As a ministry consultant I’ve travelled all over the United States and heard pastors say all kinds of things that just aren’t true. As a pastor I must sadly admit that I’ve said and thought some of these things myself. Here are a few examples.
“Small group campaigns don’t really produce long term fellowship and/or disciples.”
“Small group coaching doesn’t work.”
“Online church and online groups are ineffective.”
“Multi-site ministry is not ‘real’ church.”
“Video preaching isn’t effective.”
All of these statements (and others like them) are things we as pastors sometimes tell ourselves so we can feel better about our own feelings of failure and insecurities.
Let’s face it, too often we’re looking for an plug-and-play system or a magic bullet for our ministries. As a result we often look at things that work for others incorrectly and do one of two things: 1) cut and paste it ineffectively into our own contexts, or 2) we verbally bash it. Sometimes we do both.
Verbal bashing is a leadership cancer and all I’ll say about it for now is this: pastors, don’t you hate it when your people complain about your ministry? Don’t give them a negative example to follow by being a complainer about other people’s ministries. If you’re gonna get caught saying something, get caught saying good things about other ministries. ‘Nuff said.
Simple cutting-and-pasting is poor leadership because it assumes that things should be easy. Don’t ever think that way! Ministry has never been easy, it’s not easy now and it’s not going to be easy. We have a spiritual enemy who is committed to making ministry hard. Furthermore, we live in a fallen world. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden work has been tiresome and difficult. Effective leaders don’t look for magic bullets.
Rather, they apply themselves more fully to solving the problems in their ministry strategies. Remember, there are no perfect systems. Every system has problems. Pick your approach and stick with it for a long time. Stay committed to addressing the problems of your system rather than complaining about them. In leadership, resolute focus over time always trumps quick fixes…ALWAYS!
Resist the urge to quickly write a critical epitaph saying, “Here lies a bad strategy.” Instead, do a gut-wrenchingly-honest postmortem of your own leadership and intensity. Instead of making definitive statements when something doesn’t work, good leaders ask personally honest questions. “Why does this work for others, but not me?” “Did I honestly put every ounce of effort I could I to this?” “How could I have led or executed better?” “How can I do this better next time?”
Here’s how to do things better next time: rather than criticizing or copying what seems to work in other ministry contexts, we should study those things and ask WHY they work. This journey leads us the principles behind the practices. When we understand principles we can discern how those principles apply in our own contexts, and make good leadership choices as a result.
Discover the WHY behind the what. Seek to know the principle behind the practice. Then apply resolute focus to creating solutions over the long haul. When we do this we find much more in ministry to rejoice about and far less to complain about.