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Pitfalls of Ministry: Frustration

Here’s the thing, you will be frustrated in ministry.  You will be frustrated in any job, but ministry frustration may hurt you more because our frustration often deals with the eternal and the spiritual.  You need to know that you will always have frustration.  You are dealing with people, not a project.  Completing projects have a process that takes you from beginning and building to a final completion.  It’s done and it will stay done.  Discipling people is like trying to build a sandcastle.  You give it a shape and some detail, but every now and then it collapses, waves overtake it, or somebody just straight knocks it down.  Then you start building up again.  You are never finished because there will always be more work to do or more waves coming.

Ministry frustration comes in many forms.  It could be from weird complaints, issues with other staff members, or budget issues.  More often for me frustration comes from watching students who seem to have missed the 200 times that I told them that their lives need to match their faith in Christ.

If you are destined to feel frustrated throughout your career, it would make sense to be prepared.  When I have one of those big frustrating experiences, I try to quickly find an opposite experience that will offset my pain with joy.  Here’s an example: If my weeknight program just bombs on a particular night, rather than quickly escape to my house, I make it a priority to have an important conversation that night with a student that speaks into his or her life.  That way, when I do the math for the day, I may have had a tough hour, but I also helped shape a student’s life and built an important relationship.

It is not hard to call to mind a dozen people who I know have already succumbed to frustration in their jobs.  These people are defeated and hate going to work.  They are critical and find no joy in what they are doing, even if it is significant.  In a career such as ministry, where personal motivation and initiative play a huge role, frustration can completely undermine effectiveness.  Motivated workers significantly outperform unmotivated workers.  If you have come to a place where frustration has broken you down, the sirens need to be going off telling you to rediscover your passion or get to a place where you can work through the frustration.  If an accountant was frustrated and stopped being efficient and careful with her clients’ accounts, she would be fired for failing to take care of her clients.  How much more should we in ministry approach our eternally significant tasks with a holy urgency to accomplish all that we can regardless of our circumstances?

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