Today on Use Your Words we talked stress. Usually I give you some pep talk about marketing, or planning a talk, but I thought it was important to touch on something all of us deal with, but rarely talk about: how draining ministry is. And speaking ministry has its own unique stresses!
Every Tuesday I host a BlogTalkRadio show for 30 minutes, and you can listen live at noon EST. But if you didn’t make it, you can always listen to the shows after the fact. This week’s is right here.
To summarize, though, what are the sources of some stress?
1. Engagements with High Costs and Few Benefits
Picture this: you’re just starting out, and you’re so happy to receive any engagement that comes your way! You want to spak. You want to build word of mouth.
So when an offer comes, you jump at it. Then you realize that it involves driving six hours, billeting at someone’s house, speaking the next day, and driving home.
You drive. You’re exhausted. You arrive at the billet’s house and you have to be nice and make small talk, even though you’d rather just sleep. When you get to the engagement, only 30 women are there, and they’re not the kind who are likely to lead to a lot of word of mouth. At the end of the night, they give you $50 and a potted plant.
You’re discouraged. That was a lot of effort for relatively little reward. Of course, God can bring rewards out of anything, no matter how small, and so you feel guilty for being a little bit resentful. But it was awfully far to drive, and awfully draining.
Do this too much and you will burn out.
Solutions: Do free engagements certainly, but try to do them closer to home. Read about cold-calling local churches. Be strategic about doing workshops at conferences, which are likely to lead to more word of mouth. If you are going to drive far, try to combine several engagements at once. And once you do start to get more engagements, it’s okay to ask for a hotel rather than a billet!
2. You Can’t Admit Your Struggles
My husband and I have been speaking at marriage conferences for six years now, and one of the hard things is that when I’m mad at him, it’s hard to tell anyone or get counsel, because people may think that our marriage is in trouble (even when it’s not). When you’re in ministry, you have to look like you have it altogether, or you may damage your reputation.
That’s exhausting, and spiritually dangerous. Remember all the big name preachers who are caught in scandals? People don’t wake up one day and make a huge mistake out of nowhere. It starts with little things they compromise on, and then it grows. And why do those little things appear? Because they don’t have anyone to talk to about their doubts and struggles, and they don’t have proper accountability.
Churches are working together to get pastors more accountability and anonymous help, but we speakers are a lonely bunch. We don’t have anyone doing that for us.
Solution: Make one of your primary prayer requests that God will send you 3-4 women with whom you can be completely honest. They don’t even need to live in your hometown! Send email prayer requests around, and ask them to hold you accountable.
3. Overbooking Yourself
When a speaking request comes for nine months in the future, you jump at it and say yes. Later you’re asked to speak somewhere else a week later, and you say yes to that, too. But when the week comes around, life has gotten in the way. Your kids are busy. All of a sudden there’s a family wedding you didn’t know about when you took those engagements, and you’re going to be driving all over the place trying to squeeze in shopping for a gift and dress fittings, etc.
The fact is that life does intrude, and we have to be wise.
Solution: Cluster your engagements. Try to do a whole bunch at once, so you’re away from the house for an extended period, but then be home for 6-7 weeks straight. When you speak every weekend, or once a week, your mind is never completely at home. You’re never able to completely relax (or even completely unpack!).
4. Worry When No Engagements Come
You’re doing everything you’re supposed to do, but your calendar isn’t filling up. Is God really calling you to this? What about money? You’re not being paid enough and you wonder whether you should still be doing this.
Solution: Keep up to date with God. Wrestle with your calling. Ask God if it was temporary, or if it’s long term. It is okay to do something for five years, and then God may call you to move on.
I said much more in the recording for Use Your Words, which you can listen to here.
Another resource I know you’ll find helpful is my audio download, How to Get Better Bookings. If you’re sick of driving huge distances for little reward, learn how to build word of mouth to get the kind of engagements you need! It’s available here.