When your ministry team fails...
That doesn't make you a failure!
Part of my excitement for 2016 is the prospect of putting together a God appointed ministry team to move forward with my ministry project www.LTOCZ.com despite the tremendous failures I’ve experienced with building a ministry team in the past. I wanted to write this article for several reasons. The first is because there is such a negative connotation that is attached to the word “failure” that many will overlook the blessings in it. I believe it is important to redefine the word and to accept it as an integral part of growing towards success instead of simply accepting its present negative implications. A second reason is because I owe it to myself and to my ex team members to accept responsibility and have accountability for the mistakes I’ve made and remove any latent resentments or stigmas I may have inadvertently placed on them and myself as a result of the failures. A third reason for this article is because I believe that someone else who is at an early stage of building their ministry team or experiencing challenges within their team can learn from my mistakes and develop the tools necessary for longevity and ministry success. And fifth but certainly not final reason for this bare all is because I want to share the important truth that we can glorify God even when we fail if we are willing to learn from out failures, get up, and start all over again. Let’s talk about when your ministry team fails.
I have studied ministry failure as part of my leadership development coursework at Liberty University School of Divinity (formerly LBTS) and I still managed to walk straight in to some very obvious ministry building mistakes. In retrospect, I should have known better or been wiser than the obvious mistakes, but building a ministry is like engaging in any developing relationship and sometimes we can lead with our hearts and negate common sense and using your head. Building a ministry team requires knowing how to balance your heat and your head. Personally, I made five quintessential mistakes that I believe I learned most from and would like to discuss those particular pitfalls in detail. My five include: 1) Becoming fixated on my desired outcome (inflexibility) 2) Putting the cart before the horse (impatience) 3) Misidentification of character (placing potential before the process) 4) Misappropriation of work and title (making everyone a boss and perhaps my most lethal flaw 5) Inability to respect and accept spiritual age.
These five mistakes all lend in to the other but are all quite distinct. Each of these errors alone can create quite a chaotic atmosphere if left uncorrected but in concert they can not only hinder your ministry but destroy personal relationships. I genuinely thought God had placed specific people before me for the purpose of building a team; what I learned is he placed specific people before me for various reasons that were different than my own. Here is a valuable lesson I learned in the end that I’m sharing with you at this article’s beginning, the most significant way to determine whether your team is God appointment is in its ability to repair; in the event (such as in the case with me) repair was not an option you might have to face “the team” was never intended to be your team from the beginning and was perhaps placed in your path for you to share with and learn from them but not necessarily to build a ministry with them.
1 John 2:19 (NIV)
19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
This article reads backwards to front then leans back again. This is because I am sharing with you the outcomes, explaining what lead to the outcome, and then circling back to what was learned from the experience. Since I’m in the midst of the outcomes and its impacts on me spiritually, emotionally, financially and physically I find it suitable to start there…
How it all turned out (Presently not finally)
I recently received a call from one of my last ministry participants. This member never committed to working with our ministry team. She knew from the beginning better than me that she could not commit and was not developed enough in her faith to meet the inevitable requirements of such arduous work. If I had it my way, I would have forced a position on her knowing that there was so much to do and that she had gifts and talents she was refusing to explore. I received a phone call at work and then noticed several missed calls at home; she was in a manic state of despair and panic. Having given what I could already, I realized early on there was NOTHING I could say or do that would appease her. She was literally unraveled. I was brokenhearted (more honestly ticked and disappointed that after years of counseling and support, in the midst of trouble, nothing I shared stuck).
Circumstances beyond her control left her paranoid, afraid, anxious and utterly inconsolable. By the time I expressed to her that I had done all I could do in my strength by giving good counsel, support and praying for her and that the outcome now lied on her faith and her willingness to trust God in the situation, her response was (and I quote) “I will never call you and bother you again.” I was devastated but not because of her response to me, but because this was the genuine condition of her heart. I felt like a Drill Sergeant who had risked my own life to train her for the inevitable battle and when the battle came, she froze; she stood there and allowed the Enemy to take away all of our training and preparation and never even put up a fight.
