The One Truth That Helps Me Overcome Perfectionism In Ministry

Jana Carlson

Jana Carlson

One simple truth has become my anchor in ministry and in life. This truth:

  • helps me to overcome my natural inclination toward perfectionism,
  • prevents me from doing too much or too little,
  • keeps my heart in check, and
  • protects my relationship with those I’m ministering to and with.

It’s Mine!

If I’m not careful, it’s easy for me to slide into a fleshly, self-centered method of ministry. I become consumed with my own ideas of how things should work, what the results should look like, and what everyone should do to make it happen. In the process, I hurt others and get completely off track with the direction God wants things to go. My efforts to succeed turn into stress, overwork and burnout.

It’s a form of idolatry, and it’s ugly.

Transforming Truth

Several years ago, I was entrusted with a leadership role in a women’s ministry that was completely outside my comfort zone. I had no clue what it was supposed to look like or how to fulfill my role.

A gracious older woman gently reminded me of the one truth that has guided me countless times ever since.

“This ministry is not yours; it’s God’s.”

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? It might even seem like common sense. Truthfully, it wasn’t a new revelation to me, but that’s when it penetrated deep into my heart and began to change me from the inside out.

Overcoming Perfectionism

Recognizing that the ministry is not mine (but God’s) removes my need for control. When I realize that I’m actually serving Him, that I’m merely acting on His behalf to fulfill His own plan and purpose for the ministry, I can let go of my own ideas. When things don’t go my way or the way I thought they should go, I can relax.

This truth is about God’s sovereignty. It’s remembering that He’s ultimately in charge. He is orchestrating all the details. So when “mistakes” happen, when people don’t show up, when plans change, I can be at peace in the knowledge that none of it surprises Him. He knew what would happen before I even began to think about it (Psalm 139), and He’ll make all things work out for His glory (Romans 8:28).

Stress Less

Understanding and believing in the sovereignty of God allows me to let things go. I don’t have to stress about all the details. I don’t have to panic when the unexpected happens.

While I want to be faithful and do my job with excellence, I also need to remember that I have limitations. I am human. There is only so much that my efforts can accomplish. The rest is up to the Lord.

I’m a wife and a mom and that means there are people in my life whose needs I must consider and care for before I can spend myself on other endeavors. Serving God in ministry does not mean I can neglect the other roles He’s given me. Remembering that the ministry is God’s – not mine – helps me to keep my priorities in order. If I must let go of some task or detail in the ministry for the sake of my ability to be faithful to my family, the truth of God’s sovereignty makes it possible. My attitude can be, “God’s got this!

A Humble Heart

A heart of humility is rich soil in which to plant a fruitful ministry.

Remembering that the ministry is God’s – not mine – keeps me humble. It causes me to evaluate my motives and goals to ensure I’m in alignment with God’s heart. My focus shifts from myself to the One for whom I live (Acts 17:28).

Protect Relationships

Ultimately, any ministry is about relationships. Put simply, we exist to have a relationship with God, and we serve others to encourage them in their own relationship with God.

When I keep the right perspective of ministry, I don’t allow details and my own desires to come between me and those I’m serving with and ministering to. In fact, a lot of details take care of themselves when I invest my time and energy into the people instead of “all the things”.

The ministry I referred to earlier began to thrive when I recognized that it wasn’t about creating “successful” events as much as it was about encouraging and nurturing the women in their own relationship with Jesus. When I began to focus on faithfully shepherding the women on the ministry team on a spiritual level, their gifts flourished, the team was unified, and ministry happened. And it had nothing to do with my ability to plan or my diligent efforts to work out all the details; it was a by-product of building relationships. It was a work of the Holy Spirit.

Freedom & Fruitfulness

It’s God’s, not mine. This truth doesn’t apply only to ministry. It impacts every aspect of our lives. My whole life is His (Romans 11:36).

