On Feeling Spiritually Dry In Ministry & Is It Time To Quite | Season 4: Episode 9

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Everyone goes through seasons of feeling spiritually dry. Perhaps that is you right now. You may even wonder if it is time to quit children’s or youth ministry. In this episode, Brian and Kirsten discuss being spiritually dry and how to move forward in a positive way.

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Brian Lawson:  00:00

Youth Ministry Institute original podcast

Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of The Making Sense Ministry Podcast. I’m Brian back with Kirsten. Hey, Kirsten.

Kirsten Knox:  00:13

Hey, Brian.

Brian Lawson:  00:14

And this is the podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry transform lives and impact generations. So I wonder, have you ever been outside on a really hot day, and not only outside on a really hot day, but a day where you had like, no water, or very little to drink? And I can’t help as I’m saying, just I’m saying I can’t help but think about mission trips. Right? Especially work worksite type mission trips where you’re out working all day long and is so hot, because you know, we always have those in the summertime.

Kirsten Knox:  00:48


Brian Lawson:  00:49

Or, I guess spring break. You know, some people do that. But, but that’s kind of like what we’re talking about today, you know, is, is this idea of what if our spiritual life feels like that very hot day? The very hot day where you’re outside, it’s hot. There’s nothing to drink. And you just, it’s just exhausting and and feels very dry. And I wonder if Kiersten for you and I to share? I wonder if we’ve ever been in a place that we would describe as spiritual dryness or some might say a spiritual desert, it feels like.

Kirsten Knox:  01:28


Brian Lawson:  01:29

I mean, and when you’re leaving ministry, to be in that place is even more, I think, weighs on you even more.

Kirsten Knox:  01:38

Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. And I think I think most people in ministry, again, we’re gonna normalize what sometimes we feel like isn’t normal, or that we can’t say out loud, because we’re leaders is that it is normal to go through seasons where you first feel spiritually dry. There’s this ebbs and flow to our spiritual growth and to expect accept that and expect that I think is helpful.

Brian Lawson:  02:02

Yeah, absolutely. I know that there have been seasons in my ministry where, where I just led out of what was curriculum, because inside, I didn’t feel like I had much. And that’s not a great place to be, it doesn’t feel wonderful. And I think often you don’t get there overnight. Right? Most of the time you get there. It’s a long trending direction that leads you to a place where you feel distant from God or you sometimes I would even say you’re uncertain whether or not you even follow Jesus anymore. I actually know a pastor who experienced that on Easter morning, and he’s waiting for service to start. He was sitting there unsure whether or not he even believed in Jesus at that point in time. And he was having a really hard season. So it does, it happens. It happens, it happened.

Kirsten Knox:  02:58

Yes. And I think when you’re in that space, it’s important to say that out loud, say that to someone that you love and that you trust, that can be a safe place for you to be able to communicate that I think just saying it is there’s power in that, to be able to say that in then because I think if we’re not careful that spiritual dryness, particularly for leading ministry, can also come with narratives that we think about ourselves that are untrue.

So I’m like, for me, one of my strategies in that space is I want to spend more time talking to myself than listening to myself. Because I’m like, when I get in those spots, I mean, the narrative isn’t good in my head. And so I’m like, I’m gonna speak what is true to myself. I’m a, I mean, I’m a big proponent of self talk. So that is true. And I practice that. Maybe regularly. Sometimes my husband says, hooray. And I’m like, I’m just talking to myself. No joke. The other day, we were sitting watching TV, and I was doing something with my hands. Like, because I talked with my aunt, he, he’s like, What are you doing? I’m like, Oh, I was talking to myself. Like, I thought that’s what you were doing. Sounds like, yes,

Brian Lawson:  04:14

There’s a lot. There’s a line in cars. The first Cars movie were the Model T car. I believe it’s a Model T says you keep talking to yourself. People gonna think you’re crazy. And Lightning McQueen goes, thanks. And she goes, Huh? Oh, yeah. Okay, that’s where my mind went. But yeah, I just think it’s, it’s good to acknowledge that this happens and perhaps maybe to the person listening, they just need to stop the episode now. And say that to themselves like I am at a place where I am spiritually dry as acknowledgment or maybe they need to write it down a few times. You know, we’re like write, write a note to God. Got a spiritual driver? Now I’m not even sure that you’re eating this, nor that you’re here.

Brian Lawson:  05:06

A friend’s Are you currently serving in a church as a youth or children’s minister, perhaps a family minister, and you want to grow in your leadership, gain some new skills and build confidence? Well, we at the youth ministry Institute offer a certification program both for youth and children’s ministers. And this is designed to help those of you who are already serving to accelerate both your leadership skills and your understanding of ministry. It’s a cohort based program that starts twice a year. And so we are currently recruiting new students to join the next cohort. So if you’re interested, reach out to us at Why am institute.com. And now back to the podcast episode.