I called my husband and said, “And then there was none” and went on to discuss how I watched each team member get plucked out of my life and ministry wondering was it the Enemy attacking me or God graciously plucking the weeds from my garden? I discovered the answer to my question was both. The disintegration of my team was hard to experience but inevitable. Before that final call of this member, I had watched 7 others fall by the wayside; some early on while others I never saw coming but God was with me through it all and for that I am eternally grateful.
The first to leave became offended at a seminar I preached at in which I discussed contemporary norms such as living together as married while unmarried as biblically sinful behaviors. Because she was living in a long standing relationship with a boyfriend and had no marriage plans in sight, she became “offended” even crying accusing me of targeting her with the message and
then saying she did not believe that I spoke for God. I told her what she felt was a spiritual conviction and not literal anger at me but she disagreed. After unfriending me on Facebook, not speaking to me at work, distancing herself from my husband and son (who she also had a loving relationship with) and requesting that I remove her from my e-mail list for upcoming seminars- she remains out of my life (despite seeing each other on a daily basis at work) for about three years now. No one except the two of us knows the circumstances under which our friendship developed. What I found ironic was not the fact that we met under circumstances in which I promised her “I will never abandon or hurt you” (since she was already dealing with issues of abandonment after her mother died and estrangements from her father and brother) or the fact that our relationship up until that sermon was met with daily hugs and kisses; it was the ease in which she was able to do to me the very thing I thought I was called to protect her from. This person’s action against me messed with my faith for months. I was certain God placed her in my life for a reason. About a year after her departure, she did in fact get married. I was never invited or even informed of the wedding. I found out about it at the office when a collection was being taken up to support her (and of course, I gave). Although not my heart (entirely), my faith was restored. I believe that a planted seed of conviction grew into a desire to do the right thing before God. At least in my mind the hurt I continue to endure was well worth it.
The member after that was also brief in stay. This was from the “closest” to me of the bunch. She is the first friend I made since moving to this state and my connection to her was always strongest because she was my first friendship in a foreign place, the circumstances in which we grew close under, and the fact that she was raising daughters and I have sons so I felt privileged by the idea of sharing in their lives. From the beginning, she was fickle. I never found her to be honest with me because even though I’ve known her numerically the longest, I probably knew her the least because she is so well guarded. I fell in love with the potentiality of a friendship but in truth, that never developed. When people are hurt, they are vulnerable. They are willing to reveal the darkest parts of their soul in desperation for comfort and consoling. But once they are healed or even temporarily vindicated they are free to put up walls of pretense and a falsity of kindness that says, “Thank you, you were great but I’m doing okay now so I really don’t need you anymore.”
In essence I believe the only reasons why I insisted that she join this ministry was because she was always so much more in my eyes than she was in her own; that and I didn’t want to be used as a fixer upper and discarded but appreciated as a friend with a vision and my vision was big enough to share with her until she built the courage to develop her own. Nonetheless our end result in ministry was the sum total of our friendship…sporadic. She dropped the ministry (maybe to rejoin in the event we became successful enough) but if there was a vision she would borrow from and support, it would be her husband's. Every day I watch as she is lessened at work by her supervisor and I secretly seethe with anger that she so easily abandoned me, the one who wanted to edify her while pledging allegiance to those who devalue her worth. She says she’s willing to tolerate the job until her girls are older but I always questioned why she couldn’t engage in a Godly pursuit in her place of toleration. The assumption that she is the breadwinner is neither here nor there because at the end of the day, she-believing herself a good steward, places herself last. It is hard to believe (but I do) that the evolution of friendship that did not develop was deliberate. I believe the influence of a genuine friendship would move her when she has found contentment in being static. I pray for her daily to place God first because in doing that her priorities would inevitably shift. There is the possibility that she is “privately” pursuing something Godly and wonderful at which I would still wonder, then why I didn’t rate well enough in her heart to share in that good news? My alleged bestie leaves me with a catch 22- if she’s doing nothing, she is wasting and if she’s doing something and didn’t share it with me, then it’s my friendship that has been wasted.
The next four members parted in interesting pairs. Two were completely invested mentally but could not commit spiritually and two were elders in age so I thought I would never lose them but I lost them most completely. I’ll start with the former.
