Let’s face it, there are times in the life of any church when things do not go as well as hoped. Just like the people that attend them, local churches have mood swings. You may go through a season of excitement and great growth when everybody thinks you’re the greatest thing since apple pie. Then there are times when, no matter how hard you try, no one is happy with you. So, how do you get through these constant ups and downs? How do you manage the mood swings? Here are a few ways to help:
#1 – Stay consistent. I know the easy thing to do is to see which way the wind is blowing and do what is popular. However, this will lead to even more heartache and disappointment. One of the most difficult things for a church is to have a pastor that is inconsistent. If you keep changing in order to please people, you will never get anywhere. If there is any changing needed, God is the one that does the changing in you. Let God change you, not people. There are several things you need to stay consistent in. (1) Be consistent in your preaching. There is only one of you, yet, many of them. Every single person will have a different idea of how you should preach and what you should preach. The sermons you preach should come through much prayer and time in the Word. Preaching should be a fruit of your personal walk with God. More often than not, what God gives you to preach will not be what the people want. God gives us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. Do not allow people to sway you in your preaching. Preach only what God gives you and nothing us. Let God’s Word speak for itself. (2) Be consistent in your walk. Your personal walk with God is much more important than the work you are called to do. If you are not walking with God consistently then your ministry will suffer. Make sure that adequate time is spent in personal Bible reading and prayer every day. (3) Be consistent in your values, vision, and ministry philosophy. There are hundreds of church growth methods out there. They all bring something valuable to the table. However, God has given you a certain set of values that formulates the way you do things. These values come from your walk with God and your core belief system. What you believe will affect how you serve. Changing your vision is also unhealthy for the church. There must be a consistent vision and a consistent strategy to fulfill that vision. Your ministry philosophy is also something that God has put in you through various means. Do not allow people to change your philosophy of ministry. Yes, listen to people, learn from them. But, if change is needed, let God do the changing in you and not the ebb and flow of people’s opinions.
#2 – Focus on new people. Let’s be honest, there are some people in the church that will never warm up to you. For some reason, they will always be skeptical of everything you do (or don’t do). Love the ‘old timers’, encourage them, be there for them, but focus on reaching new people. When someone visits your church, go out of your way to get to know them. It’s those new people that could very well be the key to your future growth.
#3 – Mentor and Disciple the young. Instead of constantly ‘butting heads’ with those who are so-called ‘power’ people in the church, do everything you can to work with them while at the same time raising up a new set of leaders that will carry the church forward into the future. Work closely with the young adults and train them up to be leaders. Find a few young men that you can build quality relationships with and invest much in them to prepare them to be future deacons/elders. Plant your vision within them. Help them to see what you see and as time goes on, they will be your biggest and best supporters and encouragers.
#4 – Lead the church to be outward focused. One of the biggest problems that occur in the local church is when we lose sight of our mission. When we start to simply focus on ‘taking care of our own’ we will soon have conflict. Through ups and downs of church life, there must be a consistent focus on reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Every ministry in the church should be designed with evangelism in mind. Everything from Sunday School to senior adult ministries, to youth ministries, even to the way we present ourselves in person and through various media, should be focused on reaching more people.
#5 – Be content. This is the hardest thing of all. It is so easy to get discouraged and dissatisfied. As pastors, we must constantly remind ourselves that the church we serve in does not belong to us. It is God’s church. Contentment is found in knowing Jesus. The closer we are to Him, the more content we will be no matter where we are. We must be faithful where God has us until God moves us or calls us home. Make the most of your situation, work hard, and be content in Christ.
#6 – Pray. Prayer is the only way we can survive. Apart from prayer, it is impossible to do the work that God has called us to do. There are two things that I personally focus on when praying. I pray every day that God will do what only He can do. I pray that He will do something in our church and our community that is beyond us. I pray that He would work miracles in such a way that even the lost world will give glory to God. I also pray for the members of my church on a daily basis. I have divided up the membership list according to the days of the week and I pray for those members by name on those particular days. Doing this is not only good for the church, but also for myself. Praying for church members by name, forces me to think of them and to love them more. It gives me a closer connection with the people that God has placed into my care.
The ups and downs of ministry can be difficult. No one ever said it would be easy. Dear pastor friend, don’t give up. Keep serving, keep praying, stay faithful to the work God has placed you in until He moves you or calls you home.