How to Go the Distance in Ministry

Three keys to finishing well

1. Define the Win.

I have often said that my greatest fear is to “win at the wrong thing.” Here’s what I know about myself: When I do something, I go all in. I know that I am going to put energy, time, effort, money and passion into everything I do. Because of that, I believe I am going to succeed at whatever I put my hands to. However, this also makes it critical that I spend time on the front end of my endeavors. This looks like defining where exactly I am headed. Otherwise, I can give all of that time, effort, money and passion to succeeding at the wrong thing.

I’ve found that what I have to do is to lift my eyes off the immediate and look more long-term at where I am going. I have found this is made clear the most through the “what do I want to be true” questions.

Here are a few great questions to walk through with your spouse, your board or your mentors as you define what your wins look like:

What do I want to be true about me, spiritually, one year into our church plant?
What do I want to be true about my family at the end of the next three years?
What do I want to be true about us financially as we enter the second five years of church planting?

Answering these questions is the first step in becoming a healthy pastor who is able to go the distance because you are defining where you want to go, not just where you hope to arrive. Andy Stanley said that “Everyone ends up somewhere, not everyone ends up somewhere on purpose.” These questions allow you to have clarity on where you want to go.

2. Decide How to Get There.

Once you know where you are going, you can decide HOW you are going to get there. The truth is, the HOW is just as important as the WHERE.

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Some people say things like, “I want to get 100 people in the church as fast as I can!” If that is your vision, then the shortest path is the right call with little questions asked. But, if your vision is, “I want to get to the place of pastoring 100 people in regular attendance while maintaining a strong marriage and connecting with my children in the process,” then the shortest path may not be the right one, as it could hinder the quality of the other aspects of your vision. The shortest path is not the right path if it costs you a strong marriage and time with your children.

Our “how” must incorporate more than just the speed of the journey, but the quality of our lives when we arrive at our destination. Too many church planters and pastors disconnect their visions from their personal lives and end up at the finish line too burned out to enjoy it. They are living for the growth of their congregations but not foreseeing the need to cultivate their soul.

We have to ask ourselves, “How can I arrive where I want to go in a way that will result in the condition I want to be in when I get there?”

This is a great question to seek in the place of prayer and to also discuss with your family, mentors, or elders.

3. Defend Your Path and Vision From Distractions.

The moment you know where you are going and how to get there, you will be met with resistance. It just happens.

The moment I say I want to lose weight, a donut shop opens up next to my office. The reason many times church planters and pastors are not healthy isn’t that they don’t have a clear vision or a clear how in getting to that vision, but that they have been distracted by other things that keep them from the vision. And often, they are not bad things, they are just not the right things to help us get where we want to go.

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I have found the key here is creating a “stop doing” list. This is the list you should create to stop doing certain things that are getting in the way of achieving your goals.

For example, if my vision is to “get to the place of pastoring 100 people in regular attendance while maintaining a strong marriage and connection with my children in the process,” I might decide to stop having meetings after 5:00 p.m., so I don’t miss dinner with my family. Or, I might need to stop spending time in front of the TV so that I can spend more time with my spouse. Or, I might need to stop eating unhealthy food so that my energy levels are where I want to be for the things that matter most.

I don’t know what they are for you, but we all have potential distractions that keep us from the life we know we want to live.

In the life of ministry, there are always more people to help, pain to be comforted, problems to be addressed, and meetings to be had, and we won’t have time to address all of it. To be a healthy pastor, you must decide now, even before you really get going, what you will and will not do in pursuit of your vision. Because our goal is not just to arrive at the finish line, the goal is to be as healthy as possible when we get there.

First published on startCHURCH.com. Used by permission.