18 Ways to Motivate Yourself In Ministry


Reminder Notes

photo credit: rintakumpu

When it comes to ministry leadership, I don’t focus on trying to motivate other people. I worry about motivating me, and if I’m motivated it will be contagious. This is true in any area of ministry. Your duty is not necessarily to motivate others. But if you stay motivated, people will catch your enthusiasm. They will catch your vision.

1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor is not in vain.” I spend most of the weeks of the year preparing to preach multiple services on the weekend, plus writing and all of the other speaking opportunities that come along. I have to continually come up with material that is fresh and powerful and practical and witty and useful in people’s lives, and that’s a burden, but I manage to stay motivated. This list isn’t deeply theological – it’s just practical, usable advice.

1.  Put your plans on paper (or on screen).

Dawson Trotman said, ”Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.” If I can say it and I can write it down, then it’s clear. If I haven’t written it down, then it’s vague. A lot of us go around with anxiety which is this free-floating, vague fear that I’m not getting it all accomplished. Just the very fact of putting it down, a lot of times, gives credence and relief to your mind and you’re able to focus on it.

2.  Break big tasks into smaller tasks to remove excuses for not starting.

Some tasks are way too big to be chewed on all at once, but you can tackle them like you would eat an elephant  - one bite at a time. When you have a big goal, a big event, or some big project going, break it down into smaller tasks and take them one at a time.

3. Decide how you want to start.

Ask yourself what needs to be done first. If your goal is to make more phone calls and personally invite more people to your church, you probably need to start by writing down the names of people you will contact. Decide what your first, simple step will be.

4. Establish checkpoints in your progress.

Tasks are best accomplished when they have a date attached to them. And today, there are plenty of mobile apps for making lists with reminders built in.

5. Know the difference between “I can’t” and “I don’t want to.”

Be honest with yourself. Sometimes that means you’ve got to get tough. It was Ben Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac who first said, “There is no gain without pain.” Most of what’s done in the world is done by people who don’t feel like doing what they’re doing, but they do it anyway. Successful people have developed the habit of doing things unsuccessful people don’t feel like doing.

6. Remind yourself of the benefits of completing the job.

Often in ministry, things become routine and repetitious. In a given week, you may be doing twenty significant tasks that you repeat every week only to start over again. How do you prevent the feeling of mundane from setting in? You remind yourself of how it’s going to feel when you’re done.

7. Do a small part of it right now. 

When I have a big topic or task I need to accomplish, I just say, “I don’t want to do this, but I’ll give it five minutes.” I sit down and after I get going in it, it’s not as intimidating. Once you’ve gotten the rocket off the launch pad, it gets so much easier. I’ve written some books. Books are overwhelming, but I give it five minutes. Every book that I’ve ever written, I sat down and wrote, “My next Book, by Rick Warren.” Sometimes you just have to start.

8. Be optimistic.

I have found this to be so important in accomplishing large amounts of activities and projects and programs. Optimism creates energy.  The person who says, “I can” and the person who says, “I can’t” are both right.

9. Establish an action environment.

When you prepare messages, you need an environment where you can focus at the task at hand. I have my own study area both at home and church. Kay has her own study area too, so we don’t fight over them any more. We have two desks in one room. I clear everything off the desk when I’m going to study because I don’t want to focus on anything else. Success comes from focusing on one thing at a time.

10. Avoid places where distractions occur.

I don’t do any of my sermon study at the office. The walls are thin there and I can hear everybody having a good time outside and I’m a party animal. I want to have fun! I don’t want to be sitting studying. I want to be out there with people. So I have to study at home to keep myself from having a great time with all these people I love at the office. And they appreciate it too! Then they get their work done.

11. Know your energy patterns and take advantage of peak times.

Some of you are morning people. Some of you are night people. Have you learned that at some points in the day, you are brighter than at other times? There are times when you’re habitually at your best. The only people who are at their best all the time are mediocre people. You need to know, when is my body clock geared toward maximum performance and don’t waste maximum performance on secondary tasks. If your peak time is 10-12 in the morning, don’t read your mail at 10-12. Save those kinds of tasks for times like at the end of the day, or if you’re not good in the morning, read it then. When you are good, make that your time for your ministry time and your preparation.

