I recently had the pleasure of interviewing two amazing authors. They are Gina McClain (GM) and Jessica Bealer (JB). They are the co-authors of Don’t Quit: The Best Things In Ministry Come Over Time (Orange Books).
Gina McClain is a speaker, writer, and Children’s Ministry Director. She dreamed of being a motivational speaker when she was younger and learned through parenting motivation has more to do with actions than with words. Jessica Bealer Jessica Bealer has been a Children’s Ministry Leader for more than 17 years. She is on staff at Elevation Church and has overseen the launch of nearly twenty locations.
These female leaders know a thing or two about tenacity. They know leadership isn’t a short game. Leadership is the long game, even when you feel like quitting.
In Don’t Quit, Jessica and Gina want you to know the best is yet to come. Don’t give up. You can make it if you keep going. I hope you’ll enjoy my interview with the pair.
1. Why did you step into a role of leadership? What thoughts were going through your head?
JB) I’m always up for a challenge, so I was excited, but I also remember feeling anxious. I was clueless…but ready to get started. I questioned whether I had what it took. I wondered if people would take me seriously. I dreamed about what could be but worried I was going to screw it all up. It’s crazy how Satan works. He nearly took me out before I even got started. Thankfully, 20 years later, I’ve learned to turn to His Word when those thoughts run rampant.
GM) I don’t think I’ve ever considered the question. It seems each moment a door was opened, I walked through. Not on my own confidence. But on the confidence of the one who invited me. They saw something I couldn’t. But I was willing enough to hope I could rise to the occasion.
2. We’ve all been serving in a leadership position for quite some time. I had a time where I wanted to quit and leave ministry (and actually did for about a year) and leadership. Have you experienced a time like this? If so, what brought you to the point of quitting?
JB) Transitions are hard. When a leader in my ministry moves on to what God has next, I often feel as if he or she is walking away from me. I think, “What did I do wrong?” When it’s me that’s transitioning I grieve the conclusion of the previous season, even as I’m looking to what’s next. Transitions often make me want to throw up my hands and declare my departure.
GM) Yes and amen. I’ve had more moments along the way where I thought anything would be preferable to my ministry role. Yet there was one moment where I really did try to quit. It was an unfortunate culmination of poor conflict resolution skills and poorly placed identity. I was so wrapped up in the fear of failure, any form of feedback was received with hostility. Maybe not outward hostility. I’ve always had a good poker face. But inward resistance. I couldn’t bear the idea that I might fail. So any feedback that indicated otherwise was dismissed immediately.
3. What has been your biggest challenge as a ministry leader?
JB) Owning my own development. It’s taken me years to realize that my development as a Christian woman, a leader, a speaker, an author, a mom, and a wife is MY RESPONSIBILITY. If I’m failing, it’s my own fault. Resources abound, I just have to take advantage of them and in turn prioritize my own development as a child of God.
GM) Growing beyond my current capacity. That always seems to be my challenge. I hit a lid and discover there are areas of my heart that God is inviting me to surrender and grow. Every level of leadership requires releasing our own dreams and potential to see and embrace the dreams and potential in others. When we do, we invest in those around us in crazy ways. That seems to be my greatest growth edge.
4. What has been the most rewarding thing you’ve experienced as a ministry leader?
JB) Watching a leader I’ve invested in surpass me, knowing that God has used me in such a way as to impact hundreds, if not thousands of people.
GM) Watching others achieve longevity in ministry. Long obedience in the same direction. It’s the most inspiring thing to know that you get to be part of someone’s story as they discover who they are as a leader.
5. Why are leaders wanting to quit in ministry?
JB) It’s unending. It feels relentless, and even the highest highs are often followed by challenges that feel insurmountable. It’s why ministry leaders so often create to-do lists. We enjoy knowing SOMETHING is finished. Ministry is a never-ending cycle of ups and downs and often we feel as if we are accomplishing so little.
