What I Learned About Thriving in Ministry Over 20 Years
Twenty years ago, a wide-eyed, naïve, 22-year old got on a plane headed for East Asia. She had no idea what God had in store for her. She just wanted to tell others about the merciful God who changed her life-especially those who had never heard.
What began as a year of ministry overseas turned into 20. During my first two years with Cru, I constantly said, “I will never stay on staff long-term.” God has a sense of humor.
It is difficult to reflect on 20 years of ministry in such a small space, but what stands out to me the most is God’s faithfulness. I have experienced Cru staff life as a single woman, a married woman without kids, and a married mom. Each season has brought both deep joys and deep hardships, but through it all, my faithful God held me near to him.
For 20 years, He has provided ministry partners to pray and contribute to God’s work. I do not take that lightly. I’ve spent thousands of hours in ministry, but others have spent thousands of hours in prayer and have invested thousands of dollars in God’s work through me. When I consider that, it blows my mind. I am certainly not alone in this ministry!
I am humbled by God’s faithfulness to work through me in discipleship. I surely cannot take credit-I am simply God’s means of working in others’ lives, but so many of the women whom I have discipled are still walking with and serving the Lord. Some bring God’s glory to their place of work. Some have taken the gospel to the ends of the earth. Some lead ministries in their church, write books about Jesus, or disciple their own children. I am beyond grateful to have been a small piece in the puzzle God is putting together in each of their lives.
Now I have the privilege of ministering to fellow Cru staff through soul care and communications. I have the joy of serving Jesus alongside my husband, of inviting our team into our family life, and pointing my own children to Christ. Through it all, one truth resonates: even when I am unfaithful or messy, God is faithful and perfect. That is enough for me.
I often feel like I’m still that wide-eyed, naïve 22-year old (just with some gray hairs and aching muscles). I set out to change the world, but over 20 years, God changed me much more. I am deeply grateful for the past 20 years and am looking forward to more ministry years and what God has in store for me.
I sometimes am asked by younger staff if I have any advice for thriving in ministry long term, so here are five things I have learned in 20 years:
1. Your soul is more important than your ministry. You cannot thrive in ministry if you are pouring out, but never being filled back up. You will be offering dead air.
2. You cannot let the success or failure of ministry define you. This seems pretty obvious, but it can also be a sneaky temptation. Your worth is not based in how many people accept Christ, go into ministry, show up to an event, etc.
3. There will always be too many balls in the air. You have to just let some drop or ask someone else to pick them up when possible (see number 2).
4. Find a team. If the ministry you work for does not already provide you a team, find people who will pray for you, listen to you, and help you carry the burden.
5. Create consistent healthy rhythms of work and rest. You cannot be “on” all of the time or you will burn out.
Our loving father longs for us to thrive in his calling for us, not just keep our heads above water.
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