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Are You Over-Functioning?

 The need to face your limitations openly and honestly cannot be overstated.  Leaders are not spiritual supermen.  You cannot do it all yourself, nor should you because it builds an unhealthy church culture.  You may be carrying the workload of three people but it is not healthy for you nor is it healthy for your church.  You need to consider if you really need that ministry or system if you do not have the necessary leaders to carry the workload.  There will be seasons where your workload will be overwhelming but that cannot be sustained long term.

Over-functioning has been defined as doing for others what they can and should be doing for themselves.  Instead of encouraging and empowering disciples to continue to grow and to step up to the plate, over-functioning leaders enable those around them to slide on their responsibilities.  Under-functioning disciples will continue to under-function as long as over-functioners are willing to do for them what they can and should be doing for themselves.  It is not an easy culture to build and will take a lot of prayerful planning and perseverance. 

  1. You must be willing to say no when you are already at your limit.  The stress of adding more can be debilitating.  It can wear you down physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  The busier you are the more you need your quiet time with the Lord because you cannot give what you do not have.  Your spiritual health and development cannot be rushed and it cannot exist very long on the fumes of your past spiritual disciplines.  It will suck the joy, passion, and strength out of you if you do not protect your daily walk with the Lord.
  2. You need to develop other leaders around you instead of accepting spiritual immaturity in them.  Focus on your team leaders who need you to help them cultivate their own relationships with Jesus.  How are you helping them to grow?  What are you doing intentionally to help them mature spiritually and professionally?  Lead by example in spiritual growth but also share with your team what that looks like practically.  Hold one another accountable with integrity by holding one another accountable in this process.
  3. You need to realize that God builds His church and He actually does not need you.  How blessed believers are that He desires you to be involved and that He allows you to be a part.  The reality is that He runs the world and does not need your help.  Pete Scazzero says, “We cross the line when we try to run the world for God.”  Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches, The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.”  He has not called us to produce crowds but to make disciples.
  4. Accept that what we see as of little importance God sees as very important.  God has a unique calling on every believer’s life. Think about how every believer has a role and they need to be fulfilling that role for their spiritual health and for the church’s.  I Corinthians 12: 22-23, “But even more, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary. And those parts of the body that we think to be less honorable, we clothe these with greater honor, and our unpresentable parts have a better presentation.”  Everyone in invaluable!
  5. Build a culture of integrity where we lovingly challenge others concerning having a team approach.  Be honest with yourself about your limits but also be honest with others that you need their help.  Listen to what Jethro says to his son-in-law Moses who had come to the end of his rope by over-functioning in Exodus 18:17-18, “’What you’re doing is not good,’ Moses’ father-in-law said to him.  ‘You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone.’”

Over-functioning not only burns you out as a leader but it begins to destroy the unity and community culture you are working so hard to build.  When you are over-working and over-loaded you can very easily become bitter and angry with others.  

Your perspective becomes, “Look at everything I am doing and no one around here is working as hard as I am.”  You can easily become resentful, negative, and overly focused on how you are the only one really serving the Lord.  You will become overly sensitive and judgmental if you continue down that road. 

Elijah demonstrates this when he thinks he is the only really serving the Lord in I Kings 19:17-18, “He entered a cave there and spent the night.  Then the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’  

He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts, but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life.’”  You are not alone and the reality is that there are others ready to serve.  

Don’t accept the mindset of Elijah but ask yourself what the Lord asked Him, “What are you doing here Elijah?”  Get alone with the Lord and allow Him to refresh you and replenish you spiritually.  Maybe you need a break for a couple of days or even a couple of weeks.  

Step away from the over-functioning, which can lead to burnout by slowing down and seeking to be in the Lord’s presence.  Seek solitude and silence and search the scriptures as the Holy Spirit ministers to your soul.  Paul said in II Corinthians 7: 4, “I am overcome with joy in all our afflictions.”

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!”