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A Dozen Ways Ministers Can Give Some Direction to Their Ministry Rather Than Be Driven by It


A couple months ago I sent a text to a fellow minister asking if he would be available to meet over lunch to discuss something pertaining to ministry. He was happy to and said he could pencil me in … the following month!

It’s not uncommon for ministers to have calendars so overflowing it’s difficult to get any time with them, or for them to have adequate time for everything filling their calendars.

That isn’t always by design.

Many ministers feel like ministry demands drive them … because often they do. It can be easy to become so wrapped up in all the things that need to be done, along with all the things people want you to do, plus the things you think you should do, that ministry seems to sweep you away. Ministers in particular seem susceptible to the “Butterfly Effect,” something explained in this story from the Los Angeles Times

In 1961, meteorologist Edward Lorenz developed a computer program to predict weather patterns. One day he was in a hurry and set a computer calculation that was supposed to be .506127 to .506. He figured a thousandth of a percent would be irrelevant. Later in the day, he restarted the program and found a radically different prediction in weather patterns. He produced a paper stating that a very small change in initial conditions could have a radical change in results. A fellow scientist said that if Lorenz was correct, a single flap of a seagull’s wing could change the course of the weather forever.

In 1972, Lorenz presented a paper called, “Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wing in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?” The idea that a little change somewhere in the world could produce huge changes somewhere else became known as the “Butterfly Effect.”

You probably know several fellow ministers who are so busy that a simple little interruption to their schedule ignites potential chaos. Yet, the “Butterfly Effect” doesn’t always have to work in the negative; sometimes, making small changes, or a change, can improve a person’s situation. For example, let’s look at a dozen ways ministers can find themselves driven by ministry, and a change they can make for each one to regain direction:

Broad v. Narrow – Some ministers think they need to be involved in EVERYTHING, or their congregations or elders think they do. It’s easy to spread yourself so broadly that you quickly become ineffective. Tightening that to a more narrow area of activity you’re personally involved in allows for greater opportunity to be more effective.

Big v. Simple – Long ago ministers bought into the myth that “big” is the goal, so their calendars are full of one “big” program after another. But big is not always best, or even beneficial. Making one change to a “simple church” concept means you and the church you lead focuses on keeping ministry simple by committing time and resources to primary ministry that achieves the church’s mission and vision of ministry. To learn more about the “simple church” concept, I recommend the book, “Simple Church,” by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger (you can find it on Amazon by clicking here).

Multi-tasking v. Focused – For years, it was taught that great leaders were great multi-taskers, and “being good at” multi-tasking was something boasted about on resumes and during interviews. After all that push to get people to do as much as possible at once, multiple studies have shown that people actually accomplish more, and produce higher quality work, by NOT multi-tasking but focusing on one thing at a time. This takes greater discipline and effective time management, but you can choose to accomplish a lot of things with mediocrity, or focus on specific things to do them well.

Harried v. Helped – It’s generally thought that ministers “burn out” by doing too much. But sometimes the root cause for burn out is being overtly harried because they don’t have any help. Making sure you have help changes things dramatically. Elders who are engaged in serving the congregation and community with ministerial staff contribute to a less harried ministry. Making sure your church has deacons in place to serve the needs of the church also makes ministry less harried for the minister. Make time to work with your fellow leaders to make sure you have adequate help in place so that you’re not so harried you cannot serve well.

Hurried v. Paced – When you know you’re demanding of yourself more than properly fits into the time allotted, everything you do will be hurried. Hurried ministry is sloppy ministry. At some point, you have to come to terms with the fact there’s only so much time in a day, and embrace delegating that time as wisely as possible – and have peace about doing so. It’s irrational, and anxiety-producing, to expect too much with too little time and/or resources.