The above question is one that many of us in leadership and ministry find ourselves asking many times a day, in many different ways and to many different people. It’s a genuine caring question for those who are pastoring, coaching, counselling, and just simply encouraging others.
But, can I just ask - what about YOU. How are YOU doing?
We are living in unprecedented days with the everchanging restrictions and reactions to the continuing Covid-19 Pandemic. As we look to support, care for, and pray for others, it’s important we take time to check in with ourselves. How are we actually doing? Not the ‘I’m fine’ pat answer, but time to genuinely reflect on how we are? How are we coping? What are we feeling? How is our walk with God? Are we laying our burdens down or are they in fact weighing us down?
We can all be guilty of forgetting to self-care. Without even realising it, we can get affected by other people’s needs, worries or demands. Added to that is juggling the everyday pressures of our own lives – our family responsibilities, financial concerns, or feeling isolated from friends and extended family. There’s a lot to contend with.
We have shared various articles over the years about the importance of self-care. It’s a proven fact that none of us can keep giving out without getting replenished. We have a duty to ourselves to practice good self-care in all of the four main areas of life. 1- Spiritually, 2- Mentally, 3- Emotionally and 4- Physically. We need to take time to invest in our own wellbeing and part of that is to keep connected to and fellowshipping with other people.
The writer in Hebrews encourages us to “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”( Heb10:25 NIV)
With that in mind, why not join us a week tomorrow (Saturday 24th) for our Annual conference – a landmark first virtual one!
As well as specially focused talks that are tailored to this time, we have guest seminars from mature and experienced pastors and pastors spouses – Maggie Lane and Kenny and Morag Borthwick. They’ll be sharing as well as members of our own team. Together we are looking to build one another up. To bring focus and perspective to these difficult times from being firmly rooted in and trusting in God.
Delegates can also benefit from live interaction with a question panel as well as an opportunity to receive confidential personal prayer with our seasoned prayer team throughout the day.
Here at ESPS Ministries we really do care how you are doing. Come join us on the day, it would be wonderful to have you with us. And if you ever feel you would benefit from prayer or our listening ministry, then please do get in touch with us through our website.
Follow the link for conference details and how to register.
Whether you’ve truly failed―or you just feel like a failure―the experience can actually be a blessing. “Well, Cara, I’m not really sure what to say, but you failed to do what we hired you to do.” The chairperson folded her hands on her lap, and looked at me blankly. I stared back at her, numb to the world around me.
Glancing at the paper in front of her, she went on to list all of the many ways she believed I had failed at in my first two years of ministry. My cheeks burned red and tears pooled in my eyes, soon cascading down my face. I looked at my boss―the same man who’d fed me accolades of praise week after week―who now sat mute in the corner. Why wasn’t he standing up for me? Why was there such a disconnect from the encouragement he showered upon me in our one-on-one meetings and the silence that swallowed him now? “I’m sorry,” I whispered. An apology was all I could muster. She’d rendered me mute, as well.
The meeting crippled me for a long time. Two weeks later, I moved two states south to take on a promotion with the same outreach organization. I’d been offered the job months prior, but wanted to finish out my time in good standing, so I’d stayed an additional two months after the initial offer period. Still, her words haunted me. I didn’t trust my own leadership abilities, just as I didn’t trust that God in me could do a mighty work through me. I cried whenever I divulged the truth of that awful meeting. Finally, feeling like I would never fully thrive unless I worked through the pain, I turned to a therapist.
Wiping away tears, I told her my story. I felt like an utter failure. Surely, she could see it, too. But where one woman’s words had stripped me to the core, her words filled me up. They were like balm to my soul.
“You can’t fail at that which hasn’t been communicated to you,” she said simply. She was right. The chairperson held me to expectations of her own that hadn’t been communicated to me. Clearly, my boss also had different expectations of me―expectations I met with shining gold stars. In that moment, the therapist’s clarity helped me understand I hadn’t actually failed at all―even though I had been made to feel like I failed. This clarity of truth was all I needed. Eventually, I returned to ministry a new woman, with a bounce in my step and a newfound confidence in my position.
Had I not been told I failed, I would not have begged God for mercy. I would not have learned to be vulnerable and ask for help. I would not have learned that strong leaders are honest regarding their own abilities, just as they are honest about their own expectations of others. Equally important, I would not have understood how significant it is to learn from mistakes, nor grasped the necessary art of self-care. Above all, I learned failure―even when it just feels like a failure―really can be a good thing.