One of my members was a natural born administrator. She was organized, detailed, empowering and eludes a keenness that makes a person feel more secure with her in their corner than without her. When it comes to having a “partner” her raw talent and big heart made her the ideal candidate. From the moment I met her there was no version of fulfilling this dream that did not include her in it. Her fault (and mine for not seeing it sooner) was that she could not get out of her own way. She was damaged beyond what a friendship with me could repair. An optimist at heart, I believed my friendship, love, counsel and care would be enough. I imagined because we found each other, she would realize her potential, rise to the occasion and we’d make moves and become a force that was undeniable to God’s glory. The imagination can really misconstrue reality and should never be confused with vision! She was off again then on, but mostly off. She returned at one point solely as a friend with a promise to “become a better friend” which only made our last contact so much harder to digest.
Despite my hope, our last conversation revealed her saying these words to me (and I quote) “I always feel worse after speaking with you, I never feel better.” That comment was like a 10,000 lb anvil dropped on my spirit. I had gone back in my mind to replay every conversation we have ever had and do you know what I discovered? I had never once lied to her. My advice was always sincere and true. Whether we discussed weight, goals, placing others before self, finances, or finding a man- I kept always kept it biblical and real. My heart and my intentions were always pure. What I learned is this- my brand of friendship is not always what people want when they are struggling within themselves. They might prefer a pity party because those are at least (temporarily) pleasing to the flesh. Sharing my triumphs-what I did (and how I did it) was transposed, “If you were as good of a Christian as I am, you could overcome your hardships too!” and I couldn't fathom how my love translated to that. She was not the first person to develop an aversion to my deliverance but she was certainly the most blunt and upfront about it. What I do know is this- even in honoring her gifts and talents, encouraging her to be her best, and offering to hold her hand through the hard parts of life, the outcome shared with me was ‘My life feels worse with you in it than out of it.’ Those feelings must be honored at all cost. I realized her duplicity for me indirectly months before when I watched her do for another ministry what she had never done for our own. She invited people to attend, followed up and traveled to a WYC event and although she did administrative work for LTOCZ and attended some meetings, she never invited even her close friends or coworkers to join our growing ministry. She was interested and could see the vision but not committed. I assumed it was a cultural connection she shared with the other ministry but clearly it was even more than that. My hurt with her was not only watching how naturally she connected with a different ministry but it was more so seeing how difficult it was for her to connect with me and this ministry despite the outpouring of my heart.
I partner her departure with another member who although departed at different times, I connect them together because they are closest in age and were friends prior to knowing me. All of the departures left me with various ranges of emotions. Anger and frustration was amongst them in all honesty. With this friend, the feeling ran a little deeper than the others because I could relate to her spiritually anguish the most. In retrospect, I knew what the outcome would be but I hoped against all odds that she would surprise me. This was a co-worker who I worked with for years before she ever decided I was friend worthy. This tight knit, clicky “by invitation only” guard that was put up at work was indicative of who she was at home (guarded, protective and inclusive). I had invited co-workers for years to join me at my Monthly Empowerment Seminars to no avail but a personal hardship in her life would change things between us forever.
My flesh believes her speaking to me from the beginning was an act of utter desperation but my spirit acknowledges that God orchestrated our encounter. She was going through what seemed to be a life altering ordeal at the time but for me it presented itself as a “been there, done that” moment. The details of that event portrait a glimpse of contemporary culture; we have become a narcissistic culture who emphatically believe that bad things shouldn’t happen to good people. Initially, I was shocked by how distraught she was by her circumstance but then I realized the reason why her pain seemed so ludicrous to me was because I had wasted 16 years of my life dealing with the same relational insanity. This one, I thought, would be easy. I figured that since I lived through her pain and recognized every wicked thought and imagination she was going through, I could guide this person to health and spiritual well-being with reasonable ease. Our scenarios were similar in the condition it left our hearts in and if there were anything I was certain of it was the fact that God had not only restored my heart in my relationship with my husband but he had also blessed my marriage. This was information I was excited to share.
