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3 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Demotivated in Ministry

Written by Alpha Asia Pacific with Reverend Abel Cheah

Rev. Abel Cheah is the Leadership Development Director of the Alpha Asia Pacific Hub and a pastor (curate) at Holy Trinity Bukit Bintang (HTBB) Church. His current leadership focus is to help leaders raise and develop other leaders in the wake of the post-pandemic reset.

 

According to Lifeway Research’s survey of 1,000 pastors on their churches’ most pressing needs, “apathy” was ranked as the single biggest concern of 2022.

In the past two years, pastors and leaders have gone to incredible lengths to surmount ministry challenges and to meet the needs of their congregation. Nevertheless, the pandemic has significantly disrupted how most people live and work.

As churchgoers grapple with post-pandemic changes, along with the accompanying social and economic costs, it has contributed to church life becoming less of a priority, with some leaving church altogether. It’s not surprising that church leaders are worried about keeping their teams motivated in the post-pandemic re-emergence, while struggling to stay motivated themselves.

If you’re a Christian leader, you too may be struggling to keep a sense of purpose and momentum in your workplace, school, ministry, and home right now. The question for us is, how can we stay motivated amid a time of reset and re-evaluation?

The Alpha Asia Pacific team spoke with Reverend Abel Cheah, who shared some practical tips on how we can stay motivated in a period when people seem to fear and resent commitment.

1. Do it for joy

We often think motivation comes from doing something “with joy”, but what if the key to motivation is to do it “for joy”?

In Hebrews 12:1-2, the author challenges the church to stay steadfast in seasons of instability by reminding them: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

In Jesus, we learn that godly motivation has more to do with anticipating joy than it has to do with enduring pain. It wasn’t the cross itself that motivated Jesus through His mission, but it was His joy that gave purpose to the cross.

Every worthy goal has within it an enduring and expectant joy. You can wash those dishes as an example of responsibility to your children. You can write that report because your work is a worship to the Lord and a way to serve your colleagues. You can show up at someone’s wedding or funeral to love as Jesus does.

As you connect your everyday tasks to a “greater joy” and continue to be faithful in doing them, keep looking to Jesus, in whom our greatest joy is found. As Matthew 25:21 says: “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”

When Jesus is the source of all our joy and our sense of purpose in life, we are able to see, perform, and comprehend things that we would otherwise not be able to. The pleasure we gain from being faithful to our Master shields us from discouragements in the face of commitment anxiety.

2. Do it with others

It has been said, “if you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together”.

Demotivation can come from feeling disconnected to our team or to a vision/mission. This can be due to issues outside of work, a lack of communication within the ministry team, or juggling different ministry roles, whilst managing various digital initiatives to keep up with the times.

A good way to move forward is to effectively communicate the vision of the church, set fitting goals, and have regular feedback with one another.

When we find it hard to start something we’re supposed to do, it’s often due to a lack of momentum as well. For instance, I may intellectually understand something as important, but until I can experience a sense of possibility (of it happening) and a momentum about accomplishing it, the task remains as only a good idea.

The formula for momentum gives us a hint: momentum is made up of mass and velocity (p=mv)—the more people we involve (i.e. the “mass”) in a responsibility, the greater a sense of momentum there is in accomplishing the work.

This is why Hebrews 12 begins with the words “Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses … let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”.

Christian motivation is a long obedience in the same direction, and the Christian journey is meant to be embarked on together, as a community. We are not meant to take this journey on our own; there isn’t enough fuel in us to keep going endlessly. We will only rise to the level of courage that we allow ourselves to be encouraged.

The bravest words a leader could ever say are, “Can you help me?” Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the challenges you are facing and ask for help.

Whatever you do, don’t go alone.

3. Do it small

St Francis of Assisi once said, “Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible; and suddenly, you are doing the impossible.”

We can only improve what is first initiated. Just start somewhere, and don’t be afraid to start ridiculously small.

In Zechariah 4:10, we are reminded, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin”. Never underestimate the potential of a seed—every great feat began somewhere small.

Do you have a long day ahead? Start your day by folding your blanket. Do you have a series of articles to write? Start with a paragraph—aim to do something small as a goal. Do you have a sermon to write? Break it down into parts and start with the first point—then celebrate its completion.

It has been said that “motivation is made in the morning”—so start the day right.

 

 

When we’re feeling apathetic or demotivated, this is usually a symptom of something deeper. To help us diagnose the cause, we can begin by identifying the reasons and factors that contribute to us feeling this way. One of the ways we can do so is by journaling our thoughts, or speaking to someone about it.

Importantly, we must assure each other that we are not alone in the way we feel. We can work together to identify the struggles towards commitment and not sweep them under the carpet.

Be encouraged to know that this is a phase, and that taking small measures each day in addressing the issues can make a difference.

Self-coaching questions:

  • If you are able to connect a loved one with a task to endure, you are more likely to find a deeper purpose to the responsibility. Who is counting on me to do today’s tasks?
  • Why am I doing this? What is the future reward of engaging with this? What might a future joy resulting from being faithful to this task look like?
  • Hebrews 13:16 says, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God”. Good work done faithfully brings joy to the Lord. How can I worship God in the tasks I am doing today?

 

This article was originally published on Alpha Asia Pacific’s website here. This version has been edited by YMI.

Alpha is an effective form of evangelism when done by and through the local church. By focusing on the essentials of the Christian faith, it opens the door for Alpha to be used in almost any context so that everyone has the opportunity to see their friends’ lives transformed by the gospel. Churches are now able to run the Alpha sessions online through various video conferencing platforms. To find out more, go to https://asiapacific.alpha.org/

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