Now I’m taking a break from church ministry

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So, for the first time in about fourteen years, I’m not involved in official church ministry. I started teaching Sunday School way back in 2003. I was still a new Christian and I hadn’t done my education degree, so mostly I didn’t know what I was doing. But God still used my work, and since then I’ve served in the church in a variety of different ways – Sunday School, youth group, Bible studies. I have seen different ministries rise and fall. I’ve seen little kindergarten girls grow into young women.

God has done many amazing things through my time in ministry but it’s also been hard work. There are seasons where Bible studies are attended regularly and I have people leading things with me. Then, there are the dry seasons where it’s a struggle to get people interested. By the end of last year, there were more weeks than not where people just didn’t come to Bible study at all.

I had a several week break over the Christmas holidays, as usual. I scheduled the two Bible studies I lead to start back in the first week of February. I mapped out the term planner, I prepared that week’s study and, when it came to the day, no-one turned up. To either study. The problems we had last year were continuing into this year. And that’s when I realised, like a wave washing over me – I was really tired. I’d had enough. I was tired of putting effort into something that people didn’t even show up to.

I didn’t want to become tired and cynical about the work I used to be so passionate about. How could I have any integrity as a ministry leader if my heart wasn’t in it? Then, one Saturday night, as I prepared myself to go to church and expend emotional energy on ministries that may not happen, I felt God releasing me. It was okay for me to take a break. I talked it through with my husband and we both came to the assurance that I’d take this year off doing formal ministry in the church. As soon as I actually said it out loud, I felt such a rush of liberation, like something heavy but necessary had been lifted off me.

I was nervous going to church the next day, though. I had to talk with the chairman of our church council and explain my decision. Would he pressure me into continuing? Just that day, in the service, he called for more people to get involved in Bible studies. But he was actually very understanding. He said to me ‘you have to do what God calls you to do’. And with that, I was formally released from church ministry. For the time being, anyway.

I don’t think I’m quitting church ministry forever. And I still see myself as serving God in different ways – my blogging, for example, is something new and exciting. It feels strange not to be involved in any official church ministry, but through this God is reminding me of something important. My salvation and my standing as a beloved child of God isn’t dependent on what I do. I’m loved by God now just as much as if I was leading ten Bible studies. God wants his people to just be with him, and then from that place to be obedient to his call. And for me at the moment, that means stepping down and resting. Whether you’re involved in ministry or not, maybe God is calling you to place of being and resting too.

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4 thoughts on “Now I’m taking a break from church ministry

  1. It can be such a relief! Allow others to minster to you for a while. We all go through seasons like this. I had to step away from nursery ministry this year because I just couldn’t handle going to church and having to deal with a billion other kids when Sunday is my one day to have a free break from my own. There’s a time for everything! Enjoy your break!!! 🙂

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  2. I really understand this. In the past I have had multiple seasons of finding myself overcommitted, then resenting it, then avoiding church because of it. Now what I do is: I periodically assess my gifts and interests, and I make a kind of “purpose statement” to guide what I say Yes to. Now, of course my overall purpose is to serve God and the church, but this is a more practical guideline to help me do those things that I am truly best suited to do, that won’t burn me out completely, and that others in my congregation maybe can’t do at the moment. So, for now my rule is “worship, adults, and pastors,” meaning I do worship things like music and serving communion, adult things like leading Bible study or groups, and things that focus on the pastors such as mutual ministry. This frees me to say No (for now) to children’s stuff (which I am asked a LOT to do as a mom and educator), cooking meals (which I enjoy, but was getting overwhelmed by), and plenty of other stuff that comes up. I value those activities enough to let someone else do them– someone who feels called to do them right now!

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  3. Thanks for stopping by, Anne! That’s a good thing to regularly reevaluate your purpose statement. We’re always called to serve God, but the way that happens does change through life. I stopped teaching Sunday School once I started working as a teacher, I just wanted a break from teaching – but I’m still happy to do a children’ talk from time to time.

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