Pastors agree, seeing progress and measuring success is hard when you serve in ministry. Spiritual growth in those we pastor sometimes comes slowly. As pastors we have to set ourselves up for small wins, apart from ministry. And we need to acknowledge and thank God for them as they come along.
As we discussed the subject, an older pastor said, “Some of my best days come when I mow the yard.” He said, “Seeing a small victory gives something that can be measured.”
We are wired for progress. No one wants to labor without evidence of achievement. As Paul was nearing the end of life, he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (II Tim. 4:7) Paul knew he had been faithful in service to the Lord.
All of us need reassurance in two areas of life. We need assurance that we have done our best and that we have been faithful in serving the Lord.
Also, we need assurance in our day-to-day living. As I mentioned, we cannot always measure our effectiveness in day to-day-ministry, it is imperative that we find fulfilling tasks outside of ministry. This sounds like psychological manipulation. In my opinion, that is not the case.
God wired us with spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical dimensions. Each dimension must be balanced. If one dimension gets out of balance it affects the others. A pastor can be a spiritual giant, but if he does not balance the emotional aspect of his life, he can become an emotional wreck. The “small wins” the older pastor referenced, balance a spiritual life so that our lives do not become depleted.
When a pastor mows the grass, goes fishing, builds a cabinet, or watches a movie he is fulfilling the ultimate balancing act. There have been days when such activities were the perfect preparation for my Sunday activities. A sermon delivered from an emotionally empty heart will be lacking in zeal. On the other hand, a pastor, who is emotionally healthy, will be more likely to preach with zeal and passion on Sunday morning.
So, what kind of small wins should I seek? I suggest the following.
Seek “wins” that reach a goal. Mowing the lawn is a specific goal.
1. Seek “wins” that make you feel good. Several weeks ago, I came in from an emotionally satisfying day. I said to my wife, “This has been a rewarding day.” The basis of that statement was the completion of several items on my to-do list.
2. Seek “wins” (at least some) that you enjoy. The old saying about all work and no play is true. We might feel good about checking off “to-do” lists around the house. However, we also need to play and do some things we enjoy. You know what gives you enjoyment; spend some time enjoying that activity each week. Some activities, like fishing, lend themselves to being one-on-one with those you are discipling or trying to get to know. That can be a double “small win.“
God is the healer of our souls. However, we must give Him an environment in which to work. He wants to keep us whole.