A few years ago I was coaching a very discouraged young bivocational pastor. It was his first church as pastor. His previous ministries had involved youth work. One of his main interests in this church was to build its youth ministry, but he felt that in the 18 months he had been the pastor very little had happened with the youth group. No matter what he said he wanted to focus on during each coaching session he always seemed to return to his disappointment with the youth program in his church. During one session he began to complain again about the youth program until I stopped him. I began to remind him of all the things he said had occurred in the youth ministry in the 18 months he had been pastor. Personally, I was impressed and felt that he was overlooking how far the youth had come in such a short time. Every time I mentioned something else positive that he had previously shared about the youth program he seemed to lighten up. When I finished listing everything I told him I felt he had much to feel good about and a great foundation upon which to build. He actually agreed with me. It was obvious his mood lightened and he never complained about the youth ministry to me again.
Like many pastors, this young man was focusing on the wrong things. He was comparing this youth group with other ones he had led. He kept thinking about all the things they weren't doing instead of focusing on how far they had traveled in a short period of time. He was looking at the youth ministry week to week instead of stepping back and taking a broader view of what was happening.
A few years ago I read a book that encouraged pastors to go to the balcony to get a better look at their church. The author said that when you are on the dance floor you can only see what is in your immediate area, but when you step up to the balcony you can see the total picture of what's going on below. When you are involved in the day to day business of pastoring a church and dealing with all the issues of the day it is easy to become discouraged. In that position you can only see the issues you dealt with that day. From that perspective it becomes difficult to see how far the church has come under your leadership. You have to step away from the day to day drama of pastoring and spend time looking at the overall impact of your ministry if you want to continue feeling positive about your efforts.
I can remember many times when I was a pastor that I would become very frustrated and feeling that I was wasting my time. Usually, my wife would be the person who would take me to the balcony and remind me of the things about our church I had forgotten. She would help me get a much broader view of my ministry at the church and that was enough to help return to more positive feelings about what I was doing as a pastor.
Some people can go to the balcony on their own, but others of us need someone to take us there. It might be a spouse, a close friend, a respected member of the church, another minister, or a coach, but we need someone to help us get a broader view of the impact of our ministries. It is vital that you find such a person, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed by ministry and begin to feel that nothing you are doing makes any difference anyway.
Although ministry requires us to spend much of our time in the trenches, it is good if we can slip away and go to the balcony as often as possible even before we enter those times of discouragement. Doing so might help avoid some of those discouraging times that steal away the joy of ministry. Looking at the church from the balcony will also help us spot areas where we might need to provide some extra attention in the future. Spend time in the balcony and see if it doesn't have a positive impact on your ministry.