You know how to tell a really good ministry leader? Look for a person who will seek to serve you into your Kingdom calling and renewed spiritual health before trying to use you to help complete a ministry objective or fill a program opening.
I have been in churches every since a kid. One thing that I have strongly disliked are the various ways that ministry leaders use slight of hand, false adulation, guilt, friendship, and even God to keep the ministry machine going. I have met many current and former church goers that feel the same way. Jesus would likely feel the same way too.
Check out this little ministry insight from Jesus. He said, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them” (Luke 11:46).
Some might think that I missed the exegesis on this because Jesus was talking about interpretation of the law and the rules for living a godly life. And while that is true, I believe Jesus would apply the same principle to church or ministry leaders that use people as a means to an end without really taking the time to help them with their life issues and spiritual growth.
If you are a ministry leader, stop to consider when was the last time you honestly sat down and asked how the key volunteers are doing. Are you praying for them by name on a regular basis? Are you intune to their life enough to detect if things are not going well? Do they feel like you have an open door policy?
This issue of volunteers and paid staff in churches came up during a conversation that I had with a friend about things that are going on in his church.
I don’t believe that people who excessively use and abuse volunteers in churches do this with any intentional malice. Mostly, they don’t even realize they do it. And if they did, they might think it is okay because it helps grow God’s kingdom. Or at least that is what they tell themselves.
Many of the culprits are ministry addicts that feel other church members should be just as dedicated as they are. They may not be aware that their own lives are out of balance and a poor example of spiritual wholeness.
This enthusiastic leader may say, “So and so is a little burnt out right now. We’re just giving them some space.” This sounds spiritual until you realize that the ministry leader has not changed his/her methods. The leader has just gone on to fresh meat.
We have to realize why people do this and address the idolatry and sinfulness beneath it.
Quite honestly, many of us as leaders need to regularly take inventory of those under our care and repent for our mishandling of their time, talent, passion and lives. I am including myself in this little address because I am just as guilty as the next guy. I have asked people to do things in the past that I knew was not a good idea because I needed someone to do it.
It takes a mature pastor to be willing to kill some ministries for the emotional, family and spiritual well being of the flock. Most are not willing to go there.
Ministry leaders must stop using fellow Christians like they are Kleenex. People are not disposal. You can’t just use one up, throw them away and then get another. That is not how God does things. It certainly is not how His Church should operate either.
God created every person in His image with value and a purpose. If you burden people with stuff to do that does not fall into their purpose, you could actually be causing them to disobey God all the while you are convinced that you are doing a godly work.
I will never forget one of my leaders who addressed this issue in my life. His name is Rev. Billy Dempsey. He was my campus ministry at Missouri’s RUF outreach. He met me one day to discuss a problem that he saw.
Billy came to my apartment and said, “Chaille, You seem to be overly committed to a variety of ministries in the community. I have been talking with a couple other leaders who have noticed the same thing. Your overcommitments are causing you personal harm and making you ineffective in your ministry efforts. You can’t do everything son. You aren’t Jesus and even He didn’t do everything by Himself. I would hate to lose you as a leader because you have a lot of potential. But I would rather see you go than continue on this path. If this become a pattern in your life, it could harm your reputation and more importantly your relationship with Christ. You need to take some time to pray and listen to see what God has told you to focus on and what to let go. I’ll love you and be your friend no matter what you decide.”
The fact that I can remember so many details from a conversation that took place eight years ago shows just how much of an impact it had on me.
Are you that kind of leader? Are you following that kind of leader? If not, there is no time like the present to throw away bad ministry habits and start over.