Yuck. Smell that?
Something’s off. And it’s not the mushy cantaloupe growing a beard in the back of your fridge. It may well be your, ahem, ministry.
Are you past your pastoral “best before” date? How can you tell?
Here are 17 signs that your ministry may need to be chucked in the compost bin:
1. You only read the bible and pray “professionally”
At home, you’re less likely to cozy up with the Book of Daniel than a Daniel Day-Lewis movie. When you’re paid to be spiritual, prayer and study feels a lot like, well, work. And who’s up for overtime? Not you.
2. When your kids ask you a theological question you tell them to make an appointment with your secretary
Seriously, after a long day wrestling with internet Heilsgeschichte (see #4), the little inquisitors should know better! The last thing you want to do is talk shop with your family. If you can’t let your hair down and be burned out, grumpy and indifferent at home, where can you be?
3. Your holiday plans DON’T include worship
Every Sunday morning while the rest of the world is snoozing, you’re up scouring the web for a children’s message or talking to Ol’ Edith Barkley who calls to beef about the bulletin or the cookie crumbs in the church hall or how much her bunions hurt. On your rare Sunday off, you want to wake at noon and stuff your face with donuts and the NFL.
4. Your most important function as a preacher is “cut and paste”
Everything that could be said about a text already exists somewhere on the web, right? You’re not about to reinvent the wheel. Besides, you can use the extra 12 hours for something more productive (see #6).
5. When you visit shut-ins, you’re thrilled to see them fast asleep
But not dead—that’d be more work. You tip-toe into their room, leave a sticky-note greeting on their night stand, tip-toe out, and chalk it up as a “pastoral visit.”
6. Your Google to God ratio is 20:1 at best
Your office hours consist mostly of meditating on last night’s MLB box scores, playing Farmville, or—plug your ears Edith—watching lesbian threesome videos. Yup, something stinks.
7. The custodian spends more time in your office than you
Hey, thinking about your sermon (or where you’ll steal one) while gardening or golfing is
considered “work” isn’t it?
8. You pray people don’t ask “what do you do for a living?”
You pray! Especially while waiting at the checkout with a 40 oz bottle of Bombay Sapphire in each hand. Truth is you’re not proud of what you’ve become. You’re really not. But there it is.
9. Your book allowance and continuing education benefits are used for non-ministry
That Amazon order of Dan Brown, Stephen King, and Vegas travel guides? File it under “Clergy self care,” right? And somehow you’ll find a way to spin that NASCAR weekend or your bender at Bellagio’s as a ministry expense.
10. When you read the church budget you only think about your salary and benefits
Is there anything else?
11. Your Doctor (or Drug Dealer) is on speed dial
Most days see you burned out, broken and frail. Medicated or self-medicated, you get by with a little help from your friends.
12. You’re holding your family hostage to your pain
They absorb your stress, heartache, despair. They suffer because of it. It’s not fair. You know this. You hate this. You wish it could change. They do too.
13. You end your sermons early
If you can’t stand to hear another second of your own sermon, you just know your congregation would do cart-wheels in the aisles if you stopped mid-stream. So you do.
14. You’ve lost the Faith
You’ve kicked your faith to the curb and would love to do the same to your ministry if you didn’t have bills to pay and mouths to feed. So you soldier on preaching with your fingers crossed behind your back.
15. Your ministry skills suck
The reviews are in and they’re as cut and dry as the Red Sea under Moses’ command. You’re just not meant to be a man/woman of the cloth. You can’t preach, teach, counsel, or care. It’s alright. You tried (maybe).
16. You’d resign tomorrow if you won the lottery today
Assuming you play. Put another way, if you could snap your fingers and instantly be in a different career, you would. Put yet another way, you’d leave ministry if you felt there was something else you could do.
17. When asked to “share a few words” you’re oh so tempted to share these:
“That’s all folks!” Drops mic, leaves. Forever.
18. More signs? Share yours in the comments below
So, maybe your ministry is rotting.
It certainly hasn’t been market-fresh for some time.
You’ve tried the usual things—mountain top retreats, “Renew your Ministry Mojo” type conferences, taking a new call in a new locale—but nothing’s taking the stink out.
Is it time to think the unthinkable—chucking your ministry into the compost bin? That’s where it may belong (don’t toss it in the trash—your ministry is not waste).
If so, turn all of your experience in ministry around in the compost bin. Be patient. Allow the bugs and miraculous microbes time to work their wonders. Soon enough, sure enough, your rotting ministry will be transformed into rich, life-giving loam—full of grace and potential.
The world awaits to see what new shoots of life will emerge from you!