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5 Principles of Full Time Ministry

One of the most common misperceptions about working in the Church is that it's more like a cruise ship than a battle ship. But nothing is farther from the truth. The Church is a place of brutal conflict, harsh realities, and unfair practices. It's a hospital, not a resort. But if Church follows the mandate set out in Acts 1:8, then it can also be a place of incomprehensible grace, compassion, learning, and transformation. I don't believe any earthly institution has a greater ability to profoundly impact culture, one life at a time.

It's for this reason that I often give a word of caution to those who are in deep contemplation about joining full time ministry. Too many people are in love with the experience of Church and don't realize how incredibly difficult the work can be. So, if you're considering full time ministry, or you're in full time ministry and you're feeling a little lost, you need to consider these five principles.

1. Your job must get you out of bed.

Let me ask you a question...what is the one thing you want to accomplish in this role or willing to die trying to achieve? If you can't answer that in the next 20 seconds, you're not ready. Figure that out and come back. 2 Peter 1:10-11

2. It's a great calling and a rough job, count the cost.

If you're fed up with secular work, your lame boss, the commute, etc...that's all fine. But it's not a reason to get into ministry full time. If you are genuinely called, you will get your butt kicked from the start. Every weak spot will become amplified. Every family issue will intensify. When it gets tough, you will second-guess your decision. You need to be convinced that you're there because of God's calling. Luke 14:28

3. Ministry is a leaky bucket, the work is never done.

There's no stock options and the work doesn't end at 5 o'clock or on weekends. You'll pour yourself into projects and people that will disappear overnight. Most of the time, you'll deal with massive problems, broken lives, immense needs, and too few resources. The work does not end. Don't get into ministry because you think it's Bible studies and worship every day. That happens, but sometimes it's a grind. Acts 20:35

4. Make it work for you.

Let's be honest, full time ministry doesn't always pay well. I've seen many people take major financial risks when accepting a ministry position that ultimately contributed to them failing in ministry. They never really counted the financial cost. Don't take a big pay cut when you know you can't honor your commitments. That's breaking a vow to make a new one. Make the needed changes before you jump. God can and will come through, but don't test Him with your poor choices. Romans 8:28

5. Everyone leaves.

At some point everyone leaves ministry. You need to leave your ministry healthier than you found it. Build a legacy not a following. You are ultimately responsible for the care and stewardship of what God gives you. I've seen too many people blow out of ministry with hardened hearts and bitterness because they made the mission too much about themselves. Don't do that. Do your ministry well, champion the success of others, raise the level of quality around you. Then move on the next thing. Acts 1:8

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James Lawrence
James Lawrence was the Executive Pastor of Technology and Innovation and led the Rock’s Executive Leadership Team. He is a pastor, technology entrepreneur, and product designer, living at the intersection of technology forces and Kingdom forces.
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