Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint
When it comes to skills I’m pretty aware of my strengths and weaknesses: you need a people person with great social skills? I’m you’re guy. You need me to meet a deadline? I can do it, even under pressure. You want me to put a parachute together while still in the air (metaphorically that is, as these feet never leave the ground)? I’m up for the challenge. You want me to think through the details of an event? I guarantee I will forget something.
I am simply not a detail-oriented guy. Yet, in recent months I’ve received some compliments about my organizations skills which I always find a little funny. I don’t think I have any. But I guess I’ve grown in this regard. Still when planning is needed in ministry I tend to utilize way more brain space than I believe is common. It just takes me too long to think through important details. The other day I came up with this helpful little list of things to think through when planning for ministry and it’s proving to be a pretty helpful little tool in helping me prepare for ministry. Because I went to a Baptist seminary, I made sure to beat the crap out of the ideas with the alliteration stick (I would’ve gotten an “A” if this was a class assignment, guaranteed!):
Of first importance in any ministry setting is to think through the group of people you are hoping to minister to with said ministry. Is this to mature existing disciples? Seek to make new disciples? What about age-ranges? Is it for adults? College kids? High school? Other factors could also be important. Like different cultures or classes or sub-cultures of people that you are hoping to reach out to in ministry.
After all, it’s people (as opposed to programs) that are the blood of ministry. Ministry is, in fact, people. So ask yourself, who is affected by my ministry or specific event/program?
Once you know who it is you want in your sites, you can plan when the best time to get their attention is. Maintaining a good calendar is essential for effective ministry (this was a hard lesson for me to learn). It’s easy to over-book yourself. But this isn’t about you, it’s about others. So if you’re blessed enough to be called into vocational ministry, you have to work your schedule around the convenience of others. Meeting with working men isn’t easy during lunch hours, but during sports season getting a pint might be easier. Reaching high school kids is impossible during school hours, but after school their availability opens up.
Ask yourself: when should I do this ministry? What month/week/day is best? Also ask, what other dates are coming up that I need to be prepared for. From there, you should plan the content that the ministry will consist of.
*Closely related are Deadlines. Keeping with the “D” grouping, you want to make sure that if you tell someone you’ll do something by a certain time you do your best to honor that. This is common sense enough that I’m not giving it its own headline though.
By data I simply mean the content of the ministry. If you focus on Peter’s personality throughout the Gospels, you’ll often notice he is the first to speak up (and you might cringe at his foolish zeal). In Peter we see a young leader, he’s quick to rise above the others, but he doesn’t always know where he’s going to take them. Learn from Peter. Later, in his epistles, we see a guy who no longer speaks just to hear himself. He’s condensed the important things into two short letters that often repeat the words, “I write this by way of reminder.”
What data do you want to share in your ministry? What words from God will you bring to invest in those you seek to disciple? What is the message or vision or mission you want to distill in the minds of those you’re ministering to? This may happen in a direct or subtle manner. Sometimes our ministry is simply relational and may not include a direct proclamation. Ultimately, this is for you to decide. But again, learn from Peter and be ready:
in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect
(1 Peter 3:15)
Not only do we want to make sure we’re prepared here, but we want to make it second nature. Make sure you can own it. In order to teach others, we really have to own and possess what we want to teach. Often, we think we know something and then find out when trying to share with someone else we didn’t know it as well as we thought we did.
At this point you’re off to a good start with having everything ready for a successful ministry (whether it be a one time event or an ongoing ministry). Now you’re ready to get down to “brass tacks.” This is the part where I get convicted of how unqualified I am to speak on this matter. Here you simply must run through the list of every major and minor thing that has to be considered and thought through in order to make sure the ministry is best serving people and getting them on the same page. We want things to run smoothly and we want to minimize needless distractions. Don’t gather a group of high schoolers for a Christmas party only to realize you only have enough pizza to feed half of them. Don’t be that guy! You also don’t want to be the guy singing a song in front of the church with slides for another song on the screens. This is where you solve these sorts of problems, you think through details.
If I wasn’t qualified to speak on details, then it is doubly true for dollars. I hate the concept of money. Mostly because numbers are boring to me and money limits a lot of things visionaries and dreamers can do. Nonetheless, ministry requires money. Love it or hate it, you’re not going to accomplish much if you don’t have resources to invest. Ministry never makes money, but it spends a great deal of it. Someone has to figure out what you can accomplish with what you have. Or (maybe even more importantly) someone has to figure out how to get the money you need to accomplish what you’d like to achieve. You must ask at some point: how much will this cost? And figure out a way to foot that bill.
Since I’m not qualified to talk on this subject, I’m incredibly thankful for a financial team at my church who works with me on this matter. This actually leads right into the next thing on my list…
**Also not worthy of its own headline: when it comes to budget you can also consider looking for Deals (I have the spiritual gift of alliteration). I often check Groupon/Living Social/Local Flavor for ideas for youth ministry and stock up on these things to maximize my church budget while serving the most number of kids. I have a bajillion gift cards for ice cream so I can take anyone out at any time and only spent about 25% of monetary amount of the cards I have on this. That’s maximizing our resources for the Kingdom! (While I’m on a roll here, you can also Dicker with people about prices and some places…ahem, Chick-Fil-A…have Discounts for church events and ministries.)
Dining and Drinks
Here we simply ask the question: will food be served at this event? If so, you’ll need to navigate these tricky waters. Get a head count and plan accordingly. One of the other pastors I work with, Mark Sweeney, intuitively points out that if you have one slice of pizza left at the end of an event you bought exactly enough (having none would mean someone might still be hungry, having 2 whole pies means you bought too much). But the rule is always good to have too much as opposed to not enough. Jim Gaffigan has made a living drawing attention to Americans and their love of food. If you want someone to show up at your ministry event, you might want to consider feeding them. Gaffigan notes that even Jesus had to entice his disciples to come to his “Last Supper” by making sure it was a supper and not an “address.”
So ask: are we serving food? How many people do we expect? What are we serving? Are there any allergies? How do I accommodate allergies? Are the supplies sufficient? Do I have utensils/silverware/napkins/plates etc.?
Perhaps most important of all though, is to figure out how to get others to share in this process. Once we know how to do effective ministry, we want to invite others into it as well. I’ve heard it said that you should only do what you need to do, and get others to do all the rest. This is ultimately part of Discipleship. Once we have a few tricks up our sleeves for effective ministry we should be giving everything away. If you’re doing everything not only will you likely burn yourself out, you also risk not making a Difference. Going back to the idea that it’s important we really know what we want to teach, likewise when it comes to leadership and making disciples, we want to become experts in ministry so that we can raise up other people and give away everything we have. For ultimately it all belongs to God anyway. Don’t let your ministry die because your vision didn’t include incorporating others in it.