Nearly three years ago, Pastor Brian Boisen “hit a wall”—he felt he had nothing left to give his 80-member congregation of Hope Presbyterian Church in Chatham, Va. In an effort to reignite the passion and reinvigorate his spirit, he risked opening up to the church elders. Though Boisen was uneasy about sharing his vulnerability, he knew that something had to give.
For a period of time, something had been weighing heavily on me. My heart just wasn’t in it [my ministry] anymore. I couldn’t even put my finger on why, but I could feel my joy shrinking. I had hit a wall and didn’t know what to do. The funny thing was that things were good. Our church wasn’t in crisis. But I was aware of my own limitations.
Finally, during our annual brainstorming retreat, I worked up the nerve to share my feelings with the staff. I told them that I was really tired, really fatigued—like I didn’t have any more to give to my congregation. Thankfully, nobody got upset by my admission. In fact, they rallied around me and worked with me to help me reignite my passion for the ministry.
We started by revamping how we approached the role of elders in the church. We scrapped the way we had always done it where one elder oversees youth and another oversees worship, etc. Instead, we brainstormed the needs of the church and worked together to nurture leadership opportunities.
I think it’s easy for pastors of small churches to get burned out because often the congregation looks to us to be the sole source of vision. I got into a cycle where I was super involved in a number of church ministries. I was leading the youth group and also working with students in the public high school to get a Christian club off the ground. Plus, I was helping with other community outreach activities, as well as doing typical pastoral duties. I finally hit a crisis point. I knew I couldn’t go on like this.
Then one day I was reading Ephesians where Paul talks about the various spiritual gifts we all have and I experienced a theological epiphany. Paul emphasizes that the Holy Spirit bestows each of us with our own special gifts. I realized that my lengthy job description wasn’t biblical. I definitely didn’t have all those gifts and yet I was still trying to perform all these roles. Scripture indicates that was not God’s intention.
One-on-one counseling is not my calling, though my wife is amazing at that. I’m also not an evangelist in the sense of going out and tackling people with the gospel. My strength is preaching and teaching God’s word. Several of our members, however, are great at taking what they’ve learned from the sermon and sharing it with others. I was living witness that when a church expands ministry leadership within the congregation, everybody’s passion for Christ grows.
Hitting that wall opened up great opportunities for me to connect with Christ. For one thing, I was given the chance to teach a class at a local Christian college. I also discovered I had a passion for writing. These things nourished me so that I could give more to my church work.
Once I tapped into my passion for Jesus, there were no limits. My soul was reignited, which helped me grow in my knowledge of him, both intellectually and personally. I then carried that into my ministry work. This experience reminded me of something that happened almost a decade ago when our congregation unified over our commitment to Christ. What a great thing to unite over—exploring the depths of our personal relationship with Jesus!
These days, I am inspired, engaged and electrified by my small church ministry.
—Brian Boisen, as told to Christy Heitger-Ewing