May 22, 2010

"5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them" by Charles Stone

I am married to a minister. I am the daughter of a minister. I am the granddaughter of a minister. To say that I'm familiar with life in the ministry would be a bit of an understatement. In addition to my husband, father, and grandfather; I have two uncles and two great-uncles who also serve as pastors. So, I've been privy to many of the frustrations, struggles, and trials that ministers face on a daily basis. In fact, Focus on the Family estimates that "1,500 pastors leave their assignments each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention within their local congregation." Check out these shocking statistics: 

  • 80% of pastors believe being in pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families 
  • 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started
  • 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once per month 
  • Only 1 of every 10 pastors will actually retire as a minister in some form

Charles Stone's book 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them takes an honest look at the top five potential "killers" of a pastor's ability to minister effectively.
    Five Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them: Help for Frustrated Pastors--Including New Research From the Barna Group
  • A head-in-the-sand mentality that denies problems
  • Emotional investment in the wrong issues
  • Unhealthy responses to ministry frustrations
  • A Lone Ranger mentality that says "God and I can handle this."
  • Attitudes and actions that lead to lonely, hurting spouses.
 Based on new research from the Barna Group, LifeWay Research, and Christianity Today's, Stone uses pastors' own confessions and opinions to draw his conclusions about the practices and ideas that can endanger an effective ministry.

My own personal experience confirms Stone's conclusions. The first year in our first church was one of the loneliest, most isolating years of my life. I watched my husband struggle through many of the issues Stone mentions in his book. It was encouraging to know that the vast majority of ministers face similar frustrations and challenges. The people who make up congregations are generally great folks, but I don't know that they can totally understand the unique challenges and stresses that ministers and their families face.

Stone offers practical advice from his own experience as a pastor. Some of the problems ministers face are caused by their own attitudes and mentalities, others are completely beyond their control. I felt the book was an honest look at what life in the ministry looks like and better yet, it offers suggestions that can transform ministry from a burden to a blessing.

If you're a minister or a minister's spouse, I'm sure you've experienced days when a job at the local Wal-Mart seemed pretty appealing, but hopefully you've also experienced the blessings and personal satisfaction of a ministry that makes a difference in the lives of the congregation you care for and serve. If you're currently struggling, hurting, or on the brink of burnout you may want to check out a ministry called Sonscape. They develop retreats for ministers and their spouses. They were founded as a place to minister to ministers. My husband and I went a few years ago and it was a marriage and ministry saver. I would go back again in a heartbeat.

If you're a church member, know that your words and actions have the power to build up or tear down your local minister. Pastors (and their families) are people too and are going to make mistakes and let you down - most of the time this is not intentional. A little grace can go a long way. If you're looking for practical ways you can be a blessing to your minister and his family you can check out this resource from Sonscape. (They also have printed copies that can be sent to your local congregation)

I would encourage you to read 5 Ministry Killers  as a minister, church member, or lay leader. We're all working toward the same purpose and understanding our struggles and how to overcome them can make us all stronger!


I received a copy of the book to facilitate my review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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