Prior to surrendering to the call to ministry I spent 5 years in manufacturing logistics working for a wide variety of companies. I have worked for both small family-owned businesses and I have worked for a major corporation. Both taught me a lot about leadership and management.
*Let me throw in my disclaimer here. I am by no means and expert and most people who read this will be like "DUH!", but for me I have to constantly remind myself of these things and hopefully this will help whether you are in ministry or business.*
Here are 10 of the best things that I learned which help me do ministry:
1. Family First – our primary responsibility is to minister to our family. It is crucial that when we leave our occupation we leave our work as well. I have heard both Dan Reeves and Andy Stanley say that the job we do will be handed off to someone else but we will be the only dad and husband in our family. So when we are with our family it is imperative that we are fully with them. In addition, in leadership we want our employees and volunteers to keep their families first, but if we don’t live our own lives that way we cannot expect them to either. If we do not make our family our first ministry we will not be fit to minister to anyone else.
2. Organization is crucial – whether studying major manufacturing or a made to order processes there is one constant in world-class companies, everything has a place and everyone knows it. Organization also includes having organized processes for everything being done. Everything that we do should be designed so that anyone who comes in should be able to know where everything is and how it is done immediately. Good leaders can leave and their organization will survive, but great leaders leave and their organization will thrive. Organization is crucial to this. Ministry depends on volunteers and a lot of them. If we have an organized process with organized materials and supplies we are setting them up for success in the ministry they are serving in.
3. The devil is in the details – does it matter that an assembly line worker knows the proper torque to put a lug nut on in an automobile factory? Absolutely. The same goes for ministry, the more details we have and plan ahead for, the smoother our processes will go and the better stewards of time we will be. In ministry it is imperative that all the details have been thought through. It is crucial that when I lead a group of students on a mission trip that we have the day planned out to the minute. Why? We take them on the trip to grow in their relationship with Christ and if we want to be good stewards of the time God has given us everything we do must drive to that purpose. Also, meetings need agendas and we need schedules. Although minor details, it is a proven fact that meetings with agendas are more efficient. Finally however, there is a point where details become a time burden. Know this limit.
4. Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more – regardless if it is intended or not the level of communication a person receives has a direct correlation to the value they feel. When people are included in the communication they feel valued, and when they are not included in the communication they feel de-valued. One key to remember is never assume everyone is clear on the matter. If there is any doubt communicate again. My motto has always been over-communicate. Make sure everyone who needs to know is clear, and evaluate if your communication is effective. Whether doing ministry in a small church or a multi-site mega church communication is critical to the effectiveness of its ministry. Its quite obvious that this is one of the most important things in my humble opinion.
5. Do everything with excellence – my dad always taught me that if a job is worth doing it is worth doing right. We have a finite amount of time on this earth and if whatever you are doing is using that time and your energy it is worth doing right, the first time. In addition, as a leader if you expect your people to do everything with excellence and you are not; the wrong example is being set, and the work will reflect it. It has been said that history always repeats itself, the same goes for leadership; whatever you do as a leader your people will repeat. Ministry is kingdom work; our goal is and should always be excellence every time in everything.
6. Love your people, not just what they do – this is one of the most important things I learned in business. The greatest asset any organization has is its people. While people are there to help us complete a goal they are still people. Know their families and mourn with them when they mourn and rejoice when they rejoice. Ask them how they are and mean it. Another key thing I learned was when leading people help them set goals. We all have a goal, even if it is to “ride it out” until retirement. Help them set goals and help them put plans in place to reach their goals. Ministry depends on volunteers, and we love and appreciate them; not just the task they do.
7. Numbers matter – this one is controversial. Hear me out. When I worked in business we had a metric to measure every facet of our business. Efficiency, quality, engagement, etc. and we knew how to measure them. We set goals based on what we were seeing. It did not matter how good I thought our quality was improving if the numbers did not reflect that my feeling was not reality. Numbers reflect reality. Numbers in ministry reflect people. Therefore we need to set goals and the goals have to be measurable. That being said there are many important facets of ministry that cannot be measured by numbers, but they do matter.
8. Earn Respect, don’t expect it – as a leader we walk into situations where we need to be respected. While it is easy to assume that everyone will respect you because of your title people will respect you greater if you take the time to earn it. First off, know the jobs you are over. Understand what their responsibilities are and how they are supposed to be doing them. Secondly, spend time with the people and watch how they do the job. Do the work, help them with the hard stuff, and don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get dirty. When a leader takes time out of their busy schedule to do work and know the job from experience the natural response is respect. In ministry it is imperative that we know and understand the things we need our people to do, and come along side them while they do it.
9. Be decisive – if the above are done and you as the leader know your people and their jobs and have their respect you should be well prepared to make any decision that you are faced with. People want to follow a leader who is willing to make a decision quickly. Two things happen when we are indecisive; first off it wastes enormous amounts of time. We all face decisions everyday and if we spend 3-5 minutes contemplating every decision, we can end up wasting hours each month. From my experience 95% of the time the initial decision will be the same decision made after contemplation. The second thing that happens when we are indecisive is that it shows a lack of confidence and ability to the people we are leading. If we want our people to take chances and evolve in what they do we have to be confident and show it. Ministry is no different, there are decisions that have to be made every day, and we have to be decisive.
10. Be flexible – we are all going to make mistakes. One of the greatest hindrances to evolution in business processes is the fear of the response a leader will have when a new process is tried and fails. Don’t react negatively when someone tries something new and it fails, rather praise him or her for trying and challenge him or her to make it better. In addition, one of the few things in life that is constant is change; and plans and processes change. They also can change and change back. Be flexible and lead through the change, never against it. Ministry is always evolving while the gospel never changes. Be flexible in how ministry is done but never give on the truth of who Jesus is and what he does. Don’t let pride get in the way of trying a new idea or process, be flexible and willing to do new things to reach new people.