7 ways to deal with gnats in ministry

June 4, 2017 | by Thom Rainer

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 know about gnats. They come with the call.

They are the critics. They are those who always have (or think they do) 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 business meetings, and always negatively.

Dealing with irritants

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 of grappling with these pesky gnats.

1. Realize gnats are gnats. They are troublesome, and at times demoralizing, but they are never fatal. That is, they aren’t 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 the 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.

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 this person has persevered in ministry and still has joy in the local church, he can offer great perspectives for you who are experiencing gnats today.

A part of ministry

In my younger years, I tried to make gnats go away. Now that I am older, and hopefully wiser, I realize gnats are an inherent 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.


Topics: Commentary, Leadership, Ministry, Teaching Resources


Thom Rainer / Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of 25 books, including his latest release from B&H Publishing Group: Who Moved My Pulpit? Leading Change in the Church. His 2013 book, I Am a Church Member, has sold more than one million copies.
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