Church planters face enormous demands as they try to juggle family responsibilities, ministry, and often school and part-time jobs. How can they live sustainable lives? We read of tragic pastoral failures on a weekly basis. Many pastors don’t last in the ministry for five years. Here are five practices that can enable you to survive for the long-haul. Look for five more in the coming weeks.
1. Build a rock-solid daily personal devotional life with God. This simply means that you spend time every day in the Word and soaking in God’s presence. You can handle an enormous amount of pressure if your foundation is solid. Pressure is not the problem. A weak foundation is the problem. If your foundation is shaky, you won’t be able to handle ministry challenges. Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “You can’t fire a cannon out of a canoe.” If you are really going to accomplish something for God, you’ll need a strong foundation. The cannon of your life needs to be bolted into granite. And the granite of your life is your rock-solid personal time with God every day.
2. Choose a prayer partner who is a peer and with whom you can be utterly transparent. Wise church-planting networks are now requiring every pastor on their launch teams to have a prayer partner. Take one day every month to talk and pray with your prayer partner outside the office. Use a set of accountability questions that you ask each other, such as:
- Are you experiencing intimacy with God on a regular basis?
- Are you struggling with sexual purity in any way?
- Have you seen any pornography or anything on TV or in a movie that you shouldn’t have watched?
- Have you done anything sexually you shouldn’t have done?
- Are there any emotional attachments forming with someone who isn’t your spouse?
- Have you handled your money and financial dealings with absolute integrity?
- Have you experienced any breach in any relationship? Are you at peace with everyone?
- Have you forgiven everyone for everything?
3. If you are married, schedule a weekly date night with your spouse. It is important to stay current and to fuel romance and intimacy with your spouse. A date night doesn’t need to be expensive. It could be coffee and a long walk through a park or a leisurely breakfast. But schedule a weekly date with your spouse outside your home.
4. Take care of yourself physically. Join a gym. Get into the habit of walking with a friend. Watch your diet. It is not enough that you’re involved in ministry. It is not even enough that you grow in internal purity and intimacy with God. You are a whole person. Your life is integrated—body, soul, and spirit. You cannot neglect your body or your emotional life and continue to do well. So take care of yourself physically.
5. Get financial counseling from a professional financial counselor. Strongly consider attending a course like Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, attending with your spouse if you are married. Life is sustainable when your financial house is in order.
Ken Davis is director of church planting for Project Jerusalem.