Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Michael Todd Wilson & Brad Hoffmann's book, Preventing Ministry Failure: A ShepherdCare Guide for Pastors, Ministers and Other Caregivers, (InterVarsity Press, 2007).

You hear about falls from ministry all the time, and sometimes you wonder if burnout, ineffectiveness, or moral failure could someday cause your own ministry to fail. But the good news is, failure doesn’t just happen without warning, and you can take steps to prevent it.

Here’s how you can prevent failure in your ministry:

Approach your ministry from the right perspective. Remember that it’s ultimately God’s ministry, not yours. Instead of trying to minister in your own limited power, decide to rely on God’s unlimited power to work through you. Give yourself the freedom to be human and break free of unrealistic expectations to be perfect. Expect that you’ll make some mistakes, but when you do, embrace the grace God offers you to learn from them and move on with confidence. Rather than imposing your own agenda on your ministry, seek to discover God’s purposes for it. Then simply do your best to fulfill those purposes, trusting God for the outcome. Ask God to give you the humility you need to work to please Him alone, instead of trying to validate yourself or please other people.

Keep short accounts with God. Be aware of how much you sin on a daily basis, in both big and small ways. Realize that all sin, no matter what kind, can block your intimacy with God and drag you into bondage. Regularly thank God for the new mercy He offers you daily because of His great love for you. Don’t ignore your sins; deal with them as soon as you recognize them. Make a daily habit of seeking spiritual restoration through confession, repentance, reconciliation, restitution, accountability, and renewing your mind.

Take care of yourself. Understand that if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of the people you serve through your ministry. Don’t neglect your own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Make time every day to nurture your body (getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, exercising, etc.), mind (constantly learning something new, refreshing yourself through recreation, etc.), and spirit (spending prayer time in solitude and silence, reading and meditating on the Bible, etc.).

Value intimacy. Recognize that you need close relationships with God and other people just as much as any other human being. Make it a top priority to develop relationships where you can fully know others and be fully known yourself. Don’t believe lie that as a minister, you can’t safely be vulnerable with others. Realize that you can’t afford not to be open and honest with others if your ministry is to survive, much less thrive. Guard yourself against isolation that will damage your soul and ministry. Pursue God and enjoy the love you experience as you connect with Him. Pay attention to your need for support, encouragement, and accountability from other people. Invest in close friendships with a few other believers of your same gender. Nurture an intimate relationship with your spouse if you’re married, and rely on God’s strength to help you meet your needs for intimacy in pure ways if you’re single. Be willing to take the risks required to form healthy, close relationships. Learn how to identify and express your emotions and resolve conflict well. Welcome help from others when you need it, and be willing to help others when they need it. Learn how to express affection in appropriate physical ways, such as through hugs and handshakes. Don’t hesitate to laugh often. Seek out adventurous experiences with others, such as by taking a trip to a new place with them or trying out a new sport with them. Take time off work regularly to play and enjoy yourself with other people. Pray for others and allow them to pray for you.