Everyone suffers from discouragement. Fear and anxiety are commonplace in the secular world, but also in ministry. Avoiding discouragement in ministry is a priority for countless pastors and ministry teams around the world. It can come from burnout, lack of prioritization, or inability to delegate. Most of the time, it also originates from Christians placing such high expectations on other Christians to behave like perfect Christians, so that when we do step out of line, or make the wrong move, everyone is more than devastated.Then there is the all too familiar spiritual aspect of discouragement, which we know, originates from the pits of Hell. Is it possible to avoid discouragement in ministry altogether? We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how it affects us. How can we be more proactive in combatting ministry burnout and, especially, discouragement?
Here are ten ways pastors, worship leaders, and ministry teams can stand fast against discouragement in this new year! Let’s look at Psalm 121, which is a tiny Psalm with huge implications. From it, and a few other helpful insights, we can gather ten immediate things that will help us avoid discouragement.
10 Ways to Avoid Discouragement in Ministry and Church
1. Our Help Comes From God Alone. Psalm 121:1-2
Sharefaith’s theme song for 2015 is “Come to Me” from Bethel Music. The Lord gave it to us as a simple reminder of where our focus should be. It’s a beautifully written song with words, so true. It’s written in the first-person perspective as if God is talking to you. One verse reads “I am your anchor, in the wind and the waves, I am your steadfast so don’t be afraid. Though your heart and flesh may fail you, I’m your faithful strength. I am with you, wherever you go!”
In our hopes to avoid discouragement, fear, and anxiety, we look to books, exercise, music, movies, motivational speakers and other things that do help to some extent, but the results are temporary. In Psalm 121, the writer reminds us to look to God for hope, encouragement and help. His help is ever-lasting. When we start with Him first, we can always add the other helpful resources, but this time the order of things are right! Focus on God first!
2. God Never Leaves You nor Forsakes You – Psalm 121:3,4
One of the most discouraging things about being a believer is that we go through many seasons and trials, just like everyone else. Non-believers think we have it all together and somehow are victorious in everything. Actually, we are mostly broken individuals who rely solely on faith, not knowing where things will end or how things will play out, but trusting unconditionally that the Lord is in control.
In Psalm 121:3-4 the writer states that God will not let us stumble or fall. He watches over us, continuously, without interruption. If Jesus says that he will never leave nor forsake us, then perhaps we would rather ask: In those periods of discouragement, anxiety, or fear, where were we with our walk? Were we spending time with the Lord in His Word and prayer? Did we fellowship with other believers? Perhaps when things get hard, it’s not God pulling away, it’s us!
Knowing that God is continually there, makes life easier. We don’t constantly have to spend our prayer time running through a list of desires, requests and needs. He already knows all of them. We can just take time to be with Him – resting in His presence.
3. God Personally Watches Over You – Psalm 121:5
The NLT 1996 version beautifully writes this verse. It states “The Lord himself, watches over you!” How amazing is that! The King of the universe, Creator of all, is watching over you – personally! He cares that deeply for you. He loves you that much! His desire to protect, comfort and guide you is so deep that even though there are billions of other believers, He takes personal care to watch over you! This is very comforting!
4. He Is Your Shield and Protection – Psalm 121:5
The Lord stands beside you. He is your protective shade. Like a shield, he encompasses you. His protection covers you. When dealing with discouragement because of major decisions, new hires, projects, services, tithing or whatever ministry obstacle you face, you can rely on knowing that even in that time of trouble, He remains a shield around you, a shade over you. That should give you the incredible confidence to walk boldly and rest in Him. You are not alone!
5. Day and Night His Watchful Eye Is Over You – Psalm 121:6-8
When fear and anxiety strike, it can be crippling. When it evolves into discouragement, we become ineffective in our stewardship. This is exactly where Satan wants you. If he can discourage you to the extent that you lose motivation for ministry, then he essentially succeeds in making you less powerful as a Gospel messenger. He wants you to think that you are alone and that God is not interested in your mundane, puny tasks and requests. That is a lie! If God watches over you day and night, He (God) is very much in tune with your day-to-day. He is aware of your needs.
You are also on Satan’s hit list. Being in ministry, you are a direct opponent to anything and everything he stands for. So don’t be discouraged when discouragement comes. See it as a blessing! You are worth that much, that the devil spends this much time to discourage you.
6. The Lord Preserves and Protects Your Life – Psalm 121:7
A big part of discouragement for believers is the feeling of unbelief. It sounds like an oxymoron. We have the Word. We know where to put our trust. We have Scripture to edify and uplift us when those times come. Yet, when discouragement does happen, we feel powerless. Even sometimes reading those verses brings little consolation.
We can never use this scenario to decrease the power and effectiveness from Scripture as we can recall numerous events in our past, where God did rightly move and encourage us with these same Scriptures. Instead of being overwhelmed, we can think back on all the times we went through hardship, and all the many occasions where God brought comfort. This is where a journal holds incredible value.When you do go through discouragement and the Lord gives you encouragement from His Word, write it down! Then when this situation arises again, you look back and see how faithful He was in preserving and protecting your life in all areas: from your marriage, work, children, health, etc.
7. Grow Through Delegation
A leader cannot do everything him or herself. One of the biggest problems in delegation is that a brilliant leader who has experienced tremendous success, often feels fearful to offload some of their responsibilities to others. There may be issues of trust because the leader was able to attain a high level of effectiveness on their own, which they cannot guarantee will be upheld by whoever they delegate to. Oftentimes, doing something yourself is faster than training someone else to do it.
Regardless of this truth, you will burn out and experience discouragement if you run the race alone. Surround yourself by people that are better than you, smarter than you and capable of more than you could do, and offload your responsibilities to them. Share the burden and ignite a new strength in your ministry team!
8. Grow Through Balance
Discouragement has a negative effect on your work and personal life. There are numerous examples of families of pastors suffering when the pastor is so focused on ministry that they become detuned and automated when at home. You cannot preach about faithfulness if you cannot attain it at home. You have to create a clear balance between work, ministry and your personal life. Your family deserves it, and God mandates it! Take regular breaks. Avoid taking on too much. Offload responsibilities and spend adequate time in prayer and God’s Word. Then you will be truly rejuvenated.
9. Grow Through Prioritization
A lack of time is simply a lack of priorities. Avoiding discouragement starts with looking at the bigger picture and understanding the order of projects. What can you eliminate from the list? What has to happen today? What can be outsourced, offloaded or postponed? Not everything has to be done by the end of the day. This takes a lot of time to master but is certainly worth the effort. The goal is to focus your energy on things with real value and importance that has the biggest impact on your family, ministry, and outreach.
10. Remember Your Calling
Discouragement usually evolves into a decline of self-worth. When you feel discouraged, you also feel less capable. You start to wonder exactly why you do what you do. You start to wonder if you have any real benefit in the position you are. You start to look beyond in hopes that the grass may be greener somewhere else. That’s when you have to put your foot down and stand against this powerful attack from Satan. You know how precious you are in the sight of the Lord. You know that you were worthy enough that He died for you. You know that he knows you by name and wonderfully formed you.
It’s time to nip that lie in the behind, and remember why you first started in your position. Think back on all the wonderful things God has done for you in the past!
Avoiding discouragement is not entirely possible. Dealing with it is! Here are several more Scriptures that will put a smile back on your face and enable you to fight discouragement, burnout, fear and anxiety.
2 Timothy 1:7
1 Peter 5:7
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
1 Peter 5:6-7
2 Kings 6:16-17