Dealing with Discouragement in Ministry

There is a reason why you hear pastors say that want to resign every Monday morning – because it is often true.

In some ways, this is even more true for church planters.

In addition to the inherent stresses and struggles of ministry, most planters also carry the additional burdens of tight finances, a lean or non-existent staff, no permanent facility and the uncertainty of whether or not their plant is even going to survive. Add in some spiritual warfare, unmet expectations, a wife and a few small kids to provide for and you can get pretty discouraged pretty quickly and getting a job that pays actual money and not Chuck E. Cheese tokens sounds pretty great.

But for most of us, that solution would be disobedient and unwise. Instead, we have to find a way to push through the discouragement and keep on fighting the good fight.

Consider these five things that can help you deal with the inevitable discouragement that comes our way as planters:

1. Anchor yourself in the Scriptures.

In the midst of the unavoidable ups and downs on the sea of church planting, we need an anchor to hold us in place. The Word of God provides that anchor. While our emotions change with our circumstances, the Scriptures do not. Digging into the Scriptures just to preach a sermon is not enough. We have to cultivate and protect a regular devotional time in the Word to be well anchored to weather the storms to come.

2. Be honest with God.

For me, trying hard to just knuckle down and push through isn’t aways helpful. It just makes me feel angry and fake. I recommend being honest with God and going to Him with the good, the bad and the ugly parts our our souls After all, He knows them all anyway. This keeps us emotionally healthy, allows our hearts to remain pliable before Him, and keeps bitterness at bay. 

3. Lean on your team. 

Though many planters plant alone, this is not optimal. We need others around us who can hold up our arms just like the ancient Israelites did with Moses at a pivotal point in his ministry (Ex. 17:10-13). Your wife can help to a degree, but we need other pastors who know the weight we carry. These can be men we raise from within or ones we “borrow” for a season from other solid churches for a season. A solid coaching relationship also plays a vital role in staying encouraged and maintaining perspective.

4. Start talking to yourself.

No, not like that. And if you do, you might want to see a doctor. Instead, talk to yourself like the Psalmist does in Psalm 42:5-6when he writes “Why are your downcast o my soul Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”  He knew the benefit of taking control of the internal situation and submitting himself afresh to Jesus. We would be wise to do the same, especially in the most difficult times.

5. Count your blessings.

Don’t let the familiarity of this counsel cause you not to follow it. As leaders, we are usually so quick to see all that is not being accomplished that we neglect to praise God for what is being accomplished. I have found this to be a profoundly helpful discipline in my life and in the life of my team. You should pick it up if you haven't. You will be shocked at what a difference it makes. 

For most, wanting to quit is an inevitable part of the planting process.

It is how we respond that makes all the difference.

*If you need a coach, we can help. Visit the Connect page and let's talk.