9 Options when You’ve Had Enough of Ministry Heartache

Most of us who’ve been in ministry for any length of time have been there. Some days, the stress of ministry is too much—and we’ve had enough. If that’s where you are today, maybe one of these ideas will prove helpful to you.

  1. Quit ministry completely. I don’t typically recommend this choice, but it is an option. Sometimes you just lose any sense of hope that things will be better in any other ministry location. I pray the rest of these suggestions are more fruitful.
  2. At least be willing to ask, “What am I learning about myself here?” That’s not to suggest we should blame ourselves for the heartaches; rather, it’s to recognize that God sometimes uses heartache to show up our own heart. Don’t be afraid to do honest self-evaluation.
  3. Work with a trusted friend or counselor to re-evaluate your ministry calling. Reviewing and re-engaging our calling is often a good move in general. When we’re in the midst of the heartache of ministry, though, we need another set of eyes and ears to help us evaluate reality.
  4. Spend a few days fasting, reading, and praying. There’s nothing magical about fasting, but tough ministry experiences are often times when we need to long for God and His direction more than we long for food. Focus your attention fully on Him, and the struggles we face lose some of their force.
  5. Consider a different position in ministry. I’ve seen some guys who got burned as a senior pastor serve remarkably well in an associate position. Moving down the ladder of responsibility just one step can help alleviate some stress – or, changing a position can help you maximize your giftedness better.
  6. Ask for retreat or sabbatical time. Not every church will grant this request, but it never hurts to ask. A few days away (or even a couple of months of structured time to recover) can do wonders.
  7. Seek a ministry coach. Some of these commitments require a financial investment, but it might be worth it if you’re given opportunity to deal with realities with a safe friend in a safe place. Even a few months with a coach can help get you past some rough spots.
  8. Enlist somebody to do Bible study and prayer with you. Accountability is always important, but it’s especially significant when it’s tougher for us to see through the storm. Spending intentional time with God and another believer can change your perspective.
  9. Learn in God’s power to forgive. Forgiving others doesn’t let them off the hook for wrong and sinful treatment (in fact, it assumes some level of Christian confrontation), but it does allow us to let go of the burden of anger and bitterness we carry. Freedom from this burden can be life and ministry-transforming.

What other suggestions would you add?


  • Robin G Jordan says:

    Take stock of what is rewarding about your present ministry as well as what is not. We are apt to focus on the negatives while ignoring the positives. We can mitigate our stress to some extent by shifting our focus on what we are doing well, what we find rewarding about our ministry, In times of stress we tend to engage in overthinking and negative self-talk, both of which add to our stress. We need to stop the overthinking and dial down the negative self talk and to start looking on the bright side of things. The problem is often not so much the situation in which we find ourselves as how we are choosing to react to it. Imagine yourself in a mine tunnel whose walls are veined with black coal and embedded with glittering diamonds. We have a choice. We can focus on the coal or the diamonds. If we are not careful, we can fall into the habit of focusing on the coal and ignoring the diamonds. It may take a little work but we need to shift our attention to the diamonds. It is amazing how refreshing this change of attitude can be. We will be tempted at first to go back to our old way of thinking but with prayer and perseverance we can make our new positive attitude permanent. In our ministry struggles it is always helpful to remember God’s grace is working in us, the power of his loving presence. Despite what we may feel, he has not abandoned us. He is with us and he will not deny us his help. We may not see signs and wonders but that does not mean that he is not present and at work in our lives. Take a few minutes each day to thank him for what he is doing. Ask him to help us rely on him more and less on ourselves.

  • mark says:

    Take your ministry online. There are plenty of people out there who would like to have questions answered and a place to discuss issues and applicability of the faith. Just don’t use the pat, denominational answers. There is a need for ethics advice especially among the ultra-educated and high performers.

  • Dale Long says:

    Take a mission trip. Reignite your longing and call. Seeing things in other places makes me value what I have more.

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