Church leadership is hard work; there is a daily grind to partnering with God to build His church. While God does the heavy lifting, we are still responsible for the energy we put into our ministry
. Most of the time we have the discipline to keep solving problems, helping people and making progress even when we want to quit. But sometimes, out of a desire to avoid unappealing tasks, we fill our schedule with things that we prefer or enjoy. As church leaders, this temptation is especially strong; we have a long list of good things that we can do to avoid the hard work we should do.
Here is a list of 10 ways church leaders often avoid hard work. When you read the list, you are likely going to think, “But these are good things!” I agree. It’s motivation, timing and frequency that make these things dangerous. When we baptize our laziness in spirituality, what emerges is not from His Spirit but from our flesh. We actually should do these ten things (and do them a lot), just not to replace hard work.
1. Spiritual disciplines.
I recently had a young leader miss a meeting with me to spend time with the Lord. He felt justified. I feel differently.
The church runs on relationships, so it’s important to invest in community. But there is a difference between intentional investment and just hanging out to avoid work.
At my first church, the youth guys and I would grab lunch together 2-3 times per week. After lunch, we would often head to a coffee shop and kick around theological ideas for hours. It was fun! It just wasn’t work. I so enjoyed those times, but I often feel like I should reimburse the church for the time that I used irresponsibly.
The most exciting, emotionally rewarding part of any project is the vision phase. We get to dream, talk about the future and imagine the possibilities. So fun! But the gap between vision casting and vision fulfillment is filled with much hard work. Many pastors cast an exciting vision, and then, instead of doing the hard work to make it happen, they just cast a new vision. Nothing ever really happens, but everyone is excited … at least for a while. Eventually people identify this problem and leave in search of a leader willing to actually
work toward a vision.
After you have the vision in place, you get to come up with the strategy. Some people spend so much time thinking through their ministry that they never actually do their ministry.
There’s always another person who wants to meet with the pastor or another couple looking for wisdom — we should clearly help these people! But sometimes we lean toward counseling because it is emotionally rewarding to have the answers for people. Hard work feels much less rewarding, so it is easy to avoid.
There are so many great books and conferences that might offer some insight into spirituality and ministry. It is easy to pick up a book and put the to-do list on hold for a couple hours.
There are a seemingly unlimited number of tests you can take that can lead to valuable insight and self-awareness. While all this insight is valuable, it doesn’t move the ball down the field.
It is important that your team builds trust, communication and relational maturity. But we can easily spend an inordinate amount of time on retreats and staff days away, and become so focused on working well together that little actual work gets done.
When you get a win, you should absolutely celebrate it. But then you should clean up the confetti and get back to the task of building the church
Again, all of these things are vital to a healthy ministry, and should be prioritized in your life and schedule. Just evaluate your intentions whenever you pursue these tasks to make sure they aren’t distracting you from the hard work at hand.