Ministry in any context is tough but ministry in housing schemes can be the cause of much burnout, stress and depression among pastors, planters and gospel workers. In Brasil we saw people come and go, attracted by the romance of working with street children, but soon demoralised by the reality they experienced. Ministry in housing schemes is not dissimilar. At times it can be a thankless task. People come and go with depressing regularity. Here are some things to remember:
1. Remember that God is faithful in the midst of difficulties. Some days are tough. Some weeks are tough. There is not a month that goes by when I don’t feel like giving up. This is a ministry of such highs and lows. People come to faith in Christ, you invest your times and life into hem and then they turn their back on you. Or others just give up and go back to their old way of life. Still others start the fight with you but drop out along the way. These are the moments that we bring to mind the Lord and his great promises to be with us always.
2. Opposition always comes with the territory. Usually your biggest critics are going to be those inside the body of Christ. Either they misrepresent you (purposefully or otherwise) or they question your motives for every decision. If ministry is slow they will attack you. i fit is going well they will question you. The key is to try to pray for them in the midst of trials. It is difficult but if you can pray for the well being of your enemies and for God to give you a heart for them, then this can be a source of real (and strange) blessing.
3. Don’t be hasty in defending yourself. If that email comes with its list of complaints then don’t respond in anger. Give yourself some time to calm down, pray and come back with a measured response. It’s amazing what God will do in the heart of some of your biggest opponents if you bring them to him in prayer.
4. Take your breaks and holidays. This is an absolute must for those in our ministry. Young ministers, in particular, feel like they have more to prove, and so often find themselves working constantly. they tell themselves that somehow this is being more spiritual and pastoral but the reality is that they are quickly heading for burnout. Take time off regularly.
5. Find people outside the fellowship with whom you can share your burdens. It is important that you get mature advice from those outside of your immediate context. Find somebody who will be willing to challenge you, rebuke you, correct you and encourage you.
6. Make sure you prioritise the feeding of your own soul. Develop a daily spiritual discipline of prayer, reading of the Word and worship. We cannot give out to others if our own spiritual tank is on empty. Sooner or later this will cause us to crash and burnout.
I am sure there are others we can think of.