How to Navigate the 3 Ministry Modes I

Part 1: Survival

By: Dan Reiland

We all want to experience significance in ministry. We hope for success, and yet sometimes find ourselves merely surviving. Is there a way to more consistently experience significant ministry impact?

Is it always through success?  How can you break out of survival mode?

This article may be for you or someone you coach.  We have broken it up into three entries, and regardless of where you are in your pursuit of significance, start here with survival for context.


Characteristics of Ministry Survival:

  • You function day to day without a plan.
  • You experience more distraction than focus.
  • You are more reactionary than proactive.
  • You experience little joy and meager results.
  • You are frustrated and/or discouraged.

If you experience two or more characteristics, I believe we can agree that change is needed from your current ministry practices, patterns, and way of thinking.

If you work hard and pray hard but have meager results, take heart in this truth, your experience is more common than you might imagine, and you can break out of this survival zone.

There is great value in a “simple” approach because you don’t need one more thing in your life that is complicated. You need to read something and say, “I can do that.”

Navigating Ministry Survival:

1) Get some rest and take time to pray.

Higher productivity often comes from working less and taking better care of yourself. Take some time to rest, think, and pray.

Consistent rest and exercise are healthy and needed. Take your regular days off, that’s not always easy, but it is so important. It also helps you develop margin that allows you to get ahead and make a plan.

Working proactively, rather than jumping every time the phone rings is essential. When you are rested and refreshed, you can think more; clearly, your attitude is better, and your decisions are more resolute.

2) Talk with a leader you trust and respect. 
We were never intended to lead in a vacuum. The body of Christ was designed to help each other. Find a church leader, ideally close to you for the advantage of in-person conversations, but phone conversations work well too. A leader you trust, and respect is vital, and it’s best if the pastor is leading a church a little larger than yours, with enough experience to add wisdom to your life.

It’s amazing what a conversation or two can do to help you get unstuck and begin to move forward. This doesn’t mean your church doubles overnight, but you can start to see personal growth and some movement in your church.

3) Get reacquainted with your calling. 
When you become exhausted, frustrated, or lose your way in ministry, that often results in merely going through the motions (survival mode) without passion.

It’s common in these times to lose perspective. The first thing you lose sight of is purpose, why you do what you do. You lose connection with your calling, that’s what survival is — behavior without purpose.

Take some time to pray and write out your original calling to ministry. Write the story of how God called you to ministry. He hasn’t left you or changed His mind. God is not done with you. Read those divinely inspired words daily. Meditate on them and ask God for His favor to do what He’s called you to do.

Dan Reiland is the Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

© 2019 Dan Reiland | The Pastor’s Coach – Developing Church Leaders

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