12. Use the stimulation of good news to do extra work.

Somebody will tell me something great that happened and it’s like God shoots another shot of adrenaline in me. All of a sudden, I’ve got a little extra bounce in my step and I try to channel that into ministry.

13. Recognize when indecision is causing inertia.

A lot of procrastination is not really procrastination, it’s indecision. For a lot of pastors, their weekly struggle is, “What am I going to preach on this next week?,” which is one of the reasons I preach in series. I only have to make that decision six or seven times a year. “For the next six weeks, we’re going to talk about culture.” Try to lengthen those decision-making periods out. Identify your choices and choose one. Don’t let it set around.

14. Use visible reminders.

Use post-it notes or the lock screen on your phone to remind you of the big things.

15. Give yourself room to make mistakes. 

I give myself the right to make mistakes on any project that I’m doing. Perfectionism produces procrastination. Perfectionism paralyzes us. If it’s worth doing, do it — whether you do it perfectly or not. There are very few things in this world that are perfect.

16. Don’t set goals you don’t expect to reach.

Because there’s no motivation in them.

17. Enlist a partner.

If you’ve got a big task to do, always get a partner. Get somebody else to help you out in your ministry. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes, “Two are better than one and a three-fold cord is not easily broken.” If you’ve got a big task and it’s up to you, you’ll probably procrastinate. But if you’ve got somebody else and can say, “We’re going to meet and get this thing going”, you’re more likely to get it done.

18. Keep reading to increase your skill.

If I find myself having a hard time being motivated in some area of ministry that I’m called to do, I get a book or magazine that covers that area. If you have a hard time recruiting people to your ministry, go get a book on recruitment and read it. If you’re having a hard time delegating responsibility, get a book.

Remember that leaders are readers and leaders are learners. There are no great leaders who refuse to learn. And learning sharpens and motivate you to accomplish your next goals.

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Rick Warren About Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

  • Scobe

    Thanks for never giving up and for always putting your best out for all to discern and take responsibility for our own life application. So few “do” yet so many jump to judge without doing whatever possible to help others know more of Christ. Again thanks for not giving up. For over 30 years I have been continually inspired to grow, know, and go more in Jesus Christ due to Rick Warren and many serving transparently next to him. Many timestimes in half a dozen different churches and states i was discouraged and Spiritually renewed to passion to live more confidently in Christ due to this ministry. Know that thousands are ministered to, yet we will serve more fully and to numbers beyond what you can imagine… ThankyouThankyou

  • Steve B.

    I am part of a church leadership group that is not only maintaining but expanding our church’s outreach while we are between pastors, plus my business is growing by leaps and bounds. I really needed these practical tips on staying motivated and productive when pulled in all directions. Thank you, Pastor Rick.

  • l.foster

    I have enjoyed your site for some time now, always informative and practical! Thank you.

  • David Casswell

    Here is a 19th way to stay motivated – these blogs! which are Godly and encouraging. Thanks so much.

  • Mr.Haffey

    “This list isn’t deeply theological – it’s just practical” Seems to be the thrust of this site. Great for a list of do’s and don’ts but where is the theology to support such lists? Pragmatism at it’s finest, (sigh).. I will wait for the “your divisive” rhetoric.. One would think after flipping through these posts that the biggest problem facing our congregations no longer remains sin, but a prescriptive list for catering to felt needs. “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Anyone?

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      Shane, you’re not wrong to call us to examine our theological grounding. But you miss the point of this particular site. We’re intentionally practical and serve the broader church across denominational lines. There are plenty of sites that cover the theological intricacies of ministry quite well. So unless you see

    • marc

      Dear Mr Haffey,

      Your scriptural quote sounds deeply Theological and I appreciate and respect that! (“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”)

      Having served Christ for 25 years on the spiritual battlefields of Africa, I have met many great Theologians who are very full of Theology and yet very empty of the Supernatural power of the Holy Spirit? They can debate, teach, argue, preach, comment, write books, articles etc. (nothing wrong with that of course) but the power of Christ and His resurrection power is seriously lacking! They are oftentimes extremely powerful in hammering the precious saints on how bad they are and constantly getting them to focus on their sins – thereby operating in the power of the letter producing a ‘ministry of condemnation’ as opposed to a ‘ministry of righteousness.’ (2 Cor 3)

      However, most are totally incompetent within the realm of the Spirit and as my mentor once commented, ‘couldn’t cast a devil out of the kneecap of a camel’. One thing I have learnt is that many of our young converts in Africa can raise the dead, heal the sick, cast out devils, reach the lost and even receive great Theological training, but when it comes to the practical aspects of ministry and management, we/they are sorely lacking.

