Dr. David W. Manner is the Associate Executive Director for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. He blogs at http://kncsb.org/blogs/dmanner . You can follow him on Twitter: @dwmanner.
Most of us don’t begin a new ministry position believing that we will only stay for a few years. Although our intentions are noble for the long haul, it seems that we can often get blindsided by unforeseen circumstances that repeatedly derail that goal.
The author of the book of Hebrews offers guidelines that serve as a great application for long-tenured ministry. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Later in the same chapter, the author continues with these thoughts, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).
The talent, skills, reputation, and personality originally helping us to land a ministry position are never enough to help us keep it. This reality should be the starting point for developing leadership and relationship safeguards to diminish the potential for future derailment. Just internalizing healthy principles before beginning a new ministry position will not ensure ministry health, especially when some of those unforeseen circumstances are beyond our control. Ignoring those principles, however, will almost always guarantee abbreviated ministry tenure. And retroactive implementation is rarely successful from the middle of a conflict.
Consider some of the following ministry principles as you begin a list of your own. This list is in no particular order and is by no means exhaustive.
- Even though your position often requires you to have the last word doesn’t mean it has to be your word.
- Cast vision for the future without denigrating the past.
- Understand the difference between getting them to give in and getting them to buy-in.
- Not all thoughts that enter your mind should exit your mouth.
- If you alone are holding onto the leadership of your organization in order to receive the credit when something works…just remember that you alone will also receive the credit when something doesn’t.
- You don’t have to agree with to learn from.
- Know the difference between people and projects.
- Don’t be threatened when someone else gets the credit.
- Impatience at the expense of relational buy-in is not any more virtuous when the goal is noble.
- Long-term change is a race of endurance that may require you to walk uphill and sprint downhill.
- Graciously accepting evaluation from all people at all times is not enough, you must actively seek it.
- The most direct route may seem reckless to those who have the same goals but are more comfortable taking safer routes.
- Affirm in public, correct in private, and pastor in both places.
- How you lead externally must reflect who you are internally.
- Servant leadership is not a hierarchical step down…it is a relational leap up.
- Don’t randomly blow-up the existing without considering where the pieces will land.
- Understand the difference between knowing that you can and considering whether you should.
- Shared ministry should not threaten but instead strengthen your leadership.
- If you don’t take care of yourself spiritually, emotionally, and physically no one else will.
- The only new really essential to organizational success may reside in the revitalization of the attitude and resolve of your ministry.
- Never stop being a student.
- Consider re-evaluation before revolution.
- Instead of indignation, grace must always be your default.
- Securing buy-in before initiating change will more evenly distribute successes and failures.
- People generated should always supersede leader dominated.
- Build bridges from the pew to the platform.
- Not finding time to read is passive arrogance. Reading only that which affirms what you already believe is active arrogance.
- Ignoring steps to increase your ministry shelf life leaves you prepared to lead a church that no longer exists.
- Keep track of what wakes you up at night…nightmares about how things are (maintenance) or dreams about how they could be (leadership)?
- Take the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.”