This year, many ministries will either cease to exist or become a shell of their former selves due to a tragic downfall of their leaders. As you read their disheartening reports, you will notice that each one was preventable. And as we move forward in our ministries, we must be wary of the common downfalls that destroy ministries. I have listed six:
1. Marital unfaithfulness.
No ministry leader wakes up in the morning and says, “Today seems like a good day to be an adulterer.” Marital unfaithfulness has more subtle origins. Behind closed doors, a conversation with someone of the opposite sex takes an unexpectedly intimate tone. Then, more conversations and a series of texts are exchanged. You start to imagine yourself with that person. You share a meal together, alone. Eventually, interactions become physically intimate. And you find yourself wondering, “How did I ever get here?”
Starting now, protect your marriage by setting up boundaries and sticking to them. Make sure others know your boundaries and will hold you accountable.
2. Mishandling finances.
Financial troubles can arise both in the personal and organizational arenas of life. Be careful not to become complacent with your money. Spend money that is yours to spend. Have a budget and know where you stand within that budget. Especially for ministry dollars spent, make sure that you can give an account for every purchase.
3. Ignoring laws.
This can take many forms on the local, state, and national levels. Never lead anyone to do something contrary to the law. If you are unsure of how the law relates to a particular decision, seek out legal counsel. Recently, the tragedy of child abuse within ministries has rightfully received much attention. If this occurs in your ministry, report the incident to the police. There is no reason for hesitation.
4. Toxic leadership.
Thom Rainer recently published a blog post relating to toxic leadership. It is worth a read. Do not be a toxic leader.
5. Burning out.
Ministry never ends. Too many ministry leaders sacrifice their family and needed personal time in an attempt to meet the abundant needs. This mode of operation is not sustainable and leads to frequent burnout.
Ministry leaders must create space for their family and personal life. Planned time away from the ministry creates a healthy family life and rejuvenates leaders for a long-term run with the ministry.
6. Theological drift.
When doubt replaces steadfastness in the Bible’s words, the effectiveness of a ministry will erode. The ministry leader’s lack of confidence in Scripture will cause him or her to make decisions that are unfaithful to the Bible and God’s mission. The result is a ministry in shambles.
If you are struggling with any of these issues, please contact someone. Get help. Your ministry is too valuable to have it waste away because of a downfall that is completely preventable.