How to Handle Seasons of Insecurity as a Pastor
It has been said that the majority of pastors in America resign every Monday. Or at least they seriously consider it! After serving in ministry for over thirty-five years, I can say that I completely understand why we feel this way. Pastoring a church is an incredibly difficult job that is not for the faint of heart and is rarely understood by those who don’t do it.
We have all heard the off-handed remarks that those outside of the ministry say about us. . . “I wish I only had to work one day a week.” Or, “No wonder you are such a great golfer since you get to play so often.” And my personal favorite, “If you had a real job, you would understand what work is like in the real world!” Although the majority of comments like this are done in jest, they often perpetuate a feeling that is constantly living beneath the surface in a pastor’s heart: the feeling of being overwhelmed and under-equipped to adequately lead their church.
Every pastor has had seasons where they felt as though they were drowning from the expectations of the job. Fluctuating attendance, inconsistent weekly giving, staff issues, board members with agendas, and comparison to other “successful” ministries in our region all feed the notion that we’re not good enough to lead our church.
It isn’t long until the greatest threat of all shows up . . . insecurity! I have said for many years that the most difficult part of being a pastor is having to grow and mature ourselves as Christians, husbands, fathers and leaders while constantly being under the spotlight of those we lead. This pressure can almost be too much to withstand at times.
If you don’t feel capable to pastor anymore, then here are seven questions I would encourage you to ask yourself. An honest evaluation leading to a positive change may be just what you need to regain your confidence.
1) Do I Sabbath on a weekly basis?
I believe this issue to be the most violated area of disobedience in the average pastor’s life. We teach this principle to our congregations while ignoring it ourselves. God gave us the principles of Sabbath and tithing to show us our need for reliance on Him. It is only natural to experience the resulting pressure and exhaustion when we refuse to take a day for rest and reflection.
2) Am I leading my home well?
Many of us have witnessed time and time again the pastor who attempts to protect all the families within their congregation, only to lose their own family. In 1 Timothy 3:4-5, the apostle Paul told the young pastor Timothy that one of the qualifications for a pastor is to “rule his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?).”
Nothing will create insecurity more in a pastor than having to hide the issues at home from our congregation. It is both relentless and exhausting, which quickly leads to insecurity.
3) Is my calling to ministry an absolute?
The major separation between pastors who endure the times of feeling incapable and those who don’t is a confidence in their calling. One of the great failures of many churches today is to empower leaders who do not have the divine call upon their life to a particular ministry. In Ephesians 1:18 we read, “that the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”
The confidence of knowing we are divinely called to the ministry is the substance of our hope that sustains us through difficult seasons. It’s not a matter of if the storms are going to come. It’s a matter of when! The absolute commitment to our calling is the anchor that holds us firm in the midst of any challenge.
4) Have unrealistic expectations overwhelmed me?
When insecurity grips our confidence, we easily become overwhelmed. And unrealistic expectations are a major contributor to insecurity. If we put unfair expectations on ourselves and adhere to the intense expectations that our congregation may put on us, we often begin to feel incapable as a pastor.
One of the best practices of combating unrealistic expectations is to simplify our goals by defining short-range, medium-range and long-range objectives that are consistent with the makeup of our membership and community. Identify the “low-hanging fruit” that can produce some quick wins for your leadership and then build on them.
5) When is the last time I received training?
I made it a priority to attend seminars in my early ministry years. However, I would inevitably allow several years to pass between these training events. This eventually led to the revelation that growing in my leadership does not happen automatically. A pastor must continue learning, just like the auto mechanic who goes through yearly certification in order to keep up with new technology.
When was the last time you received training?
6) Who do I hang around on a continual basis?
The company I keep has a tremendous effect on me. We must honestly evaluate the people that we spend the most time with each week. Do they lift our load or do they make it heavier? Pastor, you must be very intentional to bring people around you who hold you up, lift you up and call you up! Notice the direction is always upward. Make a choice to spend your time around life-giving people.
7) Do I have a mentor or coach?
Very few choices will bring the feeling of being incapable as a pastor more than doing life alone. Who do you have that you can seek wisdom from and be completely honest with? Everyone needs a mentor/coach that loves us enough to be honest with us. And when someone shares their own personal ministry experiences with us, it often produces exponential results! Be intentional in pursuing wisdom from someone who is seasoned and stable.
At the end of the day, 2 Corinthians 5:7 teaches us that we walk by faith and not by sight. However, denying our feelings of discouragement will not make them go away. Take some time today to work through each of these questions. It is possible that a new perspective is exactly the needed remedy when those feelings of insecurity arise.