Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What is holding you back?

I invite you to do a little exercise.  Write out a list of the three things you do in ministry that bring you the most satisfaction and you feel are vital to the success of your ministry.  Once you have that list, make a similar list of three things you do that deplete your energies and add little to your overall ministry.  Which of those three things on the second list do you feel prevents you from being more effective in what you do?

As you look at your lists I would imagine the first one brings a smile to your face.  These are things you enjoy doing and most likely are ministries for which you are especially gifted.  When you are able to work in those areas of ministry you feel relaxed, refreshed, and competent.  The second list probably didn't make you feel as well.  You may look at these as "pay the rent" activities.  You would avoid them if you could, but chances are you can't.  Some things just have to be done, and if you are a solo pastor it is often up to you to do them.  The third one is the real problem though.  Maybe as you looked at what you wrote down for the response to my final question you nearly became ill just thinking about having to do that again.  You see that activity as a waste of your time and efforts.  You may feel incompetent to do it, but even if you could do it well you question whether it would be worth the effort.  There just doesn't seem to be much reward for doing it.

The Pareto Principle tells us that we achieve 80 percent of our success through 20 percent of what we do.  It seems to me that if we want more effective ministries we need to be doing less and focusing more on the 20 percent that is paying dividends for our efforts.  What can we do about the three things on our second list, and even more importantly, how do we eliminate the one thing we identified that really has a negative impact on our ministry effectiveness?

As leaders we have two options.  We can either live with the way things are and continue spending valuable time in activities that have little reward or we can address the problem and find a solution.  Assuming the first option isn't appealing, what are some ways we might address the problem?
  1. Delegate.  Even in a small, bivocational church everything should not be done by the pastor.  If we want to be more effective in our ministries we must learn to delegate some things to other people.  However, don't delegate a task to someone just so you won't have to do it any more.  Instead, find someone who is more gifted in that particular type of ministry and allow them to take that on that responsibility.
  2. Eliminate.  I find many smaller churches would like to simplify their structure and eliminate activities that are no longer effective, but they aren't sure how to do so.  Within the past couple of weeks I've had this conversation with a church leadership group.  I reminded them that some of the things they needed to address probably made sense twenty years ago when they began, but that doesn't mean they are still needed today.  You may be able to eliminate the activity.
  3. Evaluate.  Is there a better way to do this thing you don't enjoy doing?  Could it be combined with some other activity so it did produce better results?  Is this particular ministry something you really need to learn more about?  Through that learning you may find out that it really is something that is important to the church and to its ministry which means you will need to put more focus on that ministry.
As you consider these potential ways to address the problem you identified don't forget the criteria I have for asking the question in the first place.  This is an activity you have identified as something that is keeping your ministry from being more effective.  This must be unacceptable to you.  Your resources are limited - time, energy, finances, etc. - which means you must be a good steward of each of these.  You cannot afford to spend time doing things that are not productive to your ministry or to you personally.  The time wasters and energy drainers must be addressed so you can remain focused on the ministry God has given you.

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