Kirsten Knox:  05:49

Yes, and I would write out I like to journal so that that speaks to me. But I would write or say all the questions and the doubts I have in that space. Right? Like, just spend time speaking it out loud, I would speak it to, you know, out loud to God, I’d also speak it to somebody else that here’s what I’m wondering, right? I’m in this place of doubt, I’m in this place of questioning, I’m in this place of wondering, Where’s God when I need him? Like, all of those things are true. So I’m like, I think there’s, yeah, I would say it out loud and get it out. Because if not, it just stays inside, right of being able to allow and give yourself freedom to live in the space in which you communicate. Because I also think it’s helpful to think if your friend came to you and said this to you. What would you say to them? I’d give them permission to be in that space. I’d want to talk about their doubts, right? I’d want to do all that. So can I live in the space that I tell people to live into when they’re in that space? It’s true for me as much as it’s true for them. I don’t know why sometimes I think it’s not like I live above that or something. Which I like, I don’t but you sometimes feel that way. I think when we’re in that space.

Brian Lawson:  06:57

Ministry folks often have a tendency tendency to be more gentle with the people they’re caring for than themselves.

Kirsten Knox:  07:04

Yes. And all in all kinds of things. Right. Like, I think that’s true. Yeah. The other things that I know has been helpful to me is go to the go back to the whale, the well, the well, not whale. So well. Jonah did right, there you go. So might be something there hop on one. Know the well, where are you found water last? Like, what was I doing? Where was I was a place was a place in Scripture was an act of spiritual discipline, whatever that was where I felt God’s presence and him speaking to me to go back to that and try it and maybe it works. And maybe right, maybe I need to try something else. But that’s also one of the things I’m like, How do I do that?

For me, that oftentimes means being around water. Because I feel God’s presence differently when in calming, like when I’m in water, so much so that recently, I Well, I guess in the fall started walking as a habit a few times a week. And when it first started, my friend saw me by water cuz we walked by water. And she’s like, what’s going on? She texts me what’s going on in your life? Cuz she knows my water? Oh, yeah. She was like you are? You are, like on a How am I going to spend time because she knows like, when life is hard, and I’m trying to figure things out, that’s where you’ll find me. Because that is the space that helps assure me into being able to speak to and hear from God. So Brian, when you get in those spaces, what have you learned what has helped you?

Brian Lawson:  08:36

I think if I go back to what spiritual dryness looks like, when it manifests itself in my life, you know, oftentimes it looks like impatience. Or maybe I’m, I’m a little bit more stern with people than I should be. I don’t offer as much grace, perhaps because I don’t feel like I have it myself. Maybe I don’t know. But, you know, those are just a few signs. For me. Also, when I really struggle, when I am healthy, I feel like I could get up and teach scripture pretty easily. When I’m unhealthy, it’s a real challenge. And so, I mean, built into our coaching curriculum, that when we coach people with youth ministry is a constant check in on how they’re doing personally.

And part of that is their spiritual health. Like, how are you doing? spiritually? And so I think, for me, and for those listening, it’s probably really good first to recognize the signs that say, you’re probably going down that path, because the sooner you recognize it, the easier it is, I think to come out of but, but I also don’t want to imply that if a person finds them selves, they’re that they’ve done this horrible, terrible, terrible thing, because it’s not true, because sometimes we just end up there, and we don’t, we don’t know why. So I think recognizing for me, what has gotten me to that place, or what have I stopped doing that I was doing or what am I started doing that I shouldn’t shouldn’t be doing? Like, am I saying yes, to too many things, for instance, would be something you started that you should, you shouldn’t be doing. So recognizing it has always been super important. First off for me. The second is, it takes me a little bit of time to be gentle with myself, because usually, I’m just mad at myself for that for a little while. But then, then I pick up one thing. So I just try one thing.

And so that one thing could be that I need rest more that the one thing could be that I need to journal more about a full honesty with where I am to God. And it’s how when I do it, it’s often I’m writing it to God. So it’s essentially a prayer it’s written. And it’s not real thought out. It’s just a word vomit, if you will. Or perhaps there’s been times where I’ve done. Like, I picked up the Book of Common Prayer, and said, I don’t have the words, I don’t know even what I need to be saying right now. But this has words, and I’m going to start here. And maybe those words will speak to me and through me, and become my prayer without me even realizing it. And then the other is, obviously, perhaps it’s time to start a new habit of Scripture reading or something like that. So those are a few. So for me, it’s one thing like, what is one thing that I can start, instead of trying to tackle this whole big beast of spiritual dryness? Let’s just start one thing.

Kirsten Knox:  11:32

And, and that one thing doesn’t have to be like you mentioned, like rest. So I think when we oftentimes if I’m feeling spiritually drained, I’m going to add one thing with common to go to something that feels spiritual. So a spiritual discipline versus saying, I’m willing to rest. So remember that we are physical, physical, spiritual, emotional beings. And so how I mean, spiritual dryness affects all of that. So maybe it’s one of those other pieces? I think that’s, yeah, I mean, that’s really helpful. We don’t always think about that.

