The gym I go to to has this sign on the wall that compares heart rates to how you’re feeling, all to help motivate people who want to improve their fitness.
For example, the lowest threshold should feel like you’re still sitting on your couch—you’re probably not trying all that hard.
On the other hand, at the highest threshold, you feel like you’re going to pass out. We’re human, so there is such a thing as pushing too hard. That’s why there are emergency stop buttons on treadmills. If you push your body beyond its breaking point, guess what? You’ll break.
Sometimes (well, maybe most times), I’d rather err on the lower end of that spectrum. Let’s face it; a sofa is way more appealing than a stretcher. And if I’m working out, I’d rather take a leisurely stroll on the elliptical while texting friends and watching Sportscenter than push to the point of gasping for air.
Though I won’t get hurt that way, I can’t improve either. I’ve found that I make the most progress in my fitness when I push through discomfort just long enough to break through to a new level of strength.
Growing in ministry works the same way. Though there is such a thing as pushing ourselves (and others) too far, you cannot grow without a willingness to get uncomfortable. No matter how badly you want to slow down.
Comfort may be calling you, but comfort is not your calling.
I’m not talking about managing the work-life balance, or ministry integration into daily life. This is about growth, both individually and as a ministry. As a leader, the sooner you embrace the discomfort of growing and stretching yourself, the farther your leadership will grow.
Here are three questions you can ask to better prioritize a perspective of calling-over-comfort:
1. What element of your ministry is easiest?
It’s possible that the smoothest-running area of your ministry is that way because you have an all-star team, phenomenal resources you need, and ample time to do everything you need to do.
However, the easiest area of your ministry might be the one you’ve stopped working on. No effort means no challenges. But the decision to cease striving and working for growth will only temporarily relieve difficulties, as it ultimately relinquishes all opportunity for growth.
Sometimes, however, I find myself wanting to avoid working on something that is going “smoothly enough” so that I can focus my energy on something that is clearly broken. But if I neglect it for too long, I can wind up neglecting a sickness that will spread and infect multiple areas over time.
If an area of your ministry is moving smoothly and consistently producing results you love, by all means—leave it alone! But don’t accept “smooth enough” as an excuse not to grow. Take some time and ask your teams, “Why is your area easy to run?” I believe you’ll find ways to ensure it flourishes over the long run.
2. What area of your ministry has gone unchanged for the longest period of time?
Do you have anyone in your life that you avoid at all costs? When their name appears on the phone, do you act like you’re busy? When you see them walking your direction, do you act like you’re on your phone? Me too. As harsh as it seems, it’s easier to avoid some people than it is to actually interact with them.
Yet, if the challenges in our ministries deter us from actually addressing them, they’ll only collapse. You cannot grow in the areas you choose to ignore.
Right now, I’m learning that hardly any of the struggles I anticipate are as bad as I’ve built them up to be in my head. Some conversations and opportunities can be uncomfortable, but they’re rarely crippling.
Therefore, don’t be afraid to bring insightful ideas that move your entire church forward, even if they mean hard work. It may take some work to get your leaders to see the benefits through the costs, so don’t delay. The quicker we are to initiate healthy change now, the stronger our ministries will be years from now.
3. What area of your ministry are you the least informed about?
Sometimes, it’s easier to just not ask questions.
When it comes to the people you lead, it can get messy to dig into why people are thinking what they are, and what challenges they’re going through that are influencing the way they lead.
As a leader myself, I have a pretty full agenda. I know you can relate. With your schedule booked, it’s not always realistic or wise to take on anyone else’s burdens.
Just being honest—I’ve stopped asking everyone how their day was going because I’m afraid they might answer honestly. And I might feel called to help them. And just like that, there goes the workday!
As inconvenient as it may be in the moment, ministry is about people. We are called to encourage, comfort, and urge one another on (1 Thessalonians 2:8). It’s really difficult to do this without taking the time to inform ourselves on how they’re doing.
Even though it takes time, your ability to remain informed will directly influence your ability to lead. You’ll help more people and you’ll find more ways to grow yourself.
Today, by asking these questions, you’ll get to decide. What’s it going to be—comfort or or calling?
Frank is the Family Pastor at Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, overseeing staff, volunteers, and curriculum development for more than a dozen locations. He is driven to develop leaders to reach their full potential. Frank is married to Jessica and together they have three children. Find him online at leade3.com or Twitter.