GM) I think the expectations of ministry leadership are high. And a leader fuels their tank for a long time on the idea that the work they do (and the sacrifices they make) are for the Kingdom. Somewhere along the way, something shifts. Their role becomes their identity. And when their identity takes a hit every 7 days because a parent, student, kid, volunteer &/or senior pastor isn’t happy… you lose yourself. The only way out is to know your identity apart from your role, then fight to build the skills necessary to grow beyond where you are. For some… that mountain is just to steep to climb.
6. Do you believe social media plays into the desire to quit? Why or why not?
JB) Yes! Social media is a highlight real. We don’t broadcast our misses to the world. Only our brightest moments find the spotlight. As ministry leaders, we compare our “behind-the-scenes” to everyone else’s highlight reel and as a result feel as if we don’t measure up. Yet, EVERY ministry has misses. Every leader makes mistakes. It’s good to remind ourselves that social media is NOT TRUTH.
GM) I really do. Social media can breed discontentment. What was intended to be a way to celebrate our environments, stages or events can become a long scroll of resentment as you look at what other leaders have that you do not. We don’t wonder well. When another ministry leader has access to resources we don’t have, it’s too easy to believe we cannot accomplish what that leader has accomplished.
7. How can the church better care for ministry leaders?
JB) When it comes to caring for ministry leaders, I truly believe the church needs a holistic approach. We need to offer resources to help the mind, body, and soul. Fitness programs keep our bodies healthy. Counseling ministers to our minds. Spiritual development keeps us aligned with God’s will. What if our benefits package included all three?
GM) Two days off in a row. I don’t know how that strikes our readers. But I served in ministry for 20 years with one full day off. Though there might be a healthy debate here as to whether or not that’s necessary… I’m not one to debate. All I know is… I once was blind but now I see. After a few years of having two consecutive days off in a week, my soul is better. I’m all for making the gospel accessible. Just structure your staff and volunteer teams so staff can catch their breath.
Vacation is another topic. Make sure your ministry leaders are taking their vacation. One of the best things my executive pastor ever did for me was to tell me a positive evaluation was contingent on whether or not I took all of my vacation time allotted. Time away is a critical rhythm to longevity in ministry. You champion your people well when you ensure they take time off.
8. Is there hope for leaders who want to quit?
JB) YES! I truly believe God doesn’t call us to lead for 2 months, 2 years or even two decades. I believe if God has called you to lead, it’s probably for a lifetime. That doesn’t mean you won’t assume different positions in different seasons. It also doesn’t mean you can’t take a sabbatical, heal, recoup and rest, but I think it’s important for us to remember that for most of us, the healing season is followed by a season of rebirth, growth and victory. For those who are considering walking away…I would urge you to take a break, seek counseling, pursue healing and then continue on in your journey of leadership.
GM) Absolutely!! I was one of them. It’s not too late. It is recoverable. But it will require work. It will require humility. It will require tenacity. And these may be muscles that feel like they’ve atrophied over time. But if you’re willing to pull some solid people close to you, let them see you for where you are and invite them to challenge you to grow, you’ve got a great recipe for recovery.
9. Can you share two tips that have kept you from quitting?
1 – When you’re hurt or weary remind yourself that feelings are not the truth. Truth comes from Jesus. Truth is your calling. Truth is you can do all things through Him who gives you strength.
2 – Find voices of reason! You’re going to need people who you trust, individuals who love you, to speak encouragement into your life and offer perspective. Find those people and call them when life gets tough.
1 – Great mentors who have loved me enough to challenge my thinking and offer another perspective.
2 – Deep breathes and a willingness to wait and let God lead me away rather than walking away. (Creds to Clay Scroggins!)
10. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
JB) Keep a log. God is going to do supernatural things in and through you and on those really tough days I would encourage you to look back at what God has done, refocus your passion and keep moving forward. I personally have a list of every child I’ve ever had the opportunity to lead to Jesus. That list has sustained me on some pretty tough days.
GM) Simply because you wrestle with the idea of quitting doesn’t make you a poor leader. It just makes you real. It’s too easy to look at those around you and assume they have it all together. The truth is… if you sat across from them over a cup of coffee, you’d see they wrestle with doubt too. They’re just too scared to admit it. So you go first. That’s what leaders do… they go first.