The Path out of Ministry Anxiety

In one of my first parish assignments, I knew I was going to miss a big event soon after I assumed my staff role—the celebration of First Communion. I had a pre-existing conflict with the date. So, in the weeks leading up to the celebration, I talked with my assistant to go over all the details. Stressed over my worries that the plan I’d created might not be followed, I met with the pastor. His response: “Rosina, I know how to say Mass, and the kids will receive communion.”

This one sentence exposed my anxious, worried state of mind. I was consumed by things that were not truly important. The banner placements, seating arrangements, and timing of the “official” photos did not justify the nervous energy I was expending upon them. Rather, what was important was that these young people received communion.

I’ve held on to the memory of that conversation for many years, but I still get caught up in anxiety over ministry details. This is especially true when I’m planning multiple events at the same time, or it seems like I don’t have enough time to pull everything off. In those moments, my anxiety begins to rise and I wonder if I’ll be able to do it all. I worry about whether things will go smoothly, what I might have forgotten, what catastrophes might occur, or whether anyone will actually attend. The final hour before people begin to arrive is when my anxiety is at an all-time high. Others have noticed this about me, and they point out that I’m expending anxious energy over things that don’t actually matter.

Of course, my anxiety drains away when people show up and the event begins. There’s nothing more I can do to prepare, what will happen will happen. I finally turn it over to God and allow him to be in charge.

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This is not an effective way to minister. As ministry leaders, I know, we’re called to yield to the Holy Spirit within us—to invite the Spirit to work through us and to make the presence of Christ known to those around us. When we’re anxious about the details, when we fail to recognize Christ in the other person, we are only hurting ourselves. Ministry at its best is a dialogue—a partnership or collaboration. It’s not a monologue or soliloquy.

I know all these things in my head (and possibly my heart), but when I get caught up in the frenetic pace and chaos of ministry I lose touch with what matters most. To find my way out of this dark valley, I’ve collected a few quotes that offer me a path into rescue. When I feel the anxiety rising or am feeling overwhelmed, I remember the truth….

  • “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” (Philippians 4: 6).
  • “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10: 41-42).
  • “Cast all your worries upon [God] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5: 7).
  • “If you find yourself obsessing over the worst-case scenario and it actually happens, you have lived it twice.” (Michael J. Fox)
  • “It always helps to remember that my job is to pray. God’s job is to answer my prayer. So I need to do my job and let God do his job. I say, “God help me to wait patiently for you to answer my prayers.” (Origin Unknown)

I invite you to make your own list of quotes to reflect upon or offer to others who struggle with ministry anxiety. Post them where you can see them and turn to them when you find yourself becoming anxious or stressed. May these quotes, and the ones you identify, offer you a respite from the anxieties that arise in ministry and serve as a prompt for prayer and reflection. God offers us peace, he answers our prayers, and waits for us to place our trust in him.

Rosina Hendrickson is a member of Vibrant Faith’s Coaching Team. She’s the Training and Events Coordinator for Liturgy Training Publications and the Coordinator of Family Faith Formation at St. Thomas the Apostle, both in Chicago, Illinois. She also facilitates STEP courses through the University of Notre Dame, a platform for online adult formation.


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