A friend of mine recently asked me, “Since we are both sevens on Enneagram, I am wondering how do you stay at your job long term?” The Enneagram is a personality assessment. Sevens are notorious for being high-spirited extroverts who can easily be distracted and often impatient. Typically, sevens are curious optimists who are always looking to the next joyous thing coming up. My extroverted self blurted out that I like to seek new goals and projects within my job that keep things fresh. This certainly isn’t bad advice, however I have had more time to think about it and I forgot something way more important.  

On a Tuesday in the middle of winter in Michigan which is usually a dark and cranky time, I remember whistling and practically skipping into church to work. I remember thinking to myself, “How awesome is it that I have a key to this building that lives are changed in? How amazing is it that I get paid to Pastor teens and their families?” I was feeling an overwhelming sense of joy by being grateful for my church, my job, and my calling. This is not always the case. In fact, several weeks before this moment I remember sitting in my car, not wanting to walk in because I was stressed with all the burdens that come with Youth Ministry.  Gratitude hasn’t always come natural to me, but I continue to learn it’s not a feeling: it’s a practice. Gratitude can happen without having all the warm fuzzy feelings attached. The more I practice gratitude, the more joy I discover in my life. Gratitude leads to peace and contentedness.

The more I practice gratitude,

the more joy I discover in my life.

I wish I had told my friend that the key to longevity in my ministry job (and probably most things in life) is having a grateful heart.  Being grateful for things when times are tough doesn’t mean sugarcoating one’s current pain. It is possible to be simultaneously miserable yet grateful, and being grateful despite our pain leads to hope and perseverance. Learning to practice gratitude through difficult times is also a great way to help drown out the negative voices that tend to be the loudest.

The church I currently work at is a multi-ethnic, multi-generational church that is constantly innovating and seeking ways to bless the community. We have several activities and events that happen throughout the year on top of our normal weekly programming. We have many newcomers constantly seeking us out. Being on staff at a church like this is incredibly exciting yet comes with stressful challenges. It’s especially easy to face burnout at a church like this. When I feel stressed or overwhelmed, I force myself to practice gratitude. The more I do this, the more I feel myself letting go of tension that arises as my soul settles into a more peaceful place.  Gratitude doesn’t fix everything, but it does help me feel content even in the midst of chaos.

There are many different ways to be grateful, but here are my favorite ways to put into practice.

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. Writing down one or two things you are grateful for each day is transformative over time. It is also helpful to have a record of what you are grateful for to reflect back on when times are especially tough.
  2. Speak it out loud to those around you. My husband and I embraced a season of practicing gratitude by sharing one thing we were grateful for each night before falling asleep for 30 days. I cannot express how this simple practice became such an eye-opening experience for me.
  3. See Everything as A Gift. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstance for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” Some of the most difficult people and toughest situations have ended up being the greatest gifts leading to wisdom in the world of ministry.  
  4. Press pause and go for a gratitude walk. Slow down, and get away from your house, your office, and your church so you aren’t constantly thinking about everything you have to do. Go for a walk, and simply give thanks to God.
  5. Just Breathe. I hate sitting still. I don’t really enjoy meditating…at first. Eventually, when I actually sit still for 5-10 minutes and simply think about breathing slowly, I am often reminded that each breath is a gift. I am awakened to God’s sovereignty and filled with gratitude. Everything belongs to the Lord. Gratitude through meditation has a way of reminding me I am not in control. This simple truth keeps me going in ministry because I am reminded I am a part of something sacred, and I don’t have to create something sacred for teens to experience.

May you practice gratitude and be awakened to God’s sovereignty finding peace and rest in Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit fill your heart with gratefulness so that you will have the strength to persevere in the Holy work you get to be part of.