What I’ve Learned So Far…

photoIn my short time working in ministry, I have learned a few hard lessons. These are things I was probably told before I started, but you never really learn something until you learn something. Ya feel me?


Not only do I believe these are valuable to working in ministry, but just about any place where you are given the reigns of leadership and yet still work with a team. All that being said, here are seven things which have become abundantly clear to me over the last few months…

1. Perception is reality.

What I mean is this, if someone you’re working for/with perceives something to be true, for them, it’s their reality. Not really fair, is it? But it’s true. If there is a member of your church or youth group or team or business who doesn’t feel cared for then it’s very real for them that no one cared for them. Now, you have probably experienced this. As a matter of fact, I’d be willing to bet you are thinking of a situation right now and more than likely you are running down the list of things you did right to convince the other person their perception is wrong.

I’ve been there, and so have you. But what if, instead of stiff arming them with “what you’ve done” why don’t you listen and change your tactics? It’s hard and altogether not fair, but when you’re working with people, things get messy. And they should.

2. Be a team player.

If you ever hear yourself saying, “that’s not my job” you’re not being a team player. If the team wins, you win. Go out of your way to help other team members. Stay longer. Get there earlier. Take on an extra task.

And you know what, do it even if they never offer it back. Because like I said, if the team wins, you win, and so does everyone else.

3. Be teachable.

Plain and simple; leaders are learners. Never stop learning. Ever. You can learn in just about every situation, whether it’s learning what not to do, or how you could have done it better. I believe there is value in sitting down with your boss and hearing all of what he has to say and processing it all to become a better leader even if everything he is saying you believe to be wrong.

On the flip side, I can not be teachable and have a stiff neck and just keep doing the things I’m doing. After all, if you want the same results you’re currently getting, keep doing the things you’re currently doing.

4. Protect your vision.

For those of us in ministry, this one is especially hard. Everyone has an expectation. Parents. Students. The lead pastor. They all think you should do ministry a certain way. As a matter of fact, managing expectations may be the hardest part of working in ministry. And as you all probably know, it’s easy to drift to the loudest voice in the room.

But here’s the deal, you have the inside track on how God has called and equipped you to do ministry. Find people with similar vision, who get what you’re trying to accomplish, and ask them to be your guardrails. Ask them to keep you straight and true in spite of what everyone else is saying. Protecting your vision keeps you sane and makes sure you are honoring what God has called and equipped you to do.

5. Know your strengths.

There is freedom and power in knowing what you’re good at and where you have gaps in leadership. Determine what kind of leader you are and lean into those strengths as best you can. A pitcher for a major league baseball team are very rarely hit a lot of home runs. They know they are pitchers and they do everything they can to be the best at pitching. It would be sideways energy for them to practice anything else. The same is true of your leadership skills.

What kinds of things give you energy and fill you up when you do them? What kinds of things irritate you and drain you? Taking steps to figure out where your niche is means you’ll find satisfaction in what you’re doing and decrease the chance of experiencing burn out. And besides, you can always delegate what you aren’t good at to someone who’s better than you. Being ambitious outside of your gift set is arrogance.

6. Create a culture of affirmation.

Affirming those around you makes them feel like they are winning. Tell the people you work with how you appreciate what they’re doing and how they are helping your team win.

This one is so hard for us as leaders. Somewhere in the back of our mind we think affirming what someone else is doing means elevating them above what we are doing. However, creating a culture of affirmation not only creates positivity on the team, but also unlocks some sort of hidden potential in people to be more than they currently are. Give it a try.

7. Lift up the name of Jesus. 

All throughout the Bible, where Jesus was lifted up, people seemed to gather. I believe with all my heart, the same should be true of us in ministry. It’s so hard to look at the number and the giving statements and then compare them to what the next guy is doing. It’s easy to get lost in the emotion of creating the “next best thing.” And while gathering momentum, building cool buildings, and having the sweetest student ministry may get people in the door, it won’t keep them.

When we make much of Jesus, things happen. People’s lives are changed. Churches begin to grow. Spiritually healthy people give sacrificially and they want to give hours of service.

People will be more compelled to follow when they are on board with the mission of Jesus rather than the catchy mission statement your church created. Without Jesus, nothing we do has legs to stand on.

So, these are the things God has been doing, teaching, and working out in my heart over the last few months. I’m sure there are a billion things I could have put in this post, but these are the ones currently relevant to my circumstance.

Thoughts? Any to add?