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Survival Skills

What you need to minister with your spirit intact.

I was having coffee with a fellow pastor who needed more than caffeine to pick himself up. Summer attendance was down. Key people were leaving because of disagreements about the direction of the church. And money was very, very tight.

I felt nothing but empathy. Yep, been there, felt that.

"Jim," he said, "I knew seasons like this would come. I just didn't know how stressful they would be."

I agreed. To this day, the disappointments can still blindside me. Nothing prepares you for how ministry can drain you emotionally, leaving you in pain or, even worse, feeling numb or in despair or seething with anger. This is why so many good men and women in ministry have careened into moral ditches or still soldier on with plastic smiles and burned out souls.

A few years ago, my wife Susan and I were part of a mentoring retreat with about a dozen couples. We started off with an open-ended question: "What are your key issues right now?"

As we went around the room, the recurring answer was "emotional survival." ...

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