Our bond started in the workplace where I would share my personal experience but most importantly, I would listen (and console). It moved into the ministry realm when she started attending the Monthly Empowerment Seminars regularly. She also started attending church and church classes. My relationship with her is why the Apostle Paul warns not to boast about anything except God. The pride I took in her was arrogant. Although I make it a habit never to accept credit for God’s work, I was certain that she was one being lead to God that He would allow me to take a little pride in. In my mind, God wanted me to celebrate her finding Him. One of the most memorable moments with her wasn’t in her brokenness but in her resolve. She wrote articles of faith for the website ministry and they were powerful and life changing to everyone who read them, except to her.
Because she gave a man the power to break her spirit, she got pushed off the path of unrighteousness and sort after a path to righteousness. This made me an automatic champion for her relationship and a little bias in my heart’s desire for their reconciliation. You see it was the pain he put her through, not me who actually bought her to God. I was just a conduit along the path. That made me secretly grateful for what he had done to break her. That made him special to me too in a way. As in many cases, it took the threat of losing him for her to find God. I knew she was on a new path by the reactions of people in her old path. A mutual friend and co-worker could hardly hide her jealousy (for lack of better expression) when she started to not only speak redemption but to actually walk in it.
I remember her asking this co-worker to just read one of her articles because she was feeling so strong and empowered and our mutual friend simply refused to read it. A distance developed between them but it was a good distance because it had the potential to draw the other person in. This team member held the power to not only transform her own life, but to transform the lives of so many people around her but instead, she quit and stop writing before that could ever happen. Today they are all “back” to their normal. She is back to her old self.
I had nearly forgotten that in my own scenario I had gone over a decade doing things wrong because I kept praying for my life to “go back to the way it was” and each time, it did. It took years for me to realize that the way things were was dysfunctional and I had to trust God with creating something new and different. The very definition of insanity is expecting a different outcome when you engage in the same behaviors. So in my case, my husband and I would break up and make up over and over again. My life with him became a rollercoaster of insecurity, fear and doubt and it brought me to the brink of committing suicide until I allowed God to change my heart, not just temporarily make it feel better like it felt when things were right.
I watched first as she stopped going to church, then the church classes, and then the seminars were done. I listened as her verbiage came back to the person I knew at work but hadn’t yet met and I couldn’t stand to watch even from a distance. I moved my seat at work believing the separation would help but it didn’t. I know first-hand the consequence of misusing God who is as consistent as He is merciful. Her brief time working in the ministry revealed things I found even more disturbing. Initially, I perceived her as unknowing but willing to transform once the truth was revealed; but the depths of her articles showed that she was well-knowing and deliberately choosing the life she created for herself over the life she promised to Christ. I watched her give her heart to Christ and then snatch it back from Him once she believed it was her man who deserved her heart most. She didn’t trust that she could have both; that in staying faithful to God, He would make her paramour become a better man, a better father and the husband only God could make him. She got what she needed from God (and me) and now holds us both on standby “in case of emergency” and that never ends well. I did that before and the outcome nearly destroyed me. I didn’t want our relationship to become a series of warnings and waiting. I didn’t want to constantly remind her of how she felt, what she said, and the commitment she promised God because she already knows. She is living her life what is known in psychological terms as with eyes wide opened which I believe causes resentment in me because I went through hell and back having no one to guide me.
The Lord himself led me to His Word and in opposition to my family, the church, friends and society I took the Jesus route. I had never felt so alone in my life and would have given anything to have had what I tried to be in her life. I began to take her decisions personally because I felt God had extended mercies towards her I had only dreamt of and she rejected Him twice; once having been led to His church, His Word and His resources to walk away from it all and a second time in leaving my ministry and ministry team. Today, I stand beside her with love and trepidation. I do so as a person standing in a lightning storm next to someone holding a metal conduction pole. I sincerely don’t want to be in her path when the lightning strikes which speaks volumes to the quality of my friendship. I’m a coward. I don’t want to witness what is coming. I didn’t like myself back then, I didn’t particularly like her before either so loving her today is the equivalent of seeing the worse in myself every day and having to learn to love it. I never learned how to do that but I guess i'm learning how to do so now through her. Again, this is only my perspective and there could be things happening in her life like a new church, a new ministry, and new Godly service she is engaging in that I know nothing about but that would only make me wonder- then why didn’t you care enough about me to let me in and share in that good news with you? There is a theme developing of which I detest being the core - how easily discarded am I?
