I hate gnats.

I particularly hate the gnats called the no-see-ums or sandflies. They are present certain months of the year on the beach. Though almost invisible to the naked eye, they can pack a powerful sting.

All who serve in vocational ministry have gnats. They come with the call. They are the critics. They are those who always have a better way to do things. They are the ones who expect you to visit them regularly. They are the ones who always speak up in a business meeting, always negatively.

They won’t ever go away. So you can either leave ministry because of them, or you can deal with them. Here are seven ways you can deal with gnats.

1. Realize gnats are gnats. They are troublesome, at times demoralizing, but never fatal. Well, they are not fatal unless you treat them like the larger problem they are not.

2. Look beyond the gnat moments. If you are a pastor or church staff leader, you will have gnats. You will have those who seem to constantly bug you (pun intended). But the issue almost always goes away. You will look back on those gnat moments and wonder why you acted like it was a major crisis.

3. Focus on those things that really matter. If you focus on the gnats, they can take you down. If you focus on those things God has called you to do, you will forget about the gnats.

4. Pray for the gnat source. Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). We can do the same with our gnat sources.

5. Realize gnats are a cost of leading ministry. Some pastors and church staff move from church to church trying to get away from gnats. But they simply move from one nest of gnats to another. God called you to ministry. He didn’t promise it would be easy; and He didn’t promise He would remove the gnats of our ministry.

6. Find joy where joy is evident. I once coached a pastor who was gnat-obsessed. He couldn’t find joy in his ministry because he was too busy focusing on the small bites of the gnats. I coached another pastor who seemed to have the same level of gnat attacks. But he focused on the great things God was doing in his church. Do you want to guess which pastor is doing well in ministry today?

7. Seek a wise confidant. Perhaps you can find a wise mentor in ministry who has several gnat bites himself. If they have persevered in ministry and still have joy in their local churches, they can offer great perspectives for you who are experiencing gnats today.

In my younger years, I tried to make gnats go away. Now that I am older, and hopefully wiser, I realize gnats are a part of ministry.

We must not only accept a gnat-infested ministry, we must learn to accept the gnats, pray for the gnats, and love the gnats.

Then, and only then, can we know the true joy of serving in the local church.

Thom Rainer
(Photo : Courtesy of Thom Rainer)

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on April 3, 2017. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.