Nick Ballard
June 1st, 2021

Being a pastor or a director of a ministry is all about leading kids and families to have a relationship and grow a relationship with Jesus.  So much stems off of that.  Being in ministry for any amount of time, you know how extremely easy it is to take what is supposed to be a life of ministry and spiritual formation and turn it into a job of measurements and big ideas.  Now, before you accuse me of not using measurements or criticizing huge outreach nights, please know that we measure many things in our ministry, and I’m all about dressing up for a Tacky Prom.  But, I believe where we begin to lose our way is when we are ALL about hitting our measurements and blowing minds with our abilities.  I think our intentions are well, and I think we truly want kids to know Jesus better, but I also know there have been many periods in my life where I planned a sermon around an event rather than the Gospel.  Discipleship was an after-thought to the momentum of the measurement, rather than being the driver.

Why is that?  I think it’s because we (and I) fall spiritually short in our own personal lives.  We’re driven by the “success” of our jobs rather than by the importance of our calling.  And here’s how we’re falling spiritually short:

  1. We’re moving too fast.
  2. We’re wasting our time off.
  3. We’re focusing more on programming than spiritual formation.
  4. We think we’re irreplaceable.

Here’s what I believe it takes to combat our spiritual shortfalls

Slow Down 

We have to slow down. This has to be a daily decision.  It’s so easy to always be in a rush, going from meeting to meeting, one thing to the next.  There used to be a time when I didn’t have a phone on me at all times.  Now, I essentially have my phone, watch, tablet, and/or computer on me all the time.  I don’t know if it’s a need to feel reachable at all times or to have the ability to sit down and do some work wherever I am, but life didn’t used to be like this, and it doesn’t have to be right now either.  Slowing down daily can be simply not rushing or  waking up early enough to pray and read instead of shower and leave.  Leave your computer at work and your phone out of your bedroom.  John Mark Comer says he even drives the speed limit (gasp) to help him have a slower mindset!  Take 15-20 minutes in the middle of your day to have a Daily Office (a time to pause and read, pray, journal, etc.).  If you work at a church, you can do that pretty easily!

A faith-deprived leader cannot lead a faith-filled ministry.

Weekly Sabbath 

For some, it’s really difficult to take a day or two off.  We feel like what we do is very important, and if we don’t do what we do, people will suffer (or we may not hit our measurements).  So a day off becomes difficult.  For others, you can take a day off, but you may waste them.  I think we waste our days off when we don’t practice a weekly sabbath.  A Sabbath is a 24-hour period, weekly, where we just be and not do.  It’s designed to spiritually refresh and refocus us for our week and it’s biblical!  After practicing the Sabbath with my family, I firmly believe that my week with a Sabbath in it is more productive, more refreshing, more focused, and more spiritually engaging than my week without.  My family starts it with pizza, we have fun together, we do a Bible study together, we read, and we rest (and nap).  We don’t schedule things (as much as we can help it), and we turn our phones off.  It was not an easy transition to begin this practice (it’s still not), but the reward is worth it.  Sure, take time off to binge watch a show or play some video games, but not at the expense of a Sabbath.

A Monthly Spiritual Renewal Day

How about substituting a day where you typically work on measurements and programming, for a day you focus on your own spiritual well-being?  How about doing that every month?  It’s not easy, and you feel like you cannot afford to lose a day at work, BUT I truly believe you cannot afford to lose a day of complete focus on your spiritual well-being.  Trust me, from this monthly day will come a more spiritually healthy you and ministry.  If you do not get a monthly spiritual renewal day, talk to your leadership, and simply make the request.  If you’re denied this, there are greater issues at play higher up in your church/organization.

Seasonal Sabbatical 

This is a big one. I say seasonally, because it really depends on your church/organization as to how frequent it’s allowed.  Some pastors will work decades before getting a sabbatical.  I’m fortunate to be at a church that gives pastors a 1-month sabbatical after every 5th year of ministry.  Why do they do this?  Because our spiritual well-being is what drives and leads our ministry, and we are not irreplaceable!  The minute we think we can’t afford to take an extended leave is the moment we are putting too much importance on ourselves.  When I take my sabbatical, I empower other leaders to lead.  The truth is, someone led my ministry before me, and someone will lead it after me.  I’m just the current steward.

Too many churches and ministries are being led by leaders who are falling spiritually short.  It’s time to take our spiritual health more seriously and lead from a position of spiritual health rather than by our knowledge and skill.  I’ll take someone that works 40 hours a week, sabbaths 24, leaves their computer in their office, and takes 4 straight weeks seasonally to spiritually rest, over someone that works 65 hours a week and is always “on.”

If you want some book suggestions to help with this, let me know, and I’d love to throw some your way!

Nick Ballard

Nick is the Next Gen Pastor at Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles, MO, which is outside of St. Louis. Nick has been in full-time student ministry since 2005. He's been married since 2004, and been a father since 2011. Nick loves student ministry, the local church, and believe that God has big plans for this generation of teenagers. Follow Nick at Twitter @nicksville or check out www.studentministrylife.com

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