The final pair is a challenge to write about because their scenarios is still raw. I must start by stating that both have revealed a “weakness” in spirit that I allowed to be overshadowed by the wisdoms I expected that came with their natural age. That is to say I could learn so much from them through their experiences that I overlooked the fact that despite being my physical elders they were both immature spiritually. I’ll start with the eldest. She is a searching and seeking Catholic who has fallen out of love with Catholicism and wanted a real connection with God. Her loyalty to my ministry was probably the most pronounced because she had presumably experienced more denominational sermons than the rest of the group combined. She had prayed for my prodigal son and was always an easy one to talk to. In having division from my own mother I held a respect for her that was honoring to my own mother. She made me believe that God never takes away or removes without putting someone or something else in place; just as Job in losing so much gained even more. She believed, probably most, in my ability to preach. As someone who was well read and well versed in the Bible, she acknowledged my gifting at teaching beyond the others. She was faithful to the ministry meetings, faithful in making announcements in our local newspaper to invite community members the Monthly Empowerment Seminars, and would attend events with me whether ministry or community based.
This member was by all rights a quintessential friend. Ironically, the second eldest never believed so. She reminded me often that my loyalties to all of the members was “too much” and that I placed myself in the position for hurt and disappointment when I made excuses for others and didn’t anticipate their worse. It was she who reminded me that the eldest didn’t feel the same way about me as I did her. The eldest would confide in and reveal to others what she didn’t share with me and I was reminded of my naivety (like staying up past midnight attempting to submit a resume, praying incessantly for employment and lobbying at my workplace for her to get hired for her to get the job and not tell me about it) by the second eldest who I believed (then) always had my best interest at heart. I could never tell whether the second eldest was jealous of my relationship with the eldest or protective of me but either way her friendship was territorial and that became problematic.
Getting back to the eldest, she revealed her spiritual age during a period of unfaithfulness. She had grown depressed, impatient really and wanted to secure a full-time job so that she could pay her bills and move nearer to her darling daughter and grandchildren. I can remember how dark those days were for her. She was short, uneasy, distant and a little cold in those days but in her mind, justifiably so. She did secure a full time job and still complained and showed a level a discontent that was (from my vantage point) unjustifiable. I remember thinking “Did anything in any of our meetings stick even a little or is our meetings a simply a reason to get out the house and share coffee!” She graced my family by spending Thanksgiving with us and it was in moments like that I allowed myself to believe, she was more than I friend and had become my extended family.
With all of our time spent together whether in seminar, at Hershey Park, at a Democratic dinner, having brunch, at my house sipping wine or visiting a church together my outstanding memory of her is hearing these words, “Be a good Christian! Be a good Christian!” As I write this now if I had tears left I’d probably cry because if there were any words I would NEVER expect to hear from that particular pair of lips, it would be that. She had been my biggest supporter and validator of my Christianity through ministry but in placing herself dead center in a workplace dispute that had nothing to do with her, she took a firm stand against me. Let me be clear- with all of the love I expended, expecting absolutely nothing in return, had I somehow become the world’s worse Christian, I still would not expect those words from her! I would expect to be rallied around, prayed for, loved on and forgiven but declaring me a bad Christian I could not easily forgive. Taking it back a step further this declaration stemmed from interference in a scenario which had absolutely nothing to do with her in which she felt necessary to defend the second eldest against me. The irony in that is well known.
Finally, the second eldest was perceived my best friend but it was beyond that. In honesty, I could never be friends with her. She had a way that made building a friendship with her complicated. She has habits like pointing her finger in your face and an inflection in her voice that is sometimes off putting making it hard to know whether she is angry or okay. It has been my experience in working with her and from the words and reactions of other people around her that she is often misunderstood and people will rarely get close enough to her to find the blessing in knowing her; so I did. I couldn’t love her as a friend though. As a friend I would take offense, find fault and be combative too frequently for the friendship to survive so I almost immediately adopted her as my family. With family, we are always more flexible. Quirks and idiosyncrasies become acceptable and endearing. From the day we met at work she declared that the people in our work environment were unfriendly and treated her with contempt from day one- so I decided right then that I would be the exception to the rule she was experiencing. She too became a regular at the Monthly Empowerment Seminars. Whether she got something out of them, agreed or disagreed I don’t know but she was reliable to show up and was consistent in my life as any other cousin or aunt would be.
