Soul Gardening

Reclaiming Spiritual Health After Experiencing Dysfunction

Have you ever experienced hurt, disappointment, or burnout in church ministry? What do you do when you discover that, while you may be producing good works, your soul is beginning to get sick in one way or another? Maybe you realize you are not a fit for the current ministry culture you are serving in and want to make a change. Many people struggle with moving forward when they have experienced dysfunction or want to find their best fit in church life.

It is possible to have a beautiful garden, but still, need to pull weeds. Pruning, trimming, and removing weeds is the only way to keep the plants healthy and the garden vibrant. In the same way, we can experience dysfunction in one area of a ministry while the ministry is still making in an impact for the Kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean the problem should be ignored. We need to pull the weeds so the garden of our souls can continue to thrive. As uncomfortable as it may be to bring these areas into the light, reclaiming spiritual health after experiencing dysfunction, is not only crucial to the Kingdom of God but for your soul and future as well.

This collection of blogs I will be posting over the next several weeks will show you how to find your personal path to health and also offer five principles for navigating a dysfunctional church culture. While it is easy to blame others when we experience hurt, the best response is to change the culture of our souls before we try to point out the problems in others.

Church Culture

Through the years, I have been fortunate enough to be exposed to a variety of leaders with different styles and perspectives on ministry and leadership. One thing that has most interested me in these conversations is church culture because this is what will inevitably impact the condition of our souls. I believe a healthy culture can make up for a lot of other things. It can help heal broken souls and create an environment of hope and expectation in the church, even if everything is not perfect. On the other hand, a poor culture can drown out even the best intentions and lead to wounding people and ministry burnout.

It is from these experiences I have decided to share some thoughts on what to do if you find yourself working or serving in a dysfunctional church culture. Maybe your church culture is not dysfunctional, but just different, and not a fit for you. What do you do when you want to embrace something new? The steps you take once you realize you want to reflect a new perspective in your leadership is vital. It is something I get asked about from time-to-time, and I think a conversation on this topic can help some people.

A Personal Journey

What I share in this collection of blogs will not be about changing the culture of an organization. Instead, we will talk about changing the atmosphere of our hearts. I will not point out what any organization can do differently, but what we can improve in ourselves to create a healthy emotional and spiritual life.

Dysfunctional, Different, and Dynamic

Working at the Association of Related Churches (ARC), I have come across many leaders who are looking to learn, live in, and lead a life-giving culture. Their previous culture isn’t always necessarily bad. They may just feel a kindred spirit or divine-connection with the relevant and refreshing way many pastors lead in ARC. Just because a culture is different doesn’t mean it is harmful or wrong.

Culture changes, and with it, church culture should change as well. What was effective in a previous generation of ministry, may not be able to get the job done in a new generation. For many, this is a contributing factor for reaching out to something new.

Some church cultures and leaders are dysfunctional in some ways but helpful in others. Leaders in this situation may know something needs to change, but not be able to figure out precisely what that is. I want to help with that by offering some guidelines on what to focus on and what to allow God to handle.

Last week’s post, There’s Something I’d Like to Say, was the first in the collection on this topic. Make sure to check it out if you have not yet. Next week we will walk through five steps to reclaiming spiritual health. After that, I will share five principles that will help you navigate a dysfunctional church culture. I hope you join me in this journey as we do some soul gardening!

The Soul Gardening Collection includes the previous post:

Confessing the weeds in my leadership.

Further Reading on this topic:

Unfinished Business

3 Ways to Handle Unmet Expectations

Have you ever thought of the perfect comeback except it was too late? Maybe someone put you on the spot and you didn’t think of the right response until the ride home. You¬†left the conversation with unfinished business. Once you realized precisely¬†what you wanted to say the chance to show the world your wit and brilliance had passed you by like someone waiting for a bus that has already come and gone.

It’s taking too long

Lately, I have been working on an outside project that is taking much longer than I expected. Ladders, tools, and pieces of wood are spread out all over the place. It has become a huge inconvenience. Not only that but each item is also a reminder that the project I want to be complete is currently just a mess. Parts of my heart can look this way at times as well.

Unfinished business can leave us with an uncomfortable weightiness. It’s like a cold for the soul. What do we do with this feeling? It can come from the abrupt ending of a hope or dream we wanted to work out. It’s the ache in the soul that arrives when people we love depart too soon. We know this feeling when the plans that we meticulously document in the journal of our heart are surprisingly blotted out by someone else’s intrusive marks.

What exactly are we supposed to do with unfinished business?

1. Honesty – This may be the most difficult thing to do, but we first need to be honest with ourselves. We should ask if this should ever have been our plan or desire to begin with. Was this ever the right relationship or career path or is it just wanted I wanted to work out? Is there a better fit elsewhere?

2. Healing – We need to be careful about continuing our journey on broken feet. Pushing through without pausing to heal may appear to be the best path but often leaves us stranded, vulnerable, and worse off than before. Wounded warriors are immortalized in film but are often the first casualties in the story of life when they do not stop to get the help they need. You will encounter pain in your journey but if every step hurts it may be time to not give up, but rest for the sake of finishing well.

3. Hope – Unfinished business can sometimes just be a reminder of who is the one actually writing our story. When we take the pen out of God’s hand we often settle for a dimmer version of the brighter story he had planned for us. Unfinished business reminds us to trust, have faith, and lean on the Author of our lives. You never know what surprise ending He may have in store for us if we insist on our own narrow expectations.

A missed opportunity, a failed accomplishment, and people who leave our lives too soon can leave us with feelings of despair. These are also opportunities for us to not only be reminded where our trust and comfort should really be but to also witness the miracle of God finishing the dream in a way that is beyond anything we could have ever expected.