How to give thanks for your church (even if you are worn out, burned out or cranky)


Have you had a challenging year at church? Every church goes through ups and downs (and some churches seem to have a challenging year every year).

One pastor, after surviving the recession unscathed, is facing a pay cut next year. Another is at the end of his rope with a mutinous staff member. A third has had at least one funeral a week since September. At times like this in ministry, it’s easy to feel exhausted, overwhelemed and resentful.

Now there may be practical approaches to these and other challenges. Reduced pay should mean reduced hours (which may not solve the personal budget impact). Steps can be taken to terminate a difficult employee. An exhausting pastoral care season calls for post-Christmas (if not Thanksgiving) vacation time.

Give thanks for the challenges

And you can choose to step back from the negative feelings and give thanks even for the challenges you really wish would go away. I’m working to practice this for myself, and I know it isn’t easy. I had a big disappointment with a planned retreat which didn’t have enough registrants for me to go. I was disappointed about missing out on the trip (and honestly, the paycheck). But it meant I was able to go on another retreat with my clergy support group, and in the midst of the letdown I was able to give thanks.

In the examples above, the pastor with the pay cut could consider giving thanks that: 1) he does have a job; 2) he finally has to decide to move to a new church, when he’s been putting it off for years; 3) at least the leaders at last faced up to the budget challenges instead of pretending they weren’t real.

The minister with the difficult staff person could give thanks that: 1) he might actually learn how to fire someone, 2) he’s learned more about himself from the staff challenge than he ever did with a rebellious teenager in the house or 3) he isn’t in this alone, because her leaders are 100% with her.

The priest exhausted from funerals could give thanks 1) for the privilege of standing with families at time of loss 2) for the planned vacation 3) that she loves ministry so much more than her previous life in the corporate world, even though she is tired.

I truly believe that giving thanks even in the middle of difficulties helps energize us and creates resilience. It’s always worth it if you learn something.

What challenges have you faced this year? And can you find a way to give thanks?

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