If you guys read my last post here then you’ll know that I just completed 16 years working in ministry. As a sort of ‘mini-celebration’ I thought that I would share one thing that I have learned for each year that I have been in ministry. So this is the first of four posts that will deal with the subject.
These will be wide ranging, and deal with a whole lot of different topics, and are not in any particular order. So. without further ado, here are the first four of sixteen things I have learned about ministry:
1. You Start at the Bottom
This is a reality of life. Everyone starts at the bottom of their chosen profession. No one wakes up one day and decides that they are going to be a top tennis player, then sign up for Wimbledon, and win in their first year of picking up a racket. Yet it seems that, in the case of church work, people seem to think that they should be given the sole charge of any ministry that they desire, and right away, and without any experience or training. The thing that I have learned over 16 years in ministry is that, for the most part – the 99% – you have to learn the ropes from the ground up, you start by hanging around and doing the small admin tasks, you put together lessons, databases, run sheets, you make phone calls, you send people cards, you tidy up the kids church spaces, you serve at events, you move endless amounts of chairs! These are the things that will start you on your way to learning what it means to be a true minister of the Gospel, and not someone who feels that they should just have a leadership position by virtue of who they are.
2. There is a Lot of Boring Stuff That Happens in Ministry
This point sort of flows out of the first one. I mentioned a few things that you can do to start serving in the church, to start the journey towards understanding what it means to be a servant of Jesus. They all seemed pretty boring, and that is true, they are. The truth is that there are a lot boring things to do in between the ‘cool’ things that happen each Sunday. There are phone calls to make, meaning to be done, databases to maintain, facilities to care for, budgets to put together, events to plan, volunteers to chase up, lots of time sitting alone at your desk fighting with the internet, and getting frustrated at other people who treat volunteering in such a blasé manner. Even preparing sermons is not all fun, there is wrestling with the text, there is trying to put your thoughts in a coherent order, there is the practice to make sure that it all flows and fits together. All of these things are not fun and exciting, but they are necessary for the Sunday service to work well and be done with excellence.
3. Communication is Key
It’s all well and good for us to know what is going to happen each Sunday, and it is all well and good for us to prepare for it. But part of that preparation is making sure that the others who are involved in the service know what is going to happen as well. If people are feeling communicated to they feel a sense of trust and security.
It is so important to make sure that people know what they are supposed to be doing, where the ministry is going, and why these things are happening. Then they can understand why we are asking them to do the things that we are, and they will know what it is that they can do to contribute to the overall goals of the ministry. They will have a sense of agency and feel that they can take initiative to drive the mission forward. Make sure that these things are communicated regularly and well.
4. Fear Will Cripple You
It’s natural for people to feel fear. There are a lot of things out there for us to be afraid of. Unfortunately ministry is a place where fear can take hold of you and cripple the effectiveness that you will have for the Kingdom. There are many things in ministry that will drive you far out of your comfort zone – I remember the first time that I had to visit a grieving family, or the first funeral that I had to conduct, the first time I preached a sermon, the first event that I ran. All of these things scared me to some degree – what do I say? What if I get the words wrong? What if it’s not appropriate? What if it’s not successful? What if it doesn’t matter? What’s the key to defeating fear? It is the presence of the One who holds everything together. Ministry must be built on the time that you spend in God’s presence. There is found the cure for most anything that you will face in ministry. There is found the realisation that His grace is the thing that will carry you through, and reliance on Him to do the work is what will empower you to succeed as He wants you to.
Question: What is it that you have found most difficult in your ministry to date?