You don't have to be in the church world long before you will run up against discouragement. Really, I guess that is life in general, but since this is a church leadership blog I will stick to that experience.
Just this past week I had this smack me in the face again. And... I have noticed a pattern in my life. Whenever I come off a really encouraging time I am more than likely going to be hit with something discouraging.
For example: This past Sunday I was bracing myself for the worst. Last year on the first Sunday in June we hit our lowest point ever in our 1 year old church plant. We hit the bottom at 30 people (ouch). So heading into our second summer I had been keeping some projections with the numbers from last year and was ready for a small crowd. In April and May of this year we averaged 105 on Sundays AND on the first Sunday in June we had 111 people... go figure? Summer hits and boom we have a good Sunday, that was really encouraging to me!
Monday morning I am kind of checking out some of the blogs I follow and I read about a church that started on the same weekend we did in the spring of 2006 and now they have over 1,300 people!!! Wow! Now, don't confuse what I am saying. I was not mad at that church, or mad at where God has me, or jealous or things like that. That deal is a go God thing for me, BUT it still hit me... a little twinge of discouragement.
So how do you deal with that? It's going to happen. It might be happening for you right now. Here are three things I learned from my experience this week (and from the roller coaster of church starting).
#1 Guard yourself.
When you have those moments where something really just jacks you up be very careful in the next few days in what you read, watch, or surround yourself with. Now, obviously I am not talking about living in a cave. All I am saying is guard yourself. Be aware that the Evil One would love to get you down through even the most innocent of things.
#2 Plan for Bumps (but never accept them).
Momentum is a funny thing. One of the only things I know for sure is it doesn't go without it's share of bumps in the road. So, you should plan for those. You should plan that things will try to hijack your joy, but never accept those things. Know the difference between holy discontent and discouragement.
#3 Take a Step Back.
It doesn't matter if you are coming off a super high or a dreadful low the best thing you can do is to take a step back and gain some perspective. Things are never as good as they seem or as bad as they first seem.
Church work is some of the hardest I know. Nothing can really prepare you for the discouragement that comes with the territory. My hope is that we are less surprised by it and more equipped to deal with it.
Tell me what you think...