Seven Ways to Thrive in Ministry Work

Hi, My Name is MaryRuth and I am addicted to saying “YES.”

I grew up in a congregational church where everyone had a role and most people had two or three. I was in the choir and played the organ (poorly) on occasion.  I ran the Christmas play one year, was on the youth leadership council, the search committee for the new pastor, and even worked for a short spell as the church secretary. My parents were stewards and deacons and the congregation really was the working body of the church. When I converted to Catholicism, I was a stay-at-home mom of two and had just finished up my PhD. I was on fire for the Faith and ready to leap into action to serve in God’s church.

Parishes love people like me.  The Church asks and asks and asks, and people like me (and maybe you too?) say yes, yes, yes! It is natural for both church staff and ministry heads to depend on a small percentage of parishioners to serve, but this can lead to burnout rather than fulfillment. If you find yourself serving out of obligation rather than out of joy, it may be time to step back and reassess your commitments. Here are seven points to consider when looking at your commitments to ministry work.

1. Do a skill assessment on yourself

What are your gifts, talents and charisms? What do you dread doing and what type of work brings you joy? I like to cook, so I serve with the Meals for Moms at our parish. That would be a horrible fit if I was a horrible cook! I hate phone calls, asking for money, and meetings for the sake of meetings. That said, I run a pretty decent meeting, am fairly organized, am good at consensus building, and can write up pretty great timelines for projects. I would be a horrible secretary, but I am a good project manager.

2. Find the right ministry

What do you love? Are you looking to serve the poor or minister to the sick? Look at existing ministries to see where you fit. If nothing strikes you, spend time in prayer and see if the Lord is asking you to start something new.

3. Assess your level of giving

How much time are you able to give? What type of time are you able to give? Do you work best on a project or event basis where you can give in one big spurt, or are you looking to give on a consistent basis? Our Vacation Bible School team is made up of a group of moms whose main service is the yearly VBS. It is what we do. We gear up in April and start working hard through June and July to deliver a stellar experience for 200-300 children. And then we don’t talk VBS again until the spring. Most of the women are able to give in that four-month spurt. We aren’t ministry heads running a full-time ministry, although some of us were at one time. This season of life requires something different. For a short time we live and breathe VBS, our kids play for hours together while we plan, they attend or volunteer in the program and it works for us.

What works for you? Are you looking to jump in to commitment or do you need to baby-step into something? Do you have a few hours each week to serve or a large chunk of time to help something grow and develop?

4. Delegate and expand your reach

Because parish ministries frequently have the same people doing the same things, many of parishioners are able to stay on the fringes. We don’t do ourselves, or our community any favors when we keep all the joys of service to ourselves. Find new people, get to know them and discover their talents. Bring them into a life of service in the church and share the work with others. Help them fulfill their baptismal call to serve. Often all you have to do is ask.

5. Be willing to change

Recognize that a change in your life situation may necessitate a change in your ability to give of your time and talents. After starting our mom’s ministry and serving as its facilitator for five years, I realized I needed to turn it over to someone else. I was pregnant with my fourth little one. Although I wasn’t going to be able to give at the same level, I wanted to see the ministry that I loved and believed in thrive under new leadership. It needed someone who had the same passion and had a little more time. So I found someone, trained her, and moved on. I found another ministry that needed some help getting started and I was able to commit limited time while still serving in beautiful way.

The ministry is bigger than you. It is God’s ministry. Be willing to change things up and be open to walking away when He is ready for someone else to step up.

6. Pray, Pray, and Pray

The Marthas of the world often spend much time doing and less time being. We live by our to-do lists and thrive in the busyness, but we are less adept at sitting in the Word and listening to God. I know I am overextended when Jesus wakes me up early for our little chats. When I fall asleep exhausted before I say my goodnights to Him, He wakes me up before that alarm goes off and we have our prayer time together in the dark of the early morning. It took me a while to realize that was what was happening, but once I got over my irritation of being awake when my mind said I should be asleep, I was able to appreciate the sleepless mornings as a great opportunity to talk with Him, to listen to Him, and to re-prioritize.

If we are truly doing the Lord’s work, don’t we need to check in with Him on regular basis to make sure we are on track? Don’t wake for Him to wake you up.  If you are serving God through your work, shouldn’t you talk with Him about it? He is your boss after all, so carve out a little time one-on-one to talk with Him.

7. Be okay with saying No

There are a few things I love doing for the parish school, and a few things I will never do. I love being in the classroom so helping with Literature Studies and Art Masterpiece are highlights of my year. Helping with Field Day or Chaperoning the Zoo trip—definite NO! I know what my time, talent, interest, and patience will allow, and I am fine with saying NO to the things that don’t work out. My NO gives others the chance to say YES!

We all have 24 hours in the day, and we are all called to serve the Lord and His good and holy Church. You can best serve Him by being intentional. Don’t rush to say yes to every request. Instead, assess your skills, time availability, and interests. Be okay with saying no and recognize that your God has created you for a unique purpose.

Pray and listen to His direction.  Be ready to act when called because He desires great things from and for you.

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Written by MaryRuth Hackett. Find out more about her here.

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