3 Steps for a Long-Haul Ministry

By Nathan Camp

4 Min Read

What makes pastoring so difficult?

As a former church planter and pastor, I know firsthand that the pastorate can be a very tough job, one that often takes a tough toll on pastors.

After planting two churches and being around hundreds of pastors through my role at StartCHURCH, I can tell you with a great degree of certainty that it's harder than one may think.

In today's blog, we'll talk about the difficulties of the role and the three-step process for going the long haul in ministry.

The difficulties of pastoring in 2021

When I was preparing to launch our first church plant, I thought I had a good idea of how "hard" ministry was since I had been on staff at a large church.

However, being the lead pastor took on sobriety and a weightiness that I had not previously known. The nature of the call of a pastor is that of a leader, servant, and warrior. That alone can make the pastorate very difficult.

Secondly, false expectations can riddle the heart of a church planter or pastor. For example, everyone seems to have it together on social media - yes, even ministries and churches! We scroll through our feeds, seeing other ministries that started when we did, and find a completely different picture than what we personally see each Sunday. This creates a false narrative of what "normal" or "success" should look like to us. We see those "made-for-social-media" pictures and think it's reality and then strive to attain what is essentially a mirage.
Thirdly, since the spring of 2020, leaders and church planters have had to face unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic. You’ve had to make tough decisions and pivoted the way you do church and ministry. You’ve had to navigate the storms of crises, and for many of you, your goal was just to keep afloat.

Lastly, very few pastors or church planters set up and maintain healthy boundaries to successfully pastor for the long haul, not just for the sprint.

The truth is, what you need is not a vision for the speed to your destination but a vision for the condition of your soul once you arrive.

To help you navigate the challenges of leading a church or ministry, we created the Launch to Lead video course series. This video course is designed to give you practical steps in planting a thriving, successful church. Call us today at 877-494-4655 to purchase this video course and take your church plant to the next level.


The process of a long-haul ministry

You've probably heard this before, but it's a great reminder: ministry is not a sprint; it's a marathon.

I took up running endurance races a few years ago. I have done several marathons and 70.3 Ironman events. Having been around these kinds of races, I can tell you no one "accidentally" ends up at the finish line.

It was a process that prepared you to cover the miles in a way that lands you where you want to be and how you want to be when you arrive.

This lesson also applies to church planters and pastors.

Here are 3 steps for going the long haul in ministry:

1. Define the destination.

I have often said that my greatest fear is to "win at the wrong thing."

To win at the right things, I must lift my eyes off the immediate and get a bigger perspective for my long-term goals. Here are a few great questions to walk through with your spouse, your board, or your mentors as you define what your wins look like:

  1. What do I want to be true about me, spiritually, one year into our church plant?
  2. What do I want to be true about my family at the end of the next three years?
  3. What do I want to be true about us financially as we enter the second five years of church planting?

Andy Stanley said that "Everyone ends up somewhere; not everyone ends up somewhere on purpose." Answering these questions is the first step in becoming a healthy pastor who can go the distance in ministry.

2. Decide how to get there.

Once you know where you are going, you can decide HOW you are going to get there.

Some church planters may say, "I want to get 100 people in the church as fast as we can!" If that is your vision, then you can take the shortest path with few questions asked.

However, what if you redefine your vision for longer-term success?

This may sound like: "I want to get to the place of pastoring 100 people in regular attendance while maintaining a strong marriage and connecting with my children in the process."

The shortest path is not the right path if it costs you a strong marriage and time with your children.

Our "how" must incorporate more than just the speed of the journey, but the quality of our lives when we arrive at our destination. Too many church planters and pastors disconnect their visions from their personal lives and end up at the finish line too burned out to enjoy it.

We have to ask ourselves, "How can I arrive at my destination in a way that will result in the condition I want to be in when I get there?"

This is a great question to seek in the place of prayer and to discuss with your family, mentors, or elders.

3. Defend your path from distractions.

The moment you know where you are going and how to get there, you will meet resistance. It just happens.

Many times, church planters and pastors are not healthy because they don't have a clear vision or a clear "how" to achieve that vision, but that they have been distracted by other things that keep them from succeeding. And often, they are not bad things; they are just not the right things to help us get where we want to go.

I have found the key here is creating a "stop doing" list. Simply put, list the things to stop doing things that are getting in the way of achieving your goals.

For example, I might decide to stop having meetings after 5:00 p.m., so I don't miss dinner with my family. Or, I might need to stop spending time in front of the TV to spend more time with my spouse.

I don't know what's on your list, but we all have potential distractions that keep us from the life we want to live. It's time to change that intentionally!

Pursuing your vision

In ministry, there are always more people to help, problems to be addressed, and meetings to be had, and we won't have time to do all of it. To be a healthy pastor, you must decide now, even before you get going, what you will and will not do in pursuit of your vision. Your goal is not just to arrive at the finish line; it's to be as healthy as possible when you get there.

So, what is your vision as a church planter? Give us a call at 877-494-4655 and share them with our team. At StartCHURCH, we want your church planting journey to be a success. Whether you need help starting your church or building on a solid foundation, we are here to come alongside you and encourage you along the way.


And receive Book 1 of our Grow Trilogy FREE today! This series gives you the strategies you need to get started growing your church plant today!