Learning from Failure
In an April 2017 article from The Guardian, writer Gavin Haynes introduces readers to a psychological phenomenon in Helsingborg, Sweden―The Museum of Failure. Its mission is simple and, ultimately, life giving: “Innovation requires failure. Learning is the only process that turns failure into success.” Highlighting such marketing flops as Colgate lasagna and Harley Davidson perfume, the museum goes a step further―encouraging attendees to learn from their mistakes.
Take, for example, Coke II. Introduced to the public in 1984, consumers did not embrace the new taste. Acknowledging the failed innovation, Coca-Cola immediately began selling its original formula again ―because, why change a good thing? What some outsiders might view as a failure, the company sought to embrace and learn from. Today, Coca-Cola is the world’s third most valuable brand. I don’t doubt it’s much different for those of us who are in ministry.
Jerusalem Greer, a speaker, minister, and author of At Home in this Life, shared with me an experience of failure early in her ministry career. In an effort to not be what she described as a “program church,” the church staff―including her―wanted to be innovative, particularly when it came to mid-week services and small-group ministries. Their efforts to create something new and different, however, didn’t include any sort of programming or care for kids, thereby doing a disservice to the parents of young children. Children were welcome to come to Wednesday night praise and prayer services and weekly home groups, but as any parent knows, it’s difficult to keep a child “under control” in the middle of serious adult conversations or prayer sessions. All too often, an already worn out parent would go to another room to entertain the child with books, snacks, and songs. Parents and children both missed worship and community experiences, and in the end, parents simply forfeited their involvement altogether.
It wasn’t until Greer became a parent herself that she realized how her arrogance and inexperience not only crippled her leadership influence, but also failed a large population of potential congregants. Now, almost 20 years later, she looks back on the experience with gratitude, mostly because she learned how important it is to realize your limitations. “Just because you are an innovative thinker,” she reasons, “doesn’t mean you’ve thought of everything. You have to listen to the collective wisdom and life experiences other people bring to the table.”
She continues: There is a reason most churches provide some sort of care or programming for the youngest members. There’s a valid need. My mistake back then was in throwing the entire concept out, instead of modifying it to fit our innovative vision. The truth is we need both: we need to create church cultures that welcome children in all spaces―in both words and actions―and we need to care for our parents who are worn thin. I believe both are possible, but it does take a change in culture, and it is a slow change.
Greer is not alone in seeing failure as a good thing. Read the Gospels―repeatedly, there remains a divide between the expectations of the Israelites and the human God sent to earth. Where was the purple-robed king sent to rule over all of the earth? Where was the great warrior-judge, the one who would “wage war against the idol-worshipping Gentiles and destroy the sinners among the Jews”? How, then, did Jesus, seen as a failure in light of their expectations, respond?
He just kept on going.
In Matthew 13:54–59, Jesus returns to his hometown to teach people in their place of worship. His words were met with questions and accusations, while his ways were met with negative and offensive reactions. As a result, Jesus continued to preach, but was unable to perform miracles because of their lack of faith in him. Although Jesus had failed to be who they thought he should be, he hadn’t failed in the least, for he continued to be true to who he truly was.
Although Jesus may have failed in the Israelites’ expectations of him, he was not a failure in the least. Quite probably, it’s the same for you. If you’ve recently been labelled a failure―whether by yourself or by someone around you―consider one of these three action steps:
Seek to see failure as a good thing. If you’ve believed yourself a failure because of another person’s unmet or unspoken expectations of you, ask yourself the following questions: How might this experience make me a better leader? How might my failings bring me closer to God, and transform me into the most authentic and real version of me?
Seek the peace only Christ can bring. In Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Ruth Haley Barton writes, “we often blow right past the place where God is creating a stir to get our attention.” Might current or past experiences of failure be God’s stirring in your life?
Seek to rewrite the narrative. More than anything, you may need to rewrite your own story of failure, which starts with acknowledging that you’re not a failure. Consider how changing this perspective changes your story altogether.
Above all, know that you are loved and you are not alone. We stand with you and are here for you. Even in your failures, we cheer you on.
Cara Meredith is a writer and speaker from Seattle, Washington. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and co-host of Shalom in the City’s monthly book club podcast. She holds a Master’s of Theology (Fuller Seminary), and can be found on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.
This article originally appeared here -www.christianitytoday.com/women-leaders/2017/october/when-you-feel-like-failure.html
**Ps. Remember to register for further encouragement at our ESPS Annual Conference - RESET – to be held virtually on Saturday 24th October. For more details and to book, follow the link - www.espsministries.org/reset-conference
It is a beautiful Sunday morning. She has been up for a few hours to ensure a sweet time with the Lord and to have plenty of time to slip the casserole into the oven. She wakes the little ones with a chirp of, “This is the day the Lord has made!” The kids dress easily in their matching ensembles she laid out the night before. She sips her coffee and adds the finishing touches to the Sunday school lesson she has prepared. She kicks off her slippers in exchange for her cute red pumps as her children happily skip to the car, bibles and notebooks in hand. She laughs as she nearly leaves the house without the meal she made for the new mommy in the congregation. Where is her head today? They arrive early and joyfully enter the church service with a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts. And then…the pastor’s wife pulls up.
In stark contrast to the lady in the red shoes, the pastor’s wife has been up for hours, trying to wrangle her four children into the car. She is running late as usual, and is yelling to the older children not to forget their Cheerios that she threw into a baggie. She looks down and realizes that the little one has on mismatched shoes. Again. Exhaustion overwhelms her as she was up most of the night praying for the strength to love the lady who keeps sending her husband emails about his lack of care of the senior saints. She is greeted by the cheerful choir director who hands her this week’s music octavo. She puts on the rehearsed plastic smile that comes so naturally now as she feels the weight of her inadequacy cover her like a cloud.
Sound familiar? Are you a pastor’s wife who is at the end of herself? Sweet sisters, Christ understands and empathizes with all you go through. He understands being in a family that is scrutinized and judged. He cares for you as you rarely ever get to sit with your husband on a Sunday morning. He understands being betrayed by a close friend, and knows your hesitancy to trust others. Your Brother knows and feels all you go through as you serve the church. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. ” (Hebrews 4:15) He identifies with you as you seek to lay your life down for a people that seem ungrateful. He prays for you and promises to give you the strength you need to endure. All of these unique trials will press you further into the love and acceptance of your Saviour.
Know that who you truly are has nothing to do with what your husband does. Who you married is not who you are. You are a cherished, precious daughter of the King. You are a woman who has value, not because of your husband, but because Christ chose to set his love on you. Your righteousness does not depend on whether you can play the piano, or make a delicious casserole, or teach in children’s ministry. Your right standing before God has been completely and unalterably secured forever by the lover of your soul. All of the weaknesses and inadequacies in your personality were designed especially by your Heavenly Father. They do not hold your husband back or hurt his ministry, they point the church to the beauty of a Saviour who uses weakness and inadequacy and sin to display unspeakable brilliance of his power and mercy.
Hear and believe the words of Psalms 139:13-17 –
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me”
So rest, rest in His tender compassions for you. Serve knowing that he served you with his life, his all. Love remembering how you have been loved with an everlasting love.
Jessica Thompson is the author of Exploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for the Family and the coauthor (with Elyse Fitzpatrick) of Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. She is a wife, a mother of three, and a member of an Acts 29 church.
Worry doesn’t achieve anything positive. It literally drains us of joy and peace, saps our energy, and causes unnecessary stress and anxiety. We know all this and yet we often find ourselves on the same old roundabout of being overwhelmed when different situations arise.
God already covered this in His word. He simply tells us NOT to worry. Amen! It is said that there are over 365 bible verses telling us to ‘Fear Not’ or ‘Don not fear’- that’s more than one for each day of life. We need to choose to reign in our thoughts, fan our faith into life, and dilute our fears each time we are tempted into worrying.
A popular quote by Corrie Ten Boom is “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strength.”. The following is another wonderful perspective about worry taken from her book ‘Reflections of God’s Glory,’ ( A transcript of radio broadcasts)
Once, I had a burden that weighed heavily on me. I set it down and looked at it. Then I saw that everything about my burden was borrowed. One part belonged to the following day, one part to the next week. My burden was a huge, stupid mistake. I realized that worrying is carrying tomorrow’s burden with today’s strength. It’s carrying two days at once. It’s prematurely thinking of tomorrow. On the calendar, there is only one day for action, and that is today.
Making plans is time-consuming. Time is necessary for making wise decisions, but carrying them out belongs to only one day—today.
We become concerned about the future—our financial concerns, our health. Where does this lead to? Nowhere. Nowhere that is worth the trouble because tension ruins things. It depletes the energy that you need to live today. The Holy Spirit does not give you a clear blueprint for your life, but He leads you from moment to moment. Live for today!
I read somewhere, “Why don’t we look for something that is easier than anxiety? Worried people are like tightrope walkers, trying to walk over a rope from the past to the future, balancing between hope and fear. In one hand they hold a bag with the disordered past, in the other bag, the feared future. Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s grief; it takes away today’s strength. It does not enable us to avoid evil, but it makes us incapable of dealing with it when it comes.”
