Loving the Ministry You're In

May 4th, 2011

Call me crazy, but I believe those of us who feel a special tug to ministry should actually enjoy the work we are doing in a healthy way, or move on. Does the world need more bitter, exhausted, morally-failing, holier-than-thou "religious leaders?" (Not so much).

Last year I had to ask myself these and many more hard questions. After serving on staff with InterVarsity for 10 years, I felt like I couldn't stand another day. I was exhausted. Sick of the endless repetition of a flock that turns around every 4-5 years. Also, I was done with wacko hours and constant fund-development. Was it too much, God, to allow me to have a normal life where my children aren't growing up traipsing across college campuses at 10:30 at night, drawing on the floor in the back of a crowded room at bedtime?

I asked God to release me to be a stay-at-home Mom to my two precious sons. I tearfully shared with my supervisor that I was "in a phase of life that was not compatible with InterVarsity staff." He was very wise, very kind. He communicated a strong desire for me to be a healthy and whole woman of God. I told anyone who would listen how I needed to hit the road and "follow my heart." Honestly, who wouldn't advise me to spend time with my children while they're young? It was not an unreasonable request.

But then something happened. After weeks of laborious administrative tasks, I went to campus. There I was on Dec. 21 eating my home-cooked mac'n'cheese, enjoying a year end Christmas party with a group of InterVarsity students at Western Michigan University. I sat next to a group of five African-American men from Detroit, where I too am from. A few them were from my old hood and I was able to make them laugh at a few pretty lame jokes from the old neighborhood. As I talked to them, I realized pretty quickly that -though we had just met- I loved them. They were new to the group this semester along with a whopping 32 new students who had gotten involved with InterVarsity on campus because they saw the love of Christ in their classmates and roommates.

I wish I could say it was less dramatic than it was, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. As I talked to "Doot," I remembered that influencing brotha's like Doot is exactly what I'm called to. I was reminded that making five new African-American men laugh at my lame jokes is part of my calling: welcoming new students, gaining their trust, discipling them and sending them off as world changing Christian Alumni. It was in that single "aha moment" that I knew God was NOT releasing me to be a stay-at-Mom. He was confirming that he had set me apart and called me to the tasks of Isaiah 61: to preach good news to the poor in spirit on campus, to bind up the brokenhearted freshman women on campus, and to proclaim freedom for the captives on campus. I was acutely aware that if I'm not the one to bestow on these five African-American men a crown of beauty instead of ashes, who will? If I'm not the one who bestows on them oil of gladness instead of mourning, who will? If I'm not the one who will set on their shoulders a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair, who will?

From that point on, it was easy to tell everyone I was wrong. Not only was I deciding to stay on staff with InterVarsity for another five year commitment,  I was excited to stay! I was humbled. I told the Lord of the Universe it would be more convenient for me to stay at home with my children because I was tired. The Lord of the Universe reminded me he called and gifted me uniquely for the ministry he's put me in. God gently reminded me how much I love the students I serve. I think it's easy to keep going in ministry because we think we should, though we may not be healthy, getting the sleep we need, creating the necessary boundaries, pursuing much needed accountability, or developing ourselves spiritually or emotionally. It's easy to think there's no way out from these behaviors and no way to leave. In the past, when faced with the idea of leaving full time ministry, I've laughed at my prospects: i.e. "I can lead a great small group, will you hire me?" It becomes easy to keep going simply because we think we should.

I believe we must figure out what we are uniquely gifted to do-- what we love to do-- and do that thing, even if it means stepping away from ministry for a time. There are women I know who have done this. They love their stay-at-home Mommy-ness. I'm convinced I would not. I have even struggled to reduce my ministry hours to part-time wanting to do more! Yet in still, the Lord has gently reminded me to allow myself to enjoy all the good gifts he's given me: ministry and my children. Why not ask God what he's uniquely gifted you to do? Why not ask God to allow you to do things in ministry that are fun and life-giving for you? Why not ask him if it's time to move on to something new? Why not gain clarity on what you intend for the next 3-5 years of your life? Why not get rid of the famine mindset and pursue health within your ministry? I believe if we ask God with a true not-my-will-but-yours-be-done-Oh-God-Lord-and-Leader-of-my-life mindset he will faithfully guide us.

May you enjoy the blessing of loving the work God gave you to do!

Grace lives in Kalamazoo, MI and is regional black campus ministries coordinator with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. You can read more posts from Grace at her blog.

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