Are You Under Pressure?


How many times have you said “Right now I am under a lot of pressure.”

Many years ago, the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus was performing in Detroit’s Kobo Hall.  The key event was the high-wire act performed by the Walenda family. They were probably the greatest high-wire workers of all circus history. The act the Flying Walendas performed in those days was the four-level pyramid: four or five people on bottom, three or four next, then two, and then one little girl on top. Their act was unprecedented.

Night after night the four-level pyramid would make its way from one end of the wire to the other. They had performed this feat all over the world.

As the show came to an end, this particular evening, the Walendas, as usual, got ready for their feat. The lights were turned low, and the people were very quiet in expectation of the moment. This four-level pyramid began to make its way across the wire. About two-thirds of the way across, one man on the bottom, Deter Walenda, felt his knees begin to tremble and then shake.

Ministry Inside.77

Each Thursday, I post something I think might be helpful or encouraging to church leaders. (You might also find it helpful to read an earlier post about some of the real mental and emotional challenges in ministry.)

Habits that will help you keep your sanity as a Christian leader:

1. Have a strong sense of call. Is this your vocation (calling) or is this just a career? Do you have a sense that God has been working in your life all along, preparing you for your ministry? Prayer and a sense of God’s providence are incredibly important.

2. Deal with the elephants in the room. Name them and write them down. What is sucking the life and energy out of our minister group or elder group? What are the elephants in the room? What is an obvious problem among our church leaders and yet we remain silent?


3. Make a decision, no matter how small, and follow through. Indecision is a huge energy drainer. Even decisions that may seem relatively small, but are followed by taking one step forward, can give great encouragement and energy to a congregation.

4. Focus on your own functioning, instead of focusing on everyone else. Move away from “if only” thinking. Instead, focus on what you are going to say, what you are going to do, and how you will choose to spend your time this week. If you will focus on your emotional growth, your spiritual growth, and your growth as a leader, you will experience less stress.

5.  Be a lifelong learner. It may be tempting to rely on your giftedness. You may want to prove to people that you have what it takes. Others rely on their formal education. However, that too can go by the wayside quickly.

Lifelong learners intend to grow, develop, and mature. Much learning is “on purpose.” We are at an advantage when we desire and intend to learn. For example, I have learned much from reading. I can point to several biographies and a few other books as well that have been important in my growth and development. Yet, there are many other ways to be intentional about learning.

Lifelong learners have learned and are learning. There is nothing arrogant about acknowledging that I have learned something. I have lived, thought, and studied for a number of years. I can honestly say I have learned a few things about life and ministry. At the same time, I continue to learn and have much to learn.

6.   Create an encouraging environment. Commit to create an encouraging environment among the other church leaders in the congregation. It is awfully hard to develop an encouraging environment in the congregation when the leaders don’t have that commitment among themselves. This has implications for how ministers/elders talk about one another in one another’s absence. It also has implications for how we talk to one another.

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

Each Monday, I post a number of links to articles, posts, etc. I recently read. The ones cited are those which I think may interest you.

Let me encourage you to subscribe to the e-mail updates of the posts on my blog (if you haven’t already. Or, let me encourage you to subscribe to the RSS feed to use in your Google Reader or other device.”

Start - Green Button

Thinking About Ministry?

Here is a fine interview with Eugene Peterson on “The Reading and Writing Life of the Pastor.” Don’t miss this.

See this interview with Jimmy Dorrell of Mission Waco “How to Get Middle Class Congregations Involved with the Poor.”

Interview with Mike Cope – “Interview with Mike Cope and His Ministry at What Really Matters.”

Looking for a Good Blog Post?

Don’t miss Matthew Paul Turner’s post “25 Christian Blogs You Should Be Reading.” I discovered a number of blogs here that are new to me.

From Copyblogger note this post: “58 Ways to Create Persuasive Content Your Audience Will Love.”

Looking for Something Interesting?

See this post from Mental Floss: “11 Early Scathing Reviews of Words Now Considered Masterpieces.”

Have you seen Thinkers50?

Josh Graves has written an article which was posted at Fox News Online. “Let’s Make Sunday a Day of Rest, For God’s Sake.”

Ministry Inside.76

Expectations are everything!

So what do you expect?

This is a huge issue for many ministers. Far too many of us have very unrealistic expectations of ourselves, our work, and the congregations we serve.