I once heard a nice story, a kind of legend. A small clock, which had just been finished by its maker, was put on a shelf in his shop between two old clocks that were busily and loudly ticking away the seconds. “So,” said one of the old clocks to the newcomer, “you’ve just started this task. I feel sorry for you. You are bravely ticking now, but you’ll be very tired once you’ve ticked thirty-three million times.”
“Thirty-three million ticks?” said the startled clock, “but I could never do that!” He immediately stopped in desperation.
“Come on, stupid,” said the other clock. “Why do you listen to such talk? That’s not how things are. At each moment you only need to tick once. Isn’t that easy? And then again. That’s just as easy. Carry on like that.”
“Oh, if that’s all,” the new clock cried, “then that’s easy enough. Off I go.” And he began to bravely tick each moment, without paying attention to the months and the millions of ticks. When the year was up, he had ticked thirty-three million times without realizing it.
Yes, living for the moment, that’s what you need. The Lord’s prayer says, “Give us today our daily bread.” …A person does not fall so much because of the troubles of one day, but if tomorrow’s burden is added, this load can become very, very heavy. It is wonderfully easy to live just for the day.
That’s exactly how our Creator and Saviour said we should live. ‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’. (Matthew 6v34) May we all be given the grace and faith to live in such a manner today.
As those who care for others in life, it’s really important to be in a place where we can receive ourselves. It’s good for us to grow and be refreshed in our spirits as well as in our skill set. We want to be the best ‘us’, so that we can minister more effectively to others.
Sometimes it can be hard to know where to look for personal development opportunities, so today we’d like to share some information about a brand new online course ‘Soaring in your strengths’. This course will be run by the well-known and wonderfully experienced Andrea Wigglesworth and Vicky McVoy. (https://www.vitalconnexions.org/event/soaring-in-your-strengths/)
Having attended a similar course in person a few years ago, I can tell you it was of enormous benefit and blessing. As well as the psychology and theory, it was incredible to have everything so rooted in the Bible and shared in the context of being in God’s presence and receiving God’s love.
Whether you choose to explore this course or others, it really is beneficial to our whole wellbeing to do something. With so much demand on leaders right now, take some time for you and invest in becoming the person you were destined to be.
Personal Development is something that is widely encouraged and embraced throughout many areas of life. From the workplace to the gym, people like to invest time in improving themselves.
If you are married then you already know that marriages also need regular investment to keep them healthy and thriving. We need to have a value base for our relationships and be willing to grow as individuals and as a couple along life’s journey. It’s something we may initially shy away from, but with improved communication, intentionality, and prayer, we can all step forward into wonderful new areas of blessing and togetherness.
Our marriages are such a gift, so we need to nurture and protect them. We also need to source the tools that maybe weren’t modelled by our own families of origin, who in light of relationship research, end up being our main influencers. Change and improvements are possible! This is such a crucial area of our lives as marriage is under attack in society today, and especially Christian marriage as we wrestle on a spiritual level too.
I’m passionate that we work at healthy marriages in the world of Christian leadership and ministry. In the busyness and stresses we can so easily become unfulfilled and detached and settle for a functioning relationship rather than a thriving partnership. God really did intend for marriage to be good and to be a blessing, and with Him at the centre, we really can position ourselves towards a better future. A healthy marriage sustains us in ministry and is also a rich blessing to our children.
We can all be guilty of reading marriage books in prep for getting married or for helping someone else, when really we should be encouraging one another to keep investing in our own marriage development. As we go through different seasons, we can navigate so much better when we have a solid foundation and understand how to love and respect each other.
A great book to invest in, and one that some may be familiar with, is ‘The 5 Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman. In this book he shares teaching and stories of how we are all wired differently, and so our understanding and expectation of expressions of love vary immensely. We need to take time to know who we are ourselves as well as trying to understand our spouses. Whether you are married one year or twenty years this book is a great aid in helping couples not just to connect, but to keep emotional love alive.
The 5 Love Languages are:
1 - Words of Affirmation
2 - Acts of Service
3 - Receiving Gifts
4 - Quality time
5 - Physical touch
Each Love Language is clearly defined and examples are given for implementing them into our daily lives. Of course each person may have more than one preferred love language, which the author clearly offers advice on.
Another little gem of a book by Gary Chapman is ‘Things I wish I’d known Before We Got Married’. From romance and dealing with in-laws to conflict resolution and forgiveness, this is another great book to read.
My final recommendation today is a book called ‘Love & Respect’ by Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs. This is a most helpful book for all ages and stages of marriage, and it also has a work book and DVD that couples can work through together.
May this quote be true of us all:
‘A successful marriage requires falling in love over and over again, but always with the same person!’