Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Ministry Lessons I Wish I Had Learned Earlier

The end of any year is typically a time to reflect on advances made and lessons learned in the previous twelve months.

The end of 2013 is no exception.

And on many occasions when we get something right at Good Shepherd, I find myself asking, “Why didn’t we do it that way earlier? Why does it take me so long to learn?”

Other than a certain level of pride & stubbornness — would the Greeks have called it hubris? — I don’t have a great answer to those two questions.

I do have a list, however — it’s Tuesday, isn’t it? So here are five ministry lessons I wish I had learned and internalized earlier in my time in ministry.

5.  Multiplying yourself in ministry is much more difficult but ultimately much more productive than doing ministry.  I love to “do”: to visit, to counsel, to preach, to pray.  I am much less eager to empower others to do ministry themselves.  As a result, we have more “watchers” and fewer “ministers” than we would have if I was well-versed in multiplication.  Whatever progress I have made in this area comes when I train others to do forms of ministry that I like the most, including eulogies and hospital visitation.  I suppose the new math comes when I understand that the best “doing” is “multiplying.”

4.  Don’t try to mimic the ministry style of other churches.  For a couple of years, some of us on staff tried to make Good Shepherd into a miniature rendition of other churches.  Turns out we were just really bad copycats.  Through the wisdom of Will Mancini’s Church Unique, we were able to start becoming the best version of ourselves rather than an inferior replica of someone else.  Result: inviting all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. 

3.  People in crisis can wait a day for an appointment.  I have learned through the years that when people make urgent phone calls to the office and need to see you that day, it’s best to schedule them the next day.  They didn’t get into the crisis overnight and won’t get out of it overnight.  Waiting a day a) allows the counselee to take 24 hours worth of deep breaths; and b) ensures that the counselor does not become a co-dependent in the issue at hand.  The obvious exceptions to this rule involves the death of a loved one or a threat of suicide.

2.  Set expectations early with staff.  More than once, I have assumed staffers had the same wiring and motivations as I do.  More than once, I’ve been wrong.  For the sake of fairness across the organization, we have begun clarifying expectations regarding work hours and productivity before people are hired.  Seems to help.

1.  Sunday morning must promote the everyday ministry of the church.  Here’s where having a bit of prima donna in me really hinders us: I want each Sunday to be a stand alone piece, almost like a painting or a song.  As a result, for a number of years we rarely talked about next steps for people’s involvement in the church beyond come back next Sunday.  As a result, our LifeGroup participation was on the low end for churches our size and style.  Once we realized what was happening, we made some significant-yet-subtle adjustments (and I finally learned how to preach a good “groups” message) and VOILA! major increase in the number of LifeGroups in a short time.

Those are just five of many.

I pray that when I do this post in 2018, these lessons will have been well learned and I’ll be back to school on a new set.