We have had our fair share of disagreements. Some of them pretty rough but the end result was always the same; with time, ‘this too shall pass’ and we’d become okay again. I believe that because she had witnessed and disagreed with me for overlooking and letting go of the way other people treated me that I would do the same for her but her betrayal was more treacherous than theirs. Not because of content (you have read that I have been able to endure a lot) but because of the hypocrisy in which it happened. After years of hearing how I make excuses for others and let others get away with too much, I’m too trusting and too gullible, etc. she treats me the exact same way if not worse. It wasn’t the fact that our disagreement came at a time when I was physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted and going through a traumatic time at home while trying to get through work and school; it wasn’t even the fact that she made false accusations against me while declaring that “I never think I’m wrong” which is a pet peeve since my ministry is based on me sharing my mistakes and owning them. It was the fact that my needs never once came into the equation. With whatever I had become to her, she proved she could care less about me. There was never even one ounce of concern for me as a friend, as a person and certainly not as family. I was once again dispensable in not serving someone else’s needs. In a workplace dispute in our lunch area, she needed attention and to be acknowledged. In that need and because of all I was experiencing personally, she made me angrier than I had been in my flesh since getting saved. The temptation to fall out of God’s grace was on me. I knew the best possible response was distance and space (and lots of it). That decision was met with such reproach that she and the elder went to management at my workplace not once, not twice but on three separate occasion against me. Glory to God all allegations against me were unfounded but I struggle with the audacity to bring charges against me.
The significance there is not the pettiness or immaturity of tattling to management it’s the loathing that is held towards management which in turn states, “I loathe you even more than I loathe management.” In one case, the two elders went to management against me together. I never received any form of reprimand in fact, I was encouraged and informed how I could retaliate but do you know what hurt me the most? It was management’s response. His response to me was (and I quote), “I thought these people were supposed to be your friends… and the one who just started, didn’t you ask management about hiring her?” How is it that someone who never spent one moment with me personally, had never been to my ministry or in my home was able to know the depths of my caring more than the people who were receiving it? How could he recognize what friendship should have been and not the people who were not only supposed to be my friends but had engaged in the most intimate detail of my life with me in sharing in my ministry? In every instance their actions were reactionary meaning in their hearts they believed I deserved to hear and received what they thought of me; in my mind, I could never have deliberately or otherwise ever have caused the pain I received…I simply loved them all too much.
I needed you to see the outcome and note the highlighted areas because they show some major mistakes that I made in the midst of all of this. Now of course, this is my perspective and I will post any and all replies received from members who want to reply but when the Enemy enters your camp, he comes to rob, steal and destroy. I could not share with you the mistakes I have made or the lessons I have learned without first drawing a picture as to the severity of the current condition. Also, in showing how detrimental the condition, God can most fully get the glory in the final say which is His outcome.
My mistakes were personal, professional, and spiritual. Regardless of how things presently stand, I firmly believe that each person was God appointed to teach me a lesson and perhaps to learn something in return. Now let’s return to how this all translated in to my ministry and building a ministry team. Earlier I mentioned having made five pivotal mistakes and I’d like to discuss them now. Again they include: 1) Becoming fixated on my desired outcome (inflexibility and impatience) 2) Putting the horse before the cart (an issue of decency and order) 3) Misidentification of character (placing potential before the process) 4) Misappropriation of work and title (making everyone a boss and perhaps my most lethal flaw 5) Inability to respect and accept spiritual age.
1. Being Fixated on the Outcome
When God places a vision in your heart, you will become fixated on bringing that vision to fruition. That is a normal part of the process; what is not normal is believing that you will have a vision and get to the vision by shortcutting the mandatory steps in between. God placed in me a desire to use multimedia to place Him back into the hearts and homes of Americans who are clearly multi-media driven by nature of technologically progressive culture. Starting with the development of an online