Football, Leadership and Ministry

by Matt Norman

I’m know I’m the only one. I am probably the only children’s pastor/worker/ministry leader/business leader that has ever done this, but I am going to share anyway just in case. When I took over our children’s ministry and our children’s church, the pastor and I had a big vision. After spending some time developing this vision into something I felt like I could communicate clearly, I attacked it like an NFL line backer attacks the quarterback. Pushing aside any lineman that might stand between me and my goal, I gave it my all. This worked great, until . . . well, until I got tired.

I love football! I remember watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play. One of the players caught an interception and ran it all the way back, 91 yards, for a touchdown. This was a very exciting play to watch. The Bucs took the lead, and this player took the bench. This worked out okay, because there was another player there to take his place while he recovered from his long sprint. When I took over the children’s ministry, I hit it with the same energy as this player running for the end zone. The problem was there was no one to stand in for me while I recovered, and I couldn’t run full speed toward the end zone for an indefinite period of time. It was like the end zone kept moving, and no matter how fast I ran or how hard I worked, it never got closer. This led to a lot of stress and frustration.

This is a trap that many of us fall into. For me, it was something that my pastor said that ultimately saved me from it. Isn’t it cool how men and women of God can minister to you without even trying; and often without even knowing it? Isn’t it great how God will give you the words you need, when you need them the most? Anyway, we were at an evangelism training event at a local church.  As we stood around talking with different pastors before the event started, we spoke with one in particular who shared how he was somewhat frustrated by the amount of stuff that needed to be done and the slowness with which progress seemed to come. My pastor looked at him and said the words that changed my ministry forever. He told this pastor that he was in it for the long haul; that he planned to die at this church. He said once you put it in a long-term perspective, the pressure to get things done quickly goes away.

You don’t have to die at your church. But for me, that changed everything. I am in this for the long haul. I would rather build a ministry with a firm foundation that can outlast me, even if it does seem to move more slowly, than to build it quickly and give it a weak foundation. This is not to say that I don’t want it to build as quickly as I can, but the focus is now one of slow and steady progress.

So, what can I do about this?

1. Are you in it for the long haul? Take time to consider what matters most to you. Are you more concerned with next Sunday’s lesson or building a ministry that will be healthy 10 years from now?

2. SLOW DOWN! The goal is not to get everything done THIS WEEK. Work hard. That is a given and is necessary, but don’t try to get too much done too quickly.

3. Become committed to steady improvement. The thing that helped me the most to overcome this and actually helped the ministry more was a commitment to steady improvement. My goal with each service, event, everything we do is to be a little better the next time we do it than we were the last time we did it.

4. Evaluate everything. Take time each week to evaluate that weekend’s worship service. Take five minutes at the end of the service to ask at least one leader in your ministry how they felt things went.

5. Ask for input. Ask the members of your team for ideas and input. Then USE SOME OF THEM. I’m not saying that you have to use all of them, but if you don’t use some of them, then you will frustrate your team members.

6. Pray. Recently, I have been reminded that WE CANNOT DO THIS WITHOUT GOD. If we don’t depend on God, then our natural tendency (at least for me) is to run out ahead of him. Trust me, this doesn’t work.

7. Take time off. I’ve been listening to a series that Perry Noble preached a couple years ago. In it, he talks about his own struggles with depression. He talks about how keeping an unrealistic pace helped lead him into depression. He then shares the words that a friend told him. Perry said, “People are going to hell and Satan never takes a day off.” His friend then looked at him and said, “I’m not sure HE should be your example.” God worked hard for six days and then took time off. So should we.

At the end of the day, the main thing is to plan for next week, but build for ministry for 10 years from now.