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7 Principles for Working On Your Ministry

On Vs In

The challenge of the pastorate requires the leader to be focused on many different areas at the same time. It is easy to get caught up “in” doing the tasks that need to be accomplished but unable to find the time to work “on” the ministry. In The Emotionally Healthy Church, Peter Scazzero says, “When our life with God isn’t sufficient to sustain our work for God, we will find ourselves struggling with our integrity.”

Before we can even differentiate between the “out’ and “in” we must first make sure that we are not just doing the work of God but that we are being who He want us to be. The doing is easier and can produce a false sense of spirituality and accomplishment. Hal Seed has said, “The temptation of pastors is to spend 90% of their time working ‘in’ their ministry instead of ‘on’ their ministry.”

In 1992, we headed to Northern Illinois to be church planters. Our first Sunday we had 13 present and my family comprised five of those in attendance. We began doing the things we believed that needed to be done. We had to do it all and actually enjoyed controlling everything from printing the bulletin to planning every activity. The problem is that as the church grows it is not healthy for one person to oversee and run everything.

The smaller the church is, the more it tends to run on individual talents but the larger the church becomes, the more it requires systems. If one person is in charge of a ministry and something happens to that individual then the ministry comes to a screeching halt. Don’t build your systems around one person but rather find a group of people to run them together. Always think in terms of a ministry team that builds a system for each ministry.

So, what does it look like to be working “in” the ministry of your church? This includes tasks that are important and usually necessary. However, these tasks are focused more on maintaining and caring for what is already in place and functioning. Working “in” ministry includes sermon preparation, counseling, teaching a class, overseeing a ministry event, and many other regular duties of the ministry.

Working “on” the ministry involves evaluating the effectiveness of present ministries, determining the vision and long range goals of the church, developing new ministries and new outreach opportunities. The key difference is between maintenance (not all bad) and creating and considering new approaches (not all good). Working “on” the ministry means to spend time thinking about what needs to be done, when it should be done, and who is going to be in charge of making sure it happens.

Here are a few things to consider in how to work “on” your ministry!

First, listen to the advice of others around you. You do not need to, nor should you, control everything. The leader is the primary influencer but remember there are godly people around you who have better ideas than you do. Listen well!

Second, develop a team of thinkers who can speak unfiltered into every situation. That may be a little scary, but if they only feel comfortable enough to tell you 90% of what you need to know then there is a 100% chance you will make the wrong decision.

Third, continue to develop as a leader through reading, mentoring, and training. Somebody out there knows what you need to know and you need to find out who that somebody is and learn from them. Great leaders are life-long learners.

Fourth, see crisis and challenges as opportunities. All of the polls and the research tell us that more people than ever before are turning away from the church. We should see this as a great opportunity to figure out how we can reach the greatest unchurched population ever.

Fifth, realize it is more about the person than it is the position. Some may say they don’t like preachers but what you usually find is that there is a pastor in their past that they feel let them down. Remember this truth, people will join an organization but they quit because of people.

Sixth, train the team to know what they need to do and how they will do it. Systems develop a process of next steps so that everyone on the ministry team knows what to do next and who to talk to in order to make it happen. It is providing a pathway of how to get from point A to point B and beyond.

Seventh, your greatest asset is the people around you who give of themselves to make the systems function properly. If you do not value them they will never live up to your expectations. If you want more out of your team it will require you making a greater investment into their lives.

Where do you begin? It starts with evaluation of the ministries and systems you now have in place by asking good questions. Do we have a process in place that is easy to understand? Where can you improve this system to make it more effective? What changes do you need to make to the system and are there any changes that need to be made with team members? Do we have a plan and when will this plan be implemented?

     Your church not only needs you to work “in” the ministry but also to make sure you are working “on” the ministry. This will require you to schedule time to pray, study, and determine where you are and where you desire to be as a church. It will demand these elements: Attention, Inspiration, Instruction, Training, and Evaluation. Remember, plan your work and work your plan…….but also be ready to change the plan when necessary!

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