For some ministry leaders, summer is a season of rest and recovery from a crazy year, as well as a time of envisioning what could be in the year to come. Though there are still opportunities for ministry, there is also the possibility you’ll have a chance to take a minute to breathe. When that season comes, what do you do with the space?
I find it hard to turn off my brain, to slow down and remember the past year, or even to take a break from thinking about the next things that need to be done or the next places the ministry needs to go.
So, if and when the season comes that allows you a minute to reflect and refresh, what should you do with that time? Here are four things we should all do during seasons of rest.
1. Celebrate the mountain tops.
Lord willing, the previous semester, year, or even years had moments of significant work that the Lord did. Hopefully, there were times when God was moving in someone’s life, opening new opportunities for ministry, or allowing a door to open that you’ve been praying about for a while. Or, it could be any number of other joyous moments in your ministry. As you look back on the things God has done, and you recall those significant moments, celebrate His goodness. Every single one of those good gifts came by the grace of God. Recall this and celebrate His work.
2. Discover the good from the valleys.
Unless you live in some magical other-world environment that is free from people and problems, the chances are high that you experienced some degree of difficulty, disappointment, or distress during the course of the last year of ministry. During the moments the Lord allows you to rest and reflect, don’t neglect to recall the painful experiences, too. Oftentimes, we can learn some of the greatest lessons through the pain of our journeys. In my own ministry, I believe some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned have come from the most challenging ministry experiences. Whether it was being mistreated, having a great plan fail, or simply experiencing a dark moment of loneliness, there are valuable insights to gain from these experiences. God doesn’t only teach us when things are good, but He oftentimes teaches us more through the valleys as well.
3. Remember the people.
Ministry is only possible if there are people. Sometimes, we recall ministry moments, whether successful or not, in terms of numbers, feelings, or even personal gain and loss. I would encourage you to strongly consider reflecting on ministry in terms of people. Recall the faces of those you’ve served and stories you’ve heard as you reflect on your ministry. Take the time to rejoice in life transformation and personal growth in the lives of the people you serve. There’s not a single person you’ve interacted with during the journey of the past year of ministry that God didn’t intend to use in your life for your own growth and development. Be sure to recall those people and rejoice in how the Lord used them.
4. Thank God for it all.
One of the most important things for us to do when you finally have a chance to breathe is to simply thank God. Be grateful for His work, His provision, His protection, His power, His endurance, His help, and His faithfulness in every moment of this past season of ministry. When we take time to reflect, there’s always much to be thankful for, even if it takes a while to realize it.
Ministry is full of highs and lows and helpful and hurtful people, but in all these things, we must thank God.
How can we put to death the bitterness, anger, and malice that may have built up over the course of the last season of ministry? Gratitude and encouragement will kill these feelings and breathe life back into our weary souls.
If you’re able to take a break during this season or during one to come, intentionally plan to reflect and rest. And, as you do celebrate the high points, look for the good from the difficulties, remember the people the Lord put in your path, and thank God in all things. If we take the time and look, we’ve got plenty to be thankful for. Therefore in all things, we should give thanks.
Steven Ackley, his wife Emily, and their four kids live out their love for anything sports and Cookout milkshakes in Murfreesboro, TN where Steven serves as the NextGen and College Pastor at LifePoint Church. Steven holds a D.Min. and an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can connect with him on Twitter.