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Over-Functioning

When I first began working as the BMA Director of Church Planting, I remember being at the office one day overwhelmed with the amount of work that was on my desk. Many days I felt like I ran from one fire to the next doing my best to extinguish them. The workday was over according to the clock but wanting to get all the work accomplished on my to-do list that was staring me in the face. One of my heroes and mentors, Jerry Kidd, stepped into my office and told me to go home. He then gave me two great pieces of advice I have always remembered.

First, he told me that it would be there when I got there the next day and it could wait until then. Secondly, he informed me that it was not going to get any better. There would be many days ahead when this same overwhelming feeling would be present and I would need to accept that there would be times to just step away and begin afresh the next day. Yes, it is important to prioritize but you also need to accept that interruptions will occur. We must remember that people are always more important than the task.

If you are in full-time ministry you need to know that it is hard work and no one should work any harder than us. In I Corinthians 15:10 Paul says, “But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective. However, I worked more than any of them, yet not I, but God’s grace that was with me.” Wow, Paul declares that none of the Christian leaders of his day worked any harder than he did! A minister’s work ethnic should always be exemplary but also realistic. Being a workaholic does not mean we are spiritual or pleasing God.

Over-functioning is defined as “doing for others what they can and should do for themselves.” This may make us feel good and give us a sense of accomplishment, but it is far better to train people to develop the leadership skills they need to meet their own needs. When they begin feeding, teaching, and learning themselves then they will be able to begin teaching and training others. The reality is that most projects do not require you to take care of all the details personally but instead delegate those items to your team.

Here are some things to think through as you build a team that can accomplish so much more working together.

First, look for the right people to help you. Two things that should be non-negotiable are that they have a teachable spirit and they will be loyal. That does not mean that they are a “yes-man/woman” but that they understand confidentiality and there is a good chemistry between everyone on the team. Everyone should enjoy working together and look forward to the time they focus on the project.

Second, know what to delegate and what not to delegate. All too often the leader is actually the bottleneck that keeps the project from becoming a reality.   Spend some time deciding what cannot be delegated and then write it down. Then you should seek out a leader/mentor who could talk over that list with you. Is it realistic or are you being too controlling? After that, you should make a list of everything you can delegate on that project or responsibility. Once again, seek counsel from another leader or leaders and then tweak both lists.

Third, realize that the best ideas will probably come from the others on your team. Embrace the truth and enjoy the fact that you do not have to be the sole producer of great ideas. Listen to them and give their ideas merit.

Fourth, give them permission to risk and you must be willing to take a chance on them. In a church planting training I heard Rick Warren said, “If it does not require faith does that mean we have been unfaithful?” John Piper says it this way, “The Christian life is a call to risk. You either live with risk or waste your life.” According to Matthew 25:16-30 the servant who refused to risk was called “wicked’ by his master. J.D. Greear says, “Risking for God is dangerous; but not risking is more dangerous.” Yes, you may get burned and someone may drop the ball, but we must risk by being willing to invest in raising up more leaders.

Fifth, give them permission to fail. Two things are very important here. First, if someone never fails that means they probably are not doing very much. Second, keep reminding yourself of those who took a chance on you. I personally am so thankful for those who believed in me enough to give me a chance and then when I did mess up (and the stories are plentiful) were supportive of my efforts but then were also helpful in showing me where and how I had messed up. Walk them though a W.I.N. What did they do well? Where do they need to improve? What will they do next after having evaluated?

Sometimes we are over-functioning because there is no one else available to help us but other times it is because we refuse to equip and empower others. If the second is true then we are hindering others from developing their leadership skills and utilizing their spiritual gifts to be a blessing to our ministry. God has put a lot of leadership capacity in other people around us. We do not serve our team well by leading in their place and not allowing them to step up and lead themselves. Do not allow the “if I want it done right I must do it myself” to control your leadership style.

Dave Ferguson of Exponential says when we approach other people we should remember these four letters and share what “ICNU!”

Pastors are Hurting

In 2 Cor. 11:28-30, Paul said, “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” Tom Rainer, President of Lifeway, recently shared a survey given to pastors about two primary sources of personal struggle in the ministry. It proves that the challenges of the pastorate today are real and need to be admitted so that they might be addressed and resolved.  “Not all the news about pastors is discouraging. Pastors feel privileged to be called to their places of ministry. They have a deep love for those they shepherd. Most of them could not conceive of doing anything else. But please hear me: Many pastors are hurting.

The Discouragement Factor: One of the key symptoms of the pain experienced by pastors is discouragement. Over one-half (55%) of pastors are presently discouraged. I suspect that if we surveyed pastors over just a few months, we would find that almost all of them experience deep discouragement.  Some interesting facts we discovered in our study:

  • There was no pattern of discouragement related to the geographical location of the church.
  • There was no pattern of discouragement related to the size of the church.
  • There was no pattern of discouragement related to the educational level of the pastor.
  • There was a significant pattern of discouragement related to the age of the pastor. The younger the pastor, the more likely he was to be discouraged.

The Loneliness Factor: Most pastors experience intense loneliness at times. When we conducted our survey, over one-half again (coincidentally the same number, 55%, as noted above) said they were lonely. Again remember that this survey was for a specific point in time. Which pastors experience the greatest amount of loneliness? Our study noted some discernible patterns:

  • There was no pattern of loneliness related to the geographical location of the church.
  • Younger pastors were more likely to be lonely than older pastors.
  • The larger the church, the greater the likelihood that the pastor was experiencing loneliness.
  • The greater the education level of the pastor, the more likely he is to be lonely.

Why the Pervasive Discouragement and Loneliness?” Rainer in an earlier blog offered the following as reasons pastors are struggling today and some are experiencing depression: spiritual warfare, unrealistic expectations, greater platforms for critics, failure to take time away from the church or place of ministry, workaholism, marriage and family problems, neglecting his family as he cares for the larger church family, financial strains, the problem of comparison.  Rainer went on to say, “This one thing I do know. Pastors need our prayers more than ever. They need our support and encouragement. I am committed to pray for my pastor every day, even if it’s only for a minute or so. Will you do the same? Our pastors pour out their lives for us daily. What can you do to help our pastors?”

Allow me to recommend to you, Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro.