Pastors, here’s a short list of activities to find freedom:

1. Stop feeling like you should have all the answers to the questions people ask. We both know you don’t. Freedom is found in not being responsible for the answers others are asking. It also creates space for you to love them more.

2. Stop feeling like you must be the one to solve all the organizational problems in your church. You aren’t the best at this in your church. Not even close. The more you try to do this, the less pastoral you become. Freedom is found in empowering the church to deal with their own issues.

3. Stop using people for your goals. People are a resource in the Gods kingdom, but not yours. The more you think of people as means accomplish your vision (or the vision God has given you) the less pastoral you are. It’s less pastoral because you dehumanize people when they are cogs in your machine.

4. Stop trying to fix people. It’s not possible, and it’s not in your job description. Love and encourage them instead.

5. Remember why you became a pastor in the first place. It might be more difficult than you think. Then let that memory wash over you. Over and over. This may take some time.

6. Take care of your soul. This is your real ministry to the church. It’s likely that the importance of this is lost on you as a pat or trite saying. It’s worth saying again: Taking care of your soul is your ministry. If you’ve insulated yourself from the church behind a personal assistant or camera into which you deliver your sermons, this might have other implications.

7. If you’ve started ministry in the past 15 years there’s a strong chance you’ve met very few pastors. That might sound like hyperbole. It’s not. So rediscover what a pastor is. Don’t ask leaders for the answer.

8. Your faithfulness in your calling does not equal success as defined by your peers or other churches. It’s a lie of our day that faithfulness always equals fruitfulness. We’re in a era of the church where some things need to be done or said, whether or not people listen or change.

9. Stop comparing yourself and your ministry to others. You will never be more faithful because of comparison. Like beauty magazines that only make people feel ugly, pastors comparing themselves to others either makes them feel like less of a pastor, or it gives them irrational confidence. Both are destructive.

10. Own your stuff. Take maximum responsibility for things that are yours to be responsible for. Don’t take other peoples stuff. No matter how much they pressure you to do so. Freedom is found in quickly confessing your wrongs.

11. I like this addition from Brandon Brown: Stop talking at your congregation and start listening to what God is saying to/through them.

Mark Riddle

Mark leads The Riddle Group consulting firm and Redeeming Leadership LLC. He's the author of Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors: A Church Leaders Guide to Youth Ministry, and The Official Church Staff Manual: Youth Pastor Edition. His most recent book is Redeeming Leadership: Shoulder Pads. Mark spends his time investing in people and has a special place in his heart for people in ministry.

2 Comments

    • randy morgan

      REALLY good stuff, Mark. I especially like, “We’re in a era of the church where some things need to be done or said regardless if people listen or change.” Incredibly profound.

    • Linnea Trampe

      Thanks for this, Mark! Needed encouragement for me.

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