There is such freedom when I can let go of control, trust God with the details, and simply walk in faithfulness to Him moment by moment. The burden of responsibility is lifted in the sense that the results are not up to me. My part is faithfulness to do what He’s called me to do and to walk in obedience to Him with a humble heart. His part is to produce the fruit.

This is grace. God is glorified in us when we delight in Him (Jeremiah 9:24, Philippians 1:20-23, Psalm 37:4). When we seek His kingdom first, He takes care of the rest (Matthew 6:33).

32 Responses

  1. Your whole paragraph devoted to protecting relationships— PERFECT!! Ministry is not about creating “successful” events, studies, meetings.. although it is easy to fall prey to that. But it’s truly about nurturing relationships, and allowing God the room to do His thang!! 😉

    Love this, Jana! Thank you for speaking out on this truth!

    1. Rachel, you’re such an encouragement to me! Yes, it really is easy for us to get off-track. I like the analogy in Scripture of keeping our eyes forward when we’re plowing the field. When our eyes are on Jesus, we plow a straight row, but when we’re distracted by our own ideas, we end up all over the place!

  2. Thank you for sharing all of these truth-filled and good thoughts! These same lessons are being applied by God to my own personal & physical life now too. It’s so easy to fall into the trap that “I” need to work harder, do more, fix things, etc. But God is sovereign even over my own life. He knows how to handle these details, and I can trust Him through the process. Thank you for the encouragement that your words and Scriptures are today!

  3. It is His. Good, good word. It can be easy to get caught up in it all, can’t it? I think I’m sorting through some of that right now, honestly. I appreciate your ministry to me today. Blessings. Visiting via Purposeful Faith.

  4. This is so me. I have moments of clarity like this when I know it’s not mine but His. But then there are the times Satan takes hold of my weakness and I fall back into my ways of perfectionism. I loved when you said: “When I keep the right perspective of ministry, I don’t allow details and my own desires to come between me and those I’m serving with and ministering to. In fact, a lot of details take care of themselves when I invest my time and energy into the people instead of “all the things” Words of wisdom there.

    1. Oh, Crystal, I know what you mean. It’s a continual discipline. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. (I checked out your blog. Blessed by your heart to encourage others in faith in Christ!)

  5. I can so relate to this. I’m so quick to forget that relationships are more important than tasks. It seems like it’d be something super easy to remember but as someone who struggles with perfectionism as well, it’s super hard for me to remember. Thanks for this!

    1. Ashley, I hear you. I don’t know about you, but I’m an introvert, which I find adds to the challenge. My natural inclination is to withdraw to my own little world and get things done rather than reaching out and pouring into people. Don’t get me wrong. I love people! But my first response to anything is to think about things I can DO about it. 🙂

  6. This is a great reminder as I am getting ready to start a ministry for married couples in our church. I need to remember that it’s His ministry and not mine, and as long as I stay open to his leading, it will be fine.

    1. When we’re submitted to God’s will, we cannot fail at what He’s calling us to. He will equip you for what He’s commissioned you to do. HE WILL NOT FAIL! God bless you and your ministry!

  7. This was absolutely something I needed to read today! It is SO HARD to not assume control and think I have to succeed based on the world’s standard of success. I don’t know why it is taking me so long to learn this lesson! Thank you for encouraging me and sharing this truth. I so enjoyed being your neighbor on #DestinationInspiration today. 🙂

    1. Emily, I’m so glad today’s post ministered to you. To God be the glory! (I took a peek at your blog. Your Scripture images are beautiful!) Thanks for your encouragement to me today!

  8. Oh, yes. I loved this post. I don’t think I struggle with perfectionism so much as competitiveness. Two similar characteristics. Your words hit home for me too.

    1. Laurie, Thanks for your encouragement and your comment. I hadn’t thought about competitiveness in this context, but I can totally see how the same truth would apply to both. Good insight.

  9. GREAT POST! I’ve always said, sometimes you have to say no to good things to be able to say yes to the best things. Allowing God to lead is imperative! Thanks for posting!

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