How to Handle Discouragement as a Church Leader

How to Handle Discouragement as a Church Leader

Ah… fall is finally here. At least in the part of the country where I live. 

Just a few weeks ago it was 80 in the morning and well over 90 by 2pm. 

In just a few months it will be 40 or lower and the ground will have a nice white frost on it as the rays from the sun are revealed from the east. 

Some people say I’m lucky to live in a region where all four seasons are fully embraced.  I agree. But those seasons each come with their own preparations. Salt to help with ice and snow in the winter.  Leaf blowers in the fall. Insect repellant in the Spring.   

The same thing exists in church leadership.  There are seasons along our journey that God allows us to experience.  Some of those seasons are really exciting and strengthen our faith muscles to believe God for the impossible.  Other times we experience discouragement and heartache. 

Maybe a staff member has a moral failure. Or numbers are declining.  A family that you were close to leaves to attend another church. Your sermons aren’t what they used to be and you can’t put your finger on it. 

Recently, I was invited to be part of a dinner gathering with fellow lead pastors from across the country.  This was a collection of the lead pastors from the largest churches in a particular denomination. 

An outside guest from a separate network of churches was there to encourage the leaders and share some tips and best practices.  This particular pastor, with God’s grace, has grown a church to over 28,000 on a weekend. 

As he shared some insights on what helped him steward this amazing work of God, one thing really stuck out.  As lead pastors, we need to talk about our discouragements. 

He created a group of pastors that were leading churches in a similar size range early in his ministry, and they would meet periodically to discuss the parts of their ministries that were discouraging in that season. 

Collectively, this group of pastors shared scripture, prayed, and spoke from a different angle to that discouraging thing. Pastors would leave feeling much better about what they were up against. 

Having a group of outside people you can be courageously honest with, and trust they desire what’s best for you brings an incredible sense of security in the middle of something disheartening.

If you are in the middle of a tough time, cling to these thoughts: 

Matthew 16:18

I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.

  • Jesus is building his church. 

These seasons exist to teach us many lessons, but it must be said that the greatest might be to trust God. Nothing takes Him by surprise and he is incredibly vested in the success of your local church.  Of course the enemy will attack and try to thwart the efforts of the Kingdom, but you can lean into Jesus’ promise. He’s building His church! 

Philippians 4:4-7

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

  1. Rejoice in every season. 

No matter how bad the season you are in might feel, rejoice in it.  We have a responsibility to always be full of joy in the Lord. He still sits on the throne, He’s still in charge, you’re still saved, He’s with you! 

  1. Pray about everything. 

A recent statistic stated that the average Christian spends only three minutes a day in prayer.  The average pastor only spends five! Our lives should be in full devotion to Jesus and He wants to download into us a game plan. The only way for that to happen is to be in constant communication with Him!  Commit those things to intentional prayer and fasting.

You will be surprised to find out how fast the season changes once you voice your discouragements to other trusted leaders and seek God about them. The sun will come through, the day will break, the frost will melt, the world will turn.  It’s just a season and won’t last forever. You got this! 

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