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How has suffering shaped your ministry?

How has suffering shaped your ministry?

That’s the topic for this week’s Slant 33 article. Here’s my answer to this question. My question for you is, “How has suffering shaped YOUR ministry?

Like a lot of fellow youth workers, I traded a business cubicle for a youth ministry office. Wide-eyed and overly optimistic Kristen and I longed for a career revolving around our faith and family while impacting the lives of teenagers. 

And in ten years of working in the local church, our lives certainly revolved around our faith, family, and impacting the lives of teenagers. Some of our proudest moments have come in seeing that growth through the long haul. There have been so many times when I’ve grabbed Kristen and said, “This is so worth it!” 

Conversely, I can’t tell you how many times I wished I could have traded in my pastoral role for my old corporate job. Yes, that career was unfulfilling. Yes, the longer I did it, the more bored I was. But at least it didn’t hurt so bad. When I was betrayed, I could speak up. When I was wronged, I could relay my issue to a human resources professional. And when I failed, I could deal with being passed over for a promotion or a raise. Sitting in a small group of my peers, I could talk about my job sucking or my boss being a jerk and get empathy from people in similar situations. 

But in ministry the stakes are so much more personal. And it’s a very private struggle. The isolation and lack of camaraderie are ultimately what hurt the most. All too often when you reach out with a struggle, you are rebuked or even belittled. At least for me, this meant I carried a lot of burdens. Suffering became part of my ministry. 

In truth, this personal suffering was enough. I understood it as part of the calling. But what caused unnecessary suffering was the impact of my vocation on my family. My wife couldn’t just be a wife and new mother. She had to carry the mantle of pastor’s wifeand receive unlimited and unwanted advice from the hens of the church. When our kids misbehaved, we felt the judgment from fellow congregants. 

Early in my ministry, I allowed the weight of suffering to shape my attitude and self-image. If I were made of Play-Doh, my body would have been flattened. But, as I’ve gotten stronger, more used to the weight and its impact, I’ve learned that there is a healthy suffering that just comes with being a follower of Christ, which I can deal with. 

But, there is also abuse that comes my way that I no longer permit to have the impact it once did. I’ve become like a junkyard dog in protecting my family and the families of my ministry friends. That’s the weight of ministry I no longer allow to shape them.

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

3 replies on “How has suffering shaped your ministry?”

Good stuff.
Employment in a local church will absolutely wreak havoc on your family if you aren’t diligent in your efforts to protect it. The challenge is that it is really, really hard to keep all the craziness of ministry from leaking into family life (and, I’m not sure we are supposed to completely).

Rachel and I have tried to raise our kids in the exact same way we would raise them if I wasn’t a Pastor, but just two followers of Jesus trying to raise kids who do the same.  I refuse to let other people’s expectations of what a Pastor’s Kid should look like, how one should behave, etc. influence our approach to parenting.  It isn’t always easy…and we get it wrong far too often, but we are trying.

Ministry is messy, intrusive, and wrought with suffering. The challenges are enormous, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Excellent post Adam.  I find/found in suffering that I ask a different set of questions and seek a different set of answers that I don’t when I’m not suffering.  Though obviously difficult, these times can be very soul-cleanisng.

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