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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!


Wow, the last day of 2015! Hard to believe but once again we are focusing on “out with the old and in with the new!” As we evaluate last year, and we should, we can walk through a W.I.N. to help us focus on these three areas:

  • What did you do well? What were the accomplishments in your life, family, and ministry in 2015 that brought you the most joy? What happened last year that when you think about it brings a smile to your face? Don’t forget to reflect on the positives and celebrate the wins even if they were small wins. We need to celebrate more often and remember that “we become what we celebrate!”
  • Where do you need to improve? What were some of your greatest disappointments of 2015? Everyone experiences challenges and failure at one level or the other. Every goal was probably not met and if all your goals were met maybe you set the bar to low? Is there is a skill set you need help with to make you more effective in the new year? Who knows what you need to know? Who out there could help you and how will you find them?
  • What will you do next? The key now is to think about what you will do differently in 2016? An often used discription of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!” One example of this would be to ask, “Is your church reaching new people with the gospel?” Craig Groeschel gives us this challenge, “To reach people no one else is reaching, we must do things no one else is doing.”

You must focus on what is “next” in 2016. You also need to look back and as you remember you should:

  • Rejoice in what God allowed you to accomplish!
  • Repent where repentence is required!
  • Reflect on major life lessons learned!
  • Refocus your energy on new opportunities!

Here are things to consider as you enter the new year:

  1. What are your goals for 2016? What would make this year a great year? Have you spent time alone with the Lord asking His direction in setting your goals for 2016? If not, when is the soonest you could take a prayer retreat to hear from Him? Are you regularly placing yourself in the best possible position to hear from God clearly and consistenly? You never, no matter what your age is, mature past the need for prayer and hearing from the Lord daily!
  2. Why are these goals so important to you? God is really into motives! It is not just what you are doing but why you are doing it. Jesus made it very clear in the semon on the mount that in the areas of giving, prayer, and fasting we were not to practice these disciplines to be noticed by other people. Check it out in Matthew chapte 6. Your motivation should not be to be applauded by men, to impress people, or to show them how “spiritual” you are.
  3. What 2-3 goals are the most important and non-negotiable? You need to prioritze your goals and especially if you have 7-10 goals for the new year. Here is also where it is important to look back at last year. What was missing the most in your life as you look back? Is there anything you can do to change it? Maybe not but one thing that might help is to focus on what you do have and on what you can change!
  4. What are the most immediate actions steps you need to take to make these goals a reality? You need to make these “smart” goals ” (see below) and then write 2-3 action steps that are required to make that specific goal a reality. If my goal is to walk across the room then I must think actions: 1) stand up. 2) take required number of steps. 3) stop when there. Here is what you need to ask yourself about each goal, “What’s the very next thing I need to do to reach this goal?”
  5. What are your biggest prayer requests as you approach these goals? If prayer is not needed then maybe the goals are not big enough. Remember, faith is required! What if you didn’t step out in faith and ask God to do great and mighty things? What are you praying for? What if God answered everyone of your prayer requests? How many lives would be changed, transformed and how many souls would be saved?

Don’t be afraid to set God-given, Holy Spirit directed goals and then ask God to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that you could ask or think! Hearing from God is not enough. You must also take action on what He has commanded you!

  • Specific: Identify exactly what you want to accomplish.
  • Measurable: Quantify the result.
  • Action Oriented: Start with an action verb, not a to-be verb.
  • Realistic: Recognize and implement the power of incremental change over time.
  • Time-Bound: Set a specific deadline.

Are You Watching the Right Gauges?


The advances of technology have been amazing over the last ten to fifteen years.  This progress can be seen every day when you drive your vehicle.  The options now available on the steering wheel and dashboard of a car are amazing.  They used to only include; speedometer, odometer, water temperature, oil pressure, and a gas gauge.  Today you can answer your phone, manage the stereo, and set your cruise control from the buttons on your steering wheel.  The dashboard has a computer that can tell you when you have a low tire and when you need an oil change.  It can even calculate your fuel range, average fuel economy, and much more.

Even though these accessories are nice and make things much easier for us, the standard speedometer, odometer, gas gauge, etc, is still there.  These gauges or warning lights tell us how well the vehicle is running.  While it is very easy to become fascinated with all of the new bells and whistles you must keep your eyes on the gauges that matter.  Music can make a long trip far more enjoyable, and cruise control is awesome, but those advancements do not ensure that the engine has what it needs for its best performance.   Are you focusing on the right dials, on your life dashboard, which will tell you how healthy you are spiritually, emotionally, and physically?           

Wayne Cordeiro, in Leading on Empty, talks about twelve “dials” on the dashboard of an airplane.  He says,”Yes, a central concern is certainly getting from Point A to Point B in a timely fashion, but the lives and safety of those on board are more important.”  You cannot see the engine and know what the oil pressure or water temperature is without gauges but these critical components need to be monitored.  Cordeiro says, “My “dashboard” includes twelve dials that meter vital systems essential to my health and success.”  We must be focused on the dials and gauges that are true indicators of how well our lives are running in the eyes of the Lord.  Here are some gauges on the dashboard of life that really matter:

  • Spiritual Walk – Are you daily seeking Him and His face or are you just going through the motions?  Because of so many bells and whistles in church life today it is easy to interpret our activity as spiritual health, but not necessarily.  “If you aren’t getting your sense of well being vertically, you will shop for it horizontally and always come up short.” –Paul Tripp
  • Marriage and Family – Are you the spiritual leader in your home?  Does your family see the same person at home that they see at church?  You must not allow ministry to make you one-dimensional.  Take time to walk, talk, and pray together.  “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.” –Wm Bruce Cameron
  • Missional Living – Are you focused on those in your circle of influence who do not know Jesus Christ personally?  What are you doing about it?  It is estimated that there are enough people in churches right now to see the Great Commission fulfilled in our life time.  Right now!  “When it comes to the gospel, some Christians just click “like” instead of “share.” –Burk Parsons
  • Discipleship – Do you have a process of discipleship that is easily reproducible?  Is your process effective in producing healthy disciples?  Are you personally being discipled and are you discipling someone?  Everyone should have a Paul and a Timothy in their life.  “Do you really want to experience God?  Then go and make disciples!” –Francis Chan
  • Friendships – Do you have a social life where you spend time fellowshipping with friends?  Are you seen as friendly person that cares about others more than you care about yourself?  Every Christian should be willing to stand alone for God but should never have too.  “Fellowship is a place of grace, where mistakes aren’t rubbed in but rubbed out.” –Rick Warren
  • Church Life – Is your church intentionally carrying out the Great Commission?  Are you more focused on doing church than being the church?  Are you more inwardly focused than outwardly?  Are you program driven or people driven?  “Remember the Alamo!  It began as a mission, became a battlefield, and now is a museum.  Wrong trajectory for a church.” –Alvin Reed
  • Faith – Do you believe that you are complete in Christ?  Do you trust in your ability more than the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God?  Did you know you can take a day off and get just as much done? (Read Ex. 16)  A leader, in the area of faith, has been described as someone willing to build an ark in the dark!

Lately, I have participated in a small group of local pastors and preachers and we all graded our own personal life “dashboards.”  We gave ourselves grade letters, some used 1-10, with A- being the highest and C- being the lowest.  What kind of grade would you give yourself in these seven areas?  What kind of grade would your wife give you on your marriage and family gauge?  Now is a great time to put together your own dashboard, with your own personal gauges, and see what they are really saying!

A healthy church focuses on the most important gauges!