Last week, I came across this passage of Scripture during my Bible reading time. It contains a list of five key traits that I believe should characterize ministry leaders. Let’s take a look at the verse, the traits it mentions and how it applies to us in ministry.
“Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart and a humble mind.”
(1 Peter 3:8)
Trait #1 – Unity of Spirit. Unity is a key trait of a successful ministry leader. And unity doesn’t happen by accident. You have to pursue it. You have to fight for it. You have to be intentional about making it a top priority.
When you are committed to unity, it means you lay aside your personal agenda for the pursuit of the vision of the ministry as a whole. I often say that your job is not to create your own vision for the ministry area you lead. Your job is to take the vision of the senior pastor and translate it into the ministry area you lead.
Here are some other key components of pursing unity in your ministry…
- Direct communication. When issues or conflict arise, go directly to the person rather than talking to other people.
- Continually rally the people who serve in your ministry area to the big picture vision of the ministry as a whole and show them how they are contributing to that vision.
- Actively look for ways to build bridges to and partner with other ministries in your church.
Trait #2 – Sympathy. Sympathy is defined as “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. Sympathy is compassion…caring…empathy. I think a simple way to say it is “your hurt in my heart.”
As ministry leaders, we must truly care about people. We must weep with those who weep. Cry with those who cry. Hug those who need a hug. Pray with those who need prayer. Listen to those who need someone to talk to.
Here are some practical ways you can show sympathy as a ministry leader…
- Move beyond just asking “How are you doing?” and find out how they are “really” doing. Most people won’t tell you unless you ask.
- When someone is sharing with you, really listen to them. Listen without thinking about what you are going to say next. Listen to understand.
- Be there for those you lead. Sometimes you won’t know what to say. That’s OK. They just need to you to show up and sit with them and give them a shoulder to lean on.
Trait #3 – Love for one another. Being a leader in ministry is about loving people. Jesus came for people. Jesus died for people. Jesus’ heart beats for people. Yes. People will hurt you. Love them anyway. Yes. People will betray you. Love them anyway. Yes. People will let you down. Love them anyway. Yes. People will take advantage of you. Love them anyway. Yes. People will walk away from you. Love them anyway.
Here are some practical ways you can love people…
- Always put people before programs.
- Use your ministry to build people rather than using people to build your ministry.
- When people come with needs, hurts and problems that disrupt your “calendar” or “to-do-list” for the day, be OK with it.
Trait #4 – Tender heart. The Bible reminds us in Proverbs to guard our hearts above all else. If you are not intentional, over time the grind, tasks, stresses, hurts and let-downs of ministry can cause your heart to become hardened. Cynicism, burn out, lack of faith, anger, lack of empathy and disillusionment can set in. When this happens, the tears dry up, compassion ceases and you find yourself just going through the motions. You can even find yourself sliding into a place of anger and bitterness toward God.
Here are some practical ways to keep your heart tender toward God…
- Have a consistent walk with God. Don’t get so busy working for God that you don’t have time to spend with God. When you spend time with God and in His Word each day, it will keep your heart tender.
- Keep your eyes on Jesus rather than people. He will never let you down.
- Ask God to keep your heart tender toward the things He cares about.
Trait #5 – Humble mind. Simply put…don’t let the praises and accolades that come your way go to your head. Remember…God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Sinful pride has no place in the life of a ministry leader.
Here are some practical ways to keep a humble mind…
- Humble leaders are always in school. Never arrive. Stay in learning mode for life. Always be aware of what you don’t know.
- Lead with humility. People don’t follow a title. They follow someone they love and respect.
- Seek the advice and input of others. Remember…the smartest person in the room is the room. Don’t try to fly solo. You’ll go much farther with some co-pilots.
I don’t know about you, but this list of traits really challenges me. I’ve got some work to do in all of these areas. This week I’m going to be asking myself…
- How can I do a better job at seeking and promoting unity?
- How can I demonstrate true sympathy for those I lead?
- What are some ways I can demonstrate more love for the people I lead?
- How tender is my heart night now? What are some additional things I can do to guard my heart and keep it tender toward God and others?
- Am I walking in humility? How can I be more self-aware in this area?
Join me and let’s grow as leaders.
This article originally appeared here.