting, and they do the dance . . . again.
So, what’s the solution? Well, as they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, so you have to end the insanity. I think it’s fair to tell someone something up to three times, especially if they bring different symptoms and scenarios and it may take a few times to get to the root problem. But, at four, you’ve been engaged and fair with your time and they’ve clearly heard what to do, so you have to make a choice. You have to gracefully, tactfully, tell the person that you have covered this subject well with them, given them all the counsel and help you can, and it’s just time for them to dig in and obey. If you’re a heavy grace person, I understand you’ll have a problem with this, but the other option is, you keep meeting and wasting both of your time. Remember—you are a steward of your days and the gifts God has given you. Maybe someone new needs some attention?
Now for Point Two. When you realize that you are caring more about someone’s life than he/she is, it’s time to stop and back the truck up. When we read the passage of Jesus’ encounter with the rich, young ruler, it says that the young man “went away sad” after hearing Jesus’ answer. Then Jesus went on to talk about how difficult it is for great wealth and faith to mix. It does not say, “And, verily, Jesus ran after him and told him he was just kidding about the whole ‘sell all your stuff’ thing. Jesus told the man that His Kingdom was available, no matter what he chose.” It doesn’t say that, but sometimes we act like it does, don’t we? Because it’s what we will sometimes do with the people we minister to.
When we are worrying, fretting, and obsessing over someone’s life and that person just continues to walk in dysfunction and disobedience, it usually means we have taken on a burden that the Lord didn’t intend. It’s time to re-evaluate the situation, your place in it, and submit it to the Lord for further direction. It may be time to either let it go, turn it over to someone else, or get a new direction.
In closing, the point of this article is not about expensing people and ministry. It’s about saving ministers (anyone who reaches others for Christ). We must love with grace and intention, but we must also be good stewards of our own time, energy, minds, and bodies. No Christian is immune to ministry burnout, and people who are draining with no intention to change, burn people out quickly.
So, do you have anyone in your life that is on repeat appointments with you, playing the same record every time? Do you have someone that you stress over, yet they seem to just stay happily ignorant? The ball is in your court. Lay your ministry and the people in it on the table and ask God what to do—for you and for them.
For attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. —Proverbs 1:2-7