      These great lists of do’s and don’ts, as you call them, are literally saving many of our ministries from becoming another statistical casualty! For all the great Theology out there the failure rate is shocking to say the least, satanic at worst. What the Body of Christ needs is not more Theologians, we need those who have maturity and experience to assist us in how to practically apply this spiritual knowledge we have received. In my estimation, wisdom is the principle thing – that which assists us in applying this knowledge in a practical and very real way!

      Thank God for these precious leaders who contribute on this site and share from the application of their Theology – teaching us from their mistakes, their pain and experience, from their good times, bad times, high times and low times! As an ex beggar and vagrant from the streets – to Pastor Rick Warren and all the brave men and woman that post their practical experience on Pastors.com – you are the evidence to me of God’s existence. We Love and appreciate you!

      In His love,


      • Kunle Oyeniyi

        Great! My brothers Marc and Cox. I studied Theology too. What you are doing is real Theology application with the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t be distracted. God bless you.
        ‘Kunle Oyeniyi

      • Shane

        Thank you Marc for your detailed response. I commend you for your willingness to engage in conversation on opposing convictions instead of defensive attacking.

        If I understand your argument clearly I would agree with you that doctrinal orthodoxy does not always produce righteousness. There are many throughout history that have had an external knowledge of sound theology yet internally are unconverted or spiritually immature. As demonstrated in their losing that power as you put it, that only comes from intimacy with God. This probably is best evidenced in the church of Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7). Of course the opposite can be said that there are many people with great business, personal and practical skills “doing” all sorts of things in the name of God that are in the same boat, empty inside.

        One of the fundamental differences between our positions is the question of performance. God is deeply concerned with preparing us for His kingdom not by us bringing His kingdom to earth but by transforming us into the image of His son. This is not determined by how effective we are but how effective He is.

        Our holiness and sanctification is a direct result of the transforming work of God through the cleansing of His word. When we neglect his word we are effectively denying the very power itself. Consequently our default mode becomes performance. True transformation takes place by the WOG. Hence the thrust of every good preachers ministry is carried out by Paul’s instruction to Timothy.. “preach the word, be ready in season and out of season”.. Why? because there are many people out there performing but not in accordance with truth. Hence we have many false teachers, false idea’s about who God is and what pleases Him. The study of God is paramount to us not being carried away with a false understanding of God, lest our works be filthy rags before Him.

        Linked together is another fundamental error that says successful ministry’s are determined by their numeric effectiveness. If we were to judge Christ’s ministry based upon the number of converts he produced he would be deemed a failure. So would Moses, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah not to mention all the minor prophets. The effectiveness of a ministry is determined by the Holy Spirit, not us.

        At the heart of the issue is whether or not we define truth based upon whether or not it is received. When we go down that road it has a disastrous end. God’s word is truth. If it fails to be received it doesn’t make it any less true. This is illustrated in the parable of the sower. There are many responses to the gospel message none of which are to determine what, how, when we throw the seed (Gods word). This must have brought great comfort to the disciples to know that there will be several responses to the gospel but their job was simply to sow seed. Likewise that should be our response. We sow seed. We teach and proclaim God’s word. That’s it. God alone is responsible for the growth. Praise him that we don’t have that burden!

        Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place for practicality. But application must be driven from understanding truth not from dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theological considerations. A call to practicality without sound theology is pragmatism. Pragmatic thinking is at odds with the true gospel because it is predicated on performance not truth.

        You see, it’s not successfully executing a list of the latest “10 step” strategies performed by great business minds that saves. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. And God’s strategy in that salvation is a proclamation of His word, is it not? Rom 10:14.

        I would love to hear some text driven feedback form those with contrasting views.

        In His grace,

        • marc

          Dear Shane,

          I agree with your statement – “One of the fundamental differences between our positions is the question of performance”.

