When Your Gifts Don’t Match Your Ministry

During my first full-time ministry position, through huge amounts of stress and much turmoil, I learned an important lesson: I was serving in a position that didn’t match my passions and gifts.

There will always be things we need to do that we don’t enjoy, but that is expected not only in ministry, but life. It’s when we are spending the majority of our time doing things that we are not wired to do, that will only ever lead to burnout.

I currently serve in a context that demands three times more effort than my first ministry experience. But I love going to work everyday. Why? Because I spend at least 70% of my available time and energy on the things that I am wired for and that gives me life.

I loved the church I served in all those years ago. I learned so much, and was able to grow tremendously. My lead pastor and the board were extremely gracious with me and sowed into me on a regular basis. The congregation loved my family and we loved them. It was an extremely difficult decision for us to make the transition out.

So what was the problem? I was stuck in a position that I wasn’t built to do and because of that, the church and I suffered for it.

In the end, the church and I needed different things. My gifts were not lining up and I wasn’t able to serve in the capacity that the leadership felt was crucial for the position I was hired to do. I felt as though I was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole–it just wasn’t working. I had so much more flex time and a whole lot less responsibility than I have now, but I was so much more stressed, because I was mismatched in my ministry role.

Maybe this resonates with you. Maybe you’re not thriving in your position because what you ‘do’ isn’t who you ‘are’ and the passion has run dry, your drive is all gone and you have nothing left to give. You have found yourself to be miserable and you have become jaded.

I hope my experience can encourage you and possibly give you hope. You don’t need to be stuck in this position and there are other possibilities. Here are four steps that may help you as you consider some possible solutions:

1. Figure out how you are wired and what gives you life.

I am primarily a networker and team builder. I do enjoy many other things and am skilled in preaching, counseling, teaching, training and equipping, but I thrive in networking and team building. When I do spend time doing things I am not gifted in, it drains me. The big difference is I spend at least 70% of my available time and energy on the things that I am wired for and thrive doing.

If you can figure out what gives you life, that will be the first step. Let me also add: don’t feel guilty in wanting to focus on what you love. That is a false humility that has been pushed on the pastorate. And remember, you can’t do everything (but that is point four).

2. Are you able to change your job description?

Over and over again, I would hear the words, you shouldn’t be doing that, it isn’t in your job description, even though I was finding major fruit in it and was thriving. I finally got to the place where I said, then maybe I need a new job description.

POSTED ON February 26, 2014
  • Thomas

    I really appreciated this post. I was a pastor of a church that grew from 70 in Average Worship Attendance (AWA) to 150 in about four years. I was proud of this growth, and I wanted to see our impact extend into the larger community. I made a rather detailed, lengthy report that proposed relocating the church to the growing edge of our medium sized community. The church was unified in their decision to stop growing and maintain for the indefinite future. While this was disheartening to me, I learned that I loved the game of growth. Management, risk, negotiating, and competition were exciting to me, but off-putting to the congregation. I don’t blame the congregation, but I wanted to be a metaphorical “fish-catcher” not a “sheep-tender.” I applied for a job in our denomination’s financial branch. I got the job which relocated me near a high quality business school. I was accepted into the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program because of my obvious ancient church history and Greek skills :-). I am much more happy in my MBA program than I ever was at seminary. In hindsight, I loved people, the Lord, and the church, but I had a passion to fight a fight and be successful. When I stopped trying to mask those feelings with false humility, I found that I was happier.

    • Thank you Thomas for sharing your story. It very encouraging to hear when people find a place that they can be thriving and alive and show that these possibilities are possible. Of course, this usually means making hard choices and having to swim up stream in most cases, but I don’t think we should have to settle in a position that doesn’t give us life, which I think you hit on the nail with your last comment. We so often bully ourselves to stay where we are due to false humility. That if I strange for what I feel I want to do, that means I am seeking this in wrong intentions.

      Now of course, that may be the case that we are doing it out of wrong intentions and much wisdom is needed. We may even be called to weather through season, but we should never be ,otivated by guilt or feel bad about wanting to do something we love. So, thank you for sharing your story and adding to this conversation. Blessings.

      For those in search of what their calling may be, you might be interested in this article: http://www.boldcupofcoffee.com/3/post/2014/02/how-do-you-know-you-are-called.html

Drake currently serves as the Executive Pastor at gateway.ac and is the Editor-In-Chief at boldcupofcoffee.com.

Drake is an avid speaker, writer, and leadership coach/consultant, and is passionate about seeing people thrive and come alive – to BELONG, wrestle with what they BELIEVE and BECOME people FULL OF LOVE, FUELED BY FAITH, and ADDICTED TO HOPE. You can get in contact with him by heading over to his personal page and connecting with him on social media (see below).