I could hear it in her voice. As I spent time coaching a women’s ministry director through a difficulty with her job, she finally summed up her feelings and sighed, “I just want to throw in the towel.” She was discouraged and had been doing the job for many years with little recognition—and little pay. Was it time to give up?
Maybe you’ve been there too. I know I have. There have definitely been days when I’ve written my resignation letter, at least in my thoughts, usually on the drive home from a long and exhausting day. Whether it was due to a relational issue, a disappointment, or unrealized expectation, there are some days when you want to call it quits.
So, how do you keep going? What gets you out of bed the next day? What hurdles must you overcome to finish the race God has set before you? Here are four ways to not just “hang on” but to thrive in your ministry assignment before you throw in the towel.
Consider your calling. I can still remember coming home one night after work and telling my husband about my no-good, horrible day. In my exasperation, I casually made the comment, “I’m tired of doing this. No one else seems to care, and no one appreciates what I do. I just want to quit.” In a moment of wisdom, he said, “But don’t you feel called to this?” It stopped me in my tracks. The simple reminder that ministry isn’t just a job for me, it’s a calling from the Lord, was what halted my pity party. Over the years, my calling to minister to women has grounded my work and my life. It’s what motivates me to encourage women, to call them to a relationship with the Lord, and to spend their lives sharing the gospel message. My job has eternal consequences and whenever I get discouraged, I’m reminded that God has placed a holy calling on my life. If you’re a ministry leader, remember this the next time you’re ready to quit.
Don’t make a decision when you are tired or exhausted. If I evaluate my ministry after a busy event or after completing a long project, it’s easy to consider quitting. I may be physically, mentally, and spiritually weary. It’s one reason I’m not fond of looking at evaluations right after an event. I know my body is tired, and even when there is one critical comment out of a hundred glowing statements, I can easily get discouraged and focus on what could have gone better. If you’re considering quitting, let me encourage you to make the decision slowly. Take a nap. Or better yet, get a good night’s sleep or spend a couple of days doing something that will provide rest for your body, soul, and spirit. It will give you a better perspective of whether you should hang in there longer. Read 1 Kings 19 and be reminded of the way the Lord ministered to Elijah when he was ready to give up. Elijah had just seen God move mightily at Mount Carmel, but pesky Queen Jezebel sent him running into the wilderness. After sleeping and eating, Elijah was ready to hear God’s voice and receive his next assignment.
Seek an honest evaluation from a trusted counselor. When I’m ready to throw in the towel, I know I must get honest feedback from trusted friends and mentors. They stand ready to hear my complaints and concerns, yet they are also women who challenge and encourage me. They give me perspective and remind me that ministry isn’t always easy. I can still hear the words of one woman who told me, “Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not what God wants us to do.” She lived out Proverbs 27:6, “The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive.” She knew I needed to rely on the Lord for ministry doors to open and not my own determination.
Spend time seeking the Lord through prayer and spending time in His word. If you truly feel like it’s time to quit or step aside from your ministry assignment, spend some concentrated time in God’s Word. Take a personal day to spend time alone with the Lord, whether it’s in the quietness of your home, a retreat center, or a scenic setting. Consider fasting as part of your process for seeking God’s direction. Write down your thoughts and verses that God is using to direct your next step. Ask Him to give you an inner peace about whether you need to continue or step aside. He knows you, and He knows the desires of your heart. He knows whether it’s time to put the towel down or whether to pick it up, wipe your brow, and keep going. Remember that running the race set before you requires endurance. It won’t always be easy, but the eternal rewards are worth hanging in there.
Kelly King is the Women’s Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources and oversees the YOU Lead events. Join her this year and get to know her heart for ministry leaders. Follow her on Twitter @kellydking.