These past couple months of starting a new ministry have been absolutely terrifying. I had heard from many people in the past, over and over again that it would be scary, but hearing about it and experiencing it are two different things. Like the difference between watching a play on tv and actually seeing it in person or seeing a mountain vs. hiking its summit.
There are a million and one things that have worried me these past couple months, but I’ll try to be respectful of your time and limit this post to the top three. Here are the three things I’d say have scared me the most these past couple months and the imperfect way I’ve been trying to deal with each.
Relationship and Communication
Starting up this new ministry with my wife as co-director has been challenging. Not because we have different directions and plans, but because I am absolutely terrible at communication. SOOOO often I want to be able to just give a quick answer or make the decision on something. “Get this many of that thing” “Yea this is our policy on that subject” “Here’s the timeframe for that happening.” It is super easy to make all the decisions without consulting my co-director and in a way shut her out of that process of leading this ministry with me. You can imagine how that lack of communication on my part can be a strain on our relationship. The reason this scares me is that I don’t want to be that guy who loses his family on account of his new organization or business. No one ever says they wished they worked more when lying on their death bed nor do they say they wished they missed that little league game to spend time at the office.
Now I’ll be honest here. I’ve really not done as much to deal with this. Instead, it is my wife who is leading the charge to make sure I don’t leave her out and for that I am so grateful to her. Instead of harboring resentment in her heart toward me she decided to speak up and tell me what I was doing. The first step to fixing something is admitting you have the problem and it’s so hard to know I was causing the problem without her speaking up. She is a communication queen and a very good one at that.
No, this is not a ploy to ask for donations to the campus! It is just that finances for a new ministry, in a new city, with a new staff are worrisome. How many hours of generator time do I get from a gallon of gasoline? How much money could we save on gas if we had a wind turbine? How long is this pack of toilet paper going to last us? Are all questions that I ask myself every day. The fear doesn’t come from a lack of faith that God won’t take care of us. I’m not afraid of us running out of food or anything. The fear for me more comes from the constant decisions around money that need to be made. Meaning I realize that there will never be a day where we have more money than ideas for using it and there will never be a day that we have every ministry tool that we want. So the analysis and decision making is in constant motion in my head. Trying to balance staff comfort, ministry costs, availability of things in the local market, upcoming plans, and future risk all against the finite number that’s showed in our accounting software. Phew! That kind of wheels turning makes you tired and worried.
So how have I dealt with it? First, I take time every day to just chill. I realize it’s not the ultra spiritual answer you would expect from a missionary. But taking even 30 minutes a day to not “be the boss” and feeling the weight of being in charge is just so gosh darn nice. Playing a video game or watching some funny YouTube videos with the kids have all been great things that make me feel like a regular person. (Look up Lord of the Rings orcs with regular voices. Funniest thing I’ve seen this past week) The second thing I would say is that reminding myself that ministry is about people and not things is super helpful too. We don’t have the latest and greatest THINGS and that is ok. What we do have is the latest and greatest PEOPLE and the eternal and greatest GOD. People did ministry before the technology we have today. People preached before microphones, taught before whiteboards, and took the Gospel to the nations before cars. The people are what matter not the tech behind them.
Despite trying not to be stressed, founding a new organization is still stressful. (It’s really too bad that we don’t live in a perfect world where nothing bad ever happens and things go exactly as you plan them!) The stress gets compounded with the fact that we live where we work! There is no “clocking out” and no “work-life balance.” We eat dinner on the same table that we do ministry on and have meetings on the balcony next to the kids’ bedroom. That stress gets carried in our body and, like it or not, affects our health. I’ve experienced plenty of headaches, stomach pains, and back pain since moving here. I even lost about 5 lbs the first week of living here. (Don’t worry, everyone’s amazing cooking skills has helped taper that off to healthier levels) With every new ache and pain I start to think “Is this the symptom of something more serious?” “If I got sick, how would this brand-new ministry still be ok without me?”
And this is where I’m still working on dealing with the fear. I’ve never been physically fit, but I do realize that staying in shape definitely helps with the stress. So if you’ve made it this far down the blog, please send me your suggestions on things I can do to make sure I am regularly exercising. Bonus points if it’s something that is not going to have me jumping around the house and waking up the kids!
To quickly wrap up here. Kudos to you all that have started something new! That have persisted through the fear and worry and made something where there wasn’t something before. I have a new found appreciation for what you had to do to make that a reality! Thank you for going first and being an example to the rest of us.