Brian Lawson:  12:05

Yeah, I’ve mentioned before that I paint and not like paint houses, but paint paintings. And some really, that started out of ministry being this thing that you do constantly, without ever seeing physical, tangible results, like you see an event, yes. But you do the event, and then you don’t see, you know, you don’t necessarily see the direct transformations happening in or within people. You know, you see the program, but not always a final result. It’s because it’s never final because these are people and there’s always change happening. So I needed something that I could do and see completion, like to see it done. And so for me, it was a picked up painting, and that was part of my struggle spiritually is like, I need to fill closure, somehow, on something, you know, like, I know, some people, they mow their yards and mowing the yard, they can see a finished product. Yeah, you know, I mean, whatever that looks like, but that was one for me that you wouldn’t necessarily call spiritual, but was actually in fact, spiritual. For me, at least at the beginning. Right, you know, and that’s where that’s where it started, for sure.

Kirsten Knox:  13:10

Yeah, I think that, right, be thinking through that being curious, processing, reflecting on all those things, and not being ashamed to be in that space. All those things are helpful. And for me, oftentimes it is I mean, I go back, sometimes I feel like I’ve done things or like you said, haven’t done things to get me here. And sometimes it’s life has just happened. And life hurts. Yeah, and there really isn’t anything that is just where we are. I’ve also found that I think it’s helpful to share those things, when I’m in a place to be able to share them, but in healthy ways to be able to do that with those who you serve in their ministry, one for your volunteers, because it normalizes that, it makes you become more relatable because they have experienced that through so they’re like, Oh, that is that is okay. And also you get to teach through your struggles and through your doubts. Like we say, It’s okay to do that. Then it’s okay for students or children to know inappropriate ways, right? Like, I struggle and I have questions time, there’s sometimes I don’t feel God’s presence. Yeah, for long times. Right. And there are times when I feel like God and I are moving and there’s times when I’m like, Well, I know you’re here because I believe it. Right, but I I could not tell you for any other reason. Yeah.

Brian Lawson:  14:27

Yeah, I think there was a phrase I heard years ago that I that stuck with me is that that at some point in time, your emotions will catch up to what you know. Yeah. So if you if you stick to what you know, some point time your emotions will catch back up to that place. The so staying consistent in that way. The other thing, which is similar, is don’t make any decisions too quickly. You know, like you’re fearing spiritual draw I, that doesn’t mean you quit ministry right now. It doesn’t, that doesn’t mean go out and quit today or tomorrow or even next month. You know, I would say be patient. You know, what you what you what you value, you know what you believe, even if you don’t feel it right now. And now, if it’s been six months, a year, you’ve done effort to try to regain that spiritual health, you’ve been talking to people, perhaps you have a mentor or friends around you, perhaps you have a counselor or spiritual advisor, you’ve done these things, and you’re still really struggling, then maybe, maybe you make some decisions, but don’t make quick decisions, you know, without really putting in that effort, because we all go through this. So,

Kirsten Knox:  15:48

Yeah, and I like to spend time in Scripture while people were going through the same thing to it makes me feel not alone, right. I’m like, I oftentimes spend time in Psalms, when that is true for my life. I’m like, Yes, we’re gonna go do this. So I think that is helpful to be able for me to think about who else has walked this because those are people that I admire in Scripture, but I also recognize that they’re human. And I think sometimes we miss that. And we to allow yourself to be human, to surround yourself with people, whether that’s through Scripture through people through counseling, there’s lots of different ways to be able to do that.

Brian Lawson:  16:23

Yeah. And I can’t help but to think about Jesus. And I know we’re getting into a little bit theology, and we try not to go too far there. But but when we just think about the human nature of Jesus, that Jesus, there’s some indication, I think that you can make a fair argument, there’s some indication that Jesus wasn’t really excited to go the cross, right? I mean, like, let’s be really excited to face what Jesus was gonna face. You know, he’s sweating blood, like, this is an indication there’s something significant happening here. And I think it’s fair to say that Jesus feelings weren’t always there. Right? Like Jesus was like, Yes, let’s go. But Jesus knew what Jesus needed to do. And Jesus kept going. And so I think if you know, you know, you’re called to ministry, you know, you care about young people, you know, God loves you, you know, God loves them. And you’re going to, you’re going to keep working that direction. Even if internally you’re, you’re feeling uncertain. But I’m also at the same time going to invest in my spiritual health as well, and try to find ways to do that. I think that’s the best place to land in my mind. And to just recognize, as we said, that every buddy in ministry goes through seasons like this, your season may not be exactly like mine. Kirsten’s reasons, not exactly like yours. But we all go through this, and it’s normal.

Kirsten Knox:  17:47

Yes. Be gentle with yourself. Just as you are gentle with other people.

Brian Lawson:  17:52

Yep. Yep. Okay, anything else? Here’s Any final thoughts or, or? Yeah, I would just say, stick with what you know, and invest in something to try to quench that spiritual dryness that you’re facing. And remember, you’re not alone. You’re going through. So and if you need us to finish it, we’re here for you to to support you on that way. All right, friends, I hope that’s helpful to you, and, and hope we’d help you make sense this thing we call ministry.

To learn more, how we might guide you towards success and youth or children’s ministries, head over to YM institute.com

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