          ‘Performance’ = “the action or process of carrying out or accomplishing an action, task, or function” – (Dictionary)

          I believe performance is crucial and extremely commendable! If your ‘Theology’ is correct, coupled together with the ‘partnership’ of The Holy Spirit and hard work, there should be ‘performance’. There will of necessity be ‘accomplished action’, if you will, ‘works’. Faith without works is as dead as a corpse without breath! In fact, you will know the difference between the true and the false as determined by the ‘fruit’ that an individuals productive performance, (ministry/service), produces?

          The effectiveness of ones ministry is no doubt the work of the Holy Spirit – in that you have spoken correctly – however, to suggest that the effectiveness of our ministry has nothing to do with us, is erroneous. God does not work independently of His Body – The Body of Christ, which is made up of saved and discipled individuals, performing and doing the ‘ministry’? You can have the Holy Spirit and still allow yourself to be lazy, ineffective, lawless etc.

          This site is for Pastors, not the unsaved, and I have never seen anyone equate successful effective ministry on this site to ‘numeric effectiveness’ only – quite the contrary? Although God is most certainly concerned about ‘numerics’.

          Your following statements are somewhat confusing:

          “Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place for practicality. But application must be driven from understanding truth not from dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theological considerations. A call to practicality without sound theology is pragmatism. Pragmatic thinking is at odds with the true gospel because it is predicated on performance not truth.”

          My questions and thoughts on the above quote are as follows:

          1. Is there any practical advice given here that is contrary to Truth? I do not see such? In fact, Jesus commends common sense and practical application as being wise as opposed to foolish, even when committed by a dishonest man. When God’s children are admonished to learn from sons of darkness, it becomes a real indictment on our inability to be pro active with Truth we have received from God’s Word – and that being good stewards of all that He has given us, including our time. (Oops)

          Luke 16:8 “Later, the master told the dishonest manager that he had done a smart thing. Yes, worldly people are smarter in their business with each other than spiritual people are. (ERV)

          2. What evidence or proof do you have that Pastor Rick Warrens Theology is ‘unsound’ and thereby at “odds with the true gospel because it is predicted on performance and not truth”?

          Kind regards,


          • Shane


            First let me address your reference to Luke 16:8. Even the unregenerate world (manager and his master) is shrewd enough to provide for themselves albeit by unrighteous means. Satan and his hosts are extremely shrewd in gathering his hell bound army. Contrast that with believers whom have a far more pointed message of salvation ought to be all the more shrewd for the spreading of the gospel. This is the meaning of the parable.

            That parable is not suggesting we sit under the tutelage of the unrighteous men and it certainly is not suggesting Christ was impressed with the cunningness of deceit.

            My point is simply this. The power to apply truth in a practical manner ONLY comes from understanding the correct meaning of scripture. It doesn’t come from the fallen worlds wisdom. 1 Corinthians 7:31, 1 John 2:17. God’s word alone is where the power lies. We can only understand the meaning by applying the historical grammatical method of Bible interpretation. Using this method to understand meaning coupled with the Holy Spirit’s illuminating work allows us to properly receive the truth of God’s word. There is NO POWER in a list of practical exhortations without the truth of God’s word first being applied. The application is taken directly from the interpretation. This is precisely why you find the New Testament authors almost always starting out an epistle with the indicative and then they move to the imperative. Ephesians, Corinthians, Galations, Colossians, 1/2 Peter etc.. All are constructed in this way.

            Living in the truth of God’s grace through prayer and gospel saturation equips the saint to produce authentic spirit filled service. The real work of us as ministers is to teach the Word. Period. We are never commanded to give our top 20 effective fill in the blank lists. The truth of God’s word revealed is where true fruit is born! This speaks directly to mans biggest and ONLY eternal problem. SIN.

            The gospel isn’t a been there done that thing. Nor is repentance. It is a DAILY en devour to which we need the full armor of God constantly (Eph 6). This is the problem with today’s easy believism that says just say a prayer and God will save you. Now that that’s done we can move on to saving the world by filling temporal needs. NO! that is NOT the message of the gospel. That is a different gospel.

            If we fail to teach the brethren the full counsel of God then our recipients will move into default mode which is predicated on works not grace. Let me ask you a question.. Why is it that you almost never hear Rick Warren talk about repentance or grace? Christ came to save people from their sins not from the temporal consequences of a fallen world.


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