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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Emotionally Drained Ministry

© Jose Manuel Gelpi -
Yesterday was a long day. A lot happened that took thought and energy from my, but in the end it was gathering with a dozen of my choir-mates and singing around the bed of a dying woman. She has early-onset Alzheimer's. She's 57. And she's going to die any day now. Her daughter and son have been caring for her in their home as best they can for several years now. He asked if we would come over after choir practice to sing some songs to her. It was beautiful and emotionally draining all at the same time.

Ministry with people is going to be emotional. You need to stay tender and compassionate. You need to "weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn." But then you find yourself like I find myself now. Waking up for the next day of work and life just drained. Emotionally exhausted. How does ministry happen from this place?

One thing I think we need to get over is the idea that the paid staff have to do so much more than anyone else. Staff have more time to devote to ministry, but also more hazards. If you were a cook and cut your finger you'd take a day or two off to heal up before heading back to the kitchen. If your heart has been cut out, take some time off to heal. Don't try to be tough and work through it. It might happen the first time or even the fifth time, but eventually you'll crack and crumble. Take care of yourself.

We also need to get over the thought that church stuff needs to always be happy and fun. The majority of Christian music and preaching is all about how happy we are as Christians and how God will take us to heaven where we'll be happy. What about when we're not? What about when we're mourning, raging, doubting? Those emotions are all expressed, by God's people, to God. The Psalms are full of this kind of emotional variety. Minister from where you are and you can be sure that others are in the same place.

How do you deal with the emotional drains of ministry?

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