At this point, someone might want to quickly interject, “But I think we ought to have high standards. Isn’t the bar already very low?” OK. Good point.

Yet, I want to suggest that we make assumptions and then move toward unrealistic expectations. These assumptions and expectations might include:

  • If I work very, very hard, people will appreciate me and know I am competent and worthwhile.
  • If I do a good job with my ministry, the key leaders in my congregation will certainly support and affirm me.
  • If I just explain and prove to my key leaders what we need to do as a church, they will see that this is obviously the approach that ought to be taken.
  • If I am competent and skilled, the congregation I serve will grow and we will experience few problems.

Maybe some of us have expectations of ourselves and others that are far too high, while our expectations of God are far too low.

Does any of this sound familiar? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Ministry Inside.75

Did you know that ministry can make you feel as if you are losing your mind?losemind-thumb.jpg

Ok. Maybe it is not supposed to be that way but I do know many people who have experienced this. I certainly have at times. I am going to list four ways this happens and next week will give four more reasons.

How you can feel like you are losing your mind:

1. You can lead out of your anxiety (“Did anyone complain this morning?”) instead of your conviction (“How did God work in the life of the congregation this morning?”). Anxious leaders live in a constant state of reaction. For them, a good Sunday morning is when no one complains. Yet, is this the way God wants us to evaluate our assemblies? Somehow I can’t imagine Paul evaluating the church based on the reactions of people.

2. You can spend a lot of energy trying to convince people to agree with you. This is quite different than communicating clearly how you arrived at this conclusion yourself. It is one thing for me to tell people what I believe. It is quite another to give a 10-point plan. Far better to calmly take a position or stand and attempt to clearly explain how you arrived at this conclusion, acknowledging that good people may differ.

3. You can be overly focused on what others say or want and lose sight of where you are going. It is one thing to be aware of what people think and feel. It is good to invite input and collaboration. Yet, far too many leaders become frozen in indecision. Somehow we get stuck in the murkiness of the swamp. I learned this years ago as I heard a church leader say, “You know we will do whatever the people want to do.” I remember thinking, “This is why the conflict is so intense at this congregation.” Being stuck in indecision, it heightened the tension in the congregation.

4. You can talk repeatedly about what someone said or did that was wrong, creating a cloud of negativity over the group. Consequently, the group meetings have a very negative emphasis which cause you to feel as if you are losing your encouragement and energy.

(More next Thursday)


Which one of these have you experienced most often? What has been the impact on you?

Put Others at Ease by Laughing at Yourself

There are some people I don’t kid. I don’t joke with these people. I don’t think I have permission to do so.

Perhaps you know people like this. They are deeply serious people – especially about themselves. They might tell a joke or tease someone but


you don’t feel as if you have the permission to do this with them. It’s not that these people are unpleasant or mean. No, they are just serious – deadly serious!

You can quickly put people at ease by laughing at yourself.

I love to be around people who laugh at themselves. These people don’t mind telling you stories about silly things they have done. They tell stories on themselves and then enjoy the laughter of other people. They have a way of putting others around them at ease. I feel so comfortable around such people.

I mention this because sometimes I do and say silly things as well. I can tell you numerous stories about the occasions I have misplaced my keys. I have lost my keys at the meat counter at the grocery store. I once lost them in the dean’s office in graduate school. At a Hardee’s in Atlanta, I once put them on a tray along with my trash from breakfast and then accidentally tossed them into the trash can. I then had to put my arm into the trash can and fish them out. Why do I tell this? It is just part of being human. We do silly things at times.

Yet, there are people I don’t feel comfortable with. I don’t tease them or use very much humor with them. I don’t feel at ease around them. They take themselves far too seriously for that. I recall once watching a friend trying to playfully tease such a person. The guy got tense and then shot back some sort of barb. It was an awkward moment. I think my friend learned that the other guy was very self-conscious and took himself very seriously.   I doubt that he was playful with the guy again.

Again, put others at ease by laughing at yourself. I’ve taught classes before when I have said something incorrect. Maybe I got a Bible reference wrong. Maybe I passed out class notes and made an error in the notes. Perhaps someone caught the error and brought it to my attention. When this happens I try to smile and say something like: “Thanks for this. I need all the help I can get.” Such a statement has a way of putting others at ease.

This is just a suggestion. But, why not give it some thought this week?

Thanks Very Much

Yesterday, I learned this blog is again one of the top 200 church blogs according to Kent Shaffer at Church Relevance.

I mention this because this is only possible because of all of you who read this blog on a regular basis. Some of you have been reading A Place for the God-Hungry for many years.

Thank you so much for reading these thoughts and for the interaction!

Ministry Inside.74

I was once at a conference with mostly ministers and other church leaders in attendance. A friend of mine came in late the first evening. The room was full but there was an empty seat on a back row.

The guy took this seat. Meanwhile, the conference began and our host proceeded to welcome us to the campus. I glanced at my friend. He had only been seated for about two minutes when he said “hello” to the person on his left. This guy was a teacher at the institution hosting the seminar. This guy looked at my friend and mumbled something. He then immediately got up from his chair and moved elsewhere in the room.

I witnessed this scene and thought, “Wow, we spend a lot of money to conduct conferences like this one. Guest speakers are here from different parts of the country. The point is to encourage church leaders. Yet, we can’t even say hello and sit with these ministers.”   

Many ministers, preachers, pastors, and elders are very weary.

What creates weariness?

I’m not quite sure. But I do know what contributes to it. For many of us, this is not a weariness that comes from reading a book for hours or having a fascinating discussion into the wee hours of the morning.
Rather, I am referring to the kind of weariness that comes from the work of ministry.

Where does weariness come from?

  • Weariness is to spend hours and hours with a couple about their marriage only to see them divorce.
  • Weariness is to see the church respond so graciously to a family who has been burned out by a fire only to see them place membership at another church three months later.
  • Weariness is to pray for an opportunity to invite your neighbor to church only to see some of your friends walk past her without speaking.
  • Weariness is to be in a church situation characterized by much strife and tension.
  • Weariness is knowing you need to have thick skin, but the insults and rude comments are becoming too much.
  • Weariness is to see the long, slow death of someone in your congregation. Then the funeral. Exhausting.
  • Weariness is to realize that you are deeply disappointed regarding other church leaders who have behaved immaturely in a recent church situation.

Can you relate to any of these?

(You might find encouragement in: Matthew 11:25-30; Psalm 63; and Joshua 1.)

Your Focus Really Does Make a Difference

Some people lean into the future. Others never seem to leave the past.past-present-future.jpg

Recently I heard a news report about a local school that was closing due to finances. At one point in the report, one of the teachers was interviewed. She described the challenge facing all who are connected with the school. She spoke about the choice they had to make.

“Are we going to be proactive or reactive? Being reactive focuses on what we have lost. Being proactive focuses on what we have to gain.”


Isn’t this the choice so many of us face?

Some people are reactive. They are forever talking about what used to be. They seem to define themselves by the unfortunate things that happened in their lives. They seem to define themselves by what they are not. They seem to focus on what they have lost.

Others are proactive. They stand on tiptoes peering into the future. For these people, life is meant to be lived. They believe that God’s providential wind is at their back. They believe and trust in his care. They look to the future focused on what might be gained.

This seems to be a part of life. We deal with losses. If you’ve lost a job, a friend, or a member of your family, you know something about loss. Others have lost their health. Still others lost a dream and became cynical or resigned themselves to the status quo.

There is a way to acknowledge the losses and even grieve them. The losses are very real. Then, however, we move on! We trust God and lean into the future.

So what about you? Will your focus and energy be centered on what you have lost? Or, will you trust God and believe that the future has promise.


What has been helpful to you in moving on after a loss? How can we move on and focus on what we have to gain?

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

Thinking about your life?start-here-page.png

Gary Thomas is a writer whom I have enjoyed for a number of years. This past weekend, Charlotte and I were a part of a marriage seminar with him. Outstanding! You might enjoy some of these free resources from his website.

I continue to be amazed at how much money Americans are willing to spend on weddings.

Thinking about ministry?

I have read Andy Rowell’s blog for a number of years. Recently I read several posts and caught up with what I’ve missed. Don’t miss these links! Eugene Peterson’s lectures at Seattle Pacific University. Also note his post Theological and Biblical Audio Resources. Some very good resources cited.

Thinking about your walk with God?

During the last week, I have been reading Martin Laird’s Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation. (Thanks to my friend Keith Meyer for the recommendation.)

Do you read Conversations? This is an excellent journal representing various streams of thought. The focus is on “Authentic Transformation.” The most recent issue includes such writers as Ruth Haley Barton and John Ortberg. You might start here.

Mindy Caliguire interviews Dallas Willard. Very good!