Lessons that help sustain ministry

By Jerry and Renee Ritskes

We often work with ministry people who, over time, have lost the excitement of ministry. Often, unresolved hurts or exhaustion drove them to the point of losing hope that the Lord is actually interested in their lives. We’ve experienced some of those hurtful things, too. Here are some of the lessons we have learned from almost 30 years of marriage and ministry.

Jerry: Don’t base your value on what people think, nor on ministry “success.” These types of measurements are fickle and superficial. I’m learning more and more to value my walk with Christ as the core of my life. I began ministry wanting to help people, but it is amazing over the years how “needing to be needed” can slither in and drain all the joy from life and ministry.

Renee: I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I do not have to fit into someone else’s mould as a pastor’s wife. I once had someone tell me years ago that I wasn’t “the typical pastor’s wife.” I didn’t really know if that was meant as a compliment or not, but as I’ve processed it all I realize that I have unique gifts and abilities that God can and will use. The Lord gives us all a unique role that is not like anyone else’s in ministry.

Jerry: Emotions tell you something. Whenever I feel some emotion within me, I need to ask, “Where is this coming from?” Before, I used to tell myself, “Don’t feel this way.” I would try to squash those feelings because I felt they would get in the way of ministry. Now I’m learning to listen and try to understand where these emotions come from. It’s not that my feelings are always accurate, but they always have an origin. If I would have listened to feelings of unease, frustration, sadness or joy, I would not have been so naive in ministry and would have avoided a lot of needless pain.

Renee: “Newness” in life can keep us fresh and excited in our service to the Lord. Whether it is reading a new book, taking a new class, learning a new skill of interest, reading through a new version of the Scriptures in my quiet times, starting a new project, or getting involved in a new ministry in the church, I find the journey of learning or doing something new adds anticipation and excitement as we serve. It is somewhat similar to what we see in kids when they are just starting a new school year.

Jerry: My marriage is the core of my ministry. Though my walk with Christ is the wellspring from which my ministry flows, my marriage runs a close second. The effort I pour into marriage is not a waste or a diversion from ministry; it is not only an investment in us as a couple, but it influences so much of who we are as we reach out to others. For those who are married, marriage is ministry.

Renee: All we do is for the Lord. There have been times that Isaiah 49:4 has been the cry of my heart: “I have labored to no purpose, I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.” Yet in the previous verse we read, “You are My servant . . . in whom I will display My splendor.” The last part of verse four reminds us that it is God who will reward us. We have much to look forward to!

Jerry: Guilt is a terrible motivator. Feeling guilty over things that I didn’t contribute to, or that I can’t control, only steals away my resolve and outlook. Deal with guilt so that it doesn’t become a subtle motivator. Things you’ve done out of guilt – real or perceived – rarely have much staying power.

Renee: God will never leave you, nor forsake you, even when you make the move to another province, leaving kids and grandkids behind; even when the church problems loom big and another family decides to leave; even when your spouse struggles with his/her health; and even when you’re so exhausted from trying to serve the Lord that your own faith begins to waver. Through these things, He has not abandoned me. Through failures and successes, He walks the road with us.

These are just some of the things we’ve been learning. Since learning is lifelong, we are still on that journey. What things are you learning on your journey?


For several years we were privileged to have Jerry and Renee Ritskes direct our Kerith Creek retreat centre located near Calgary, AB, where they coached clergy and their spouses through some of the stresses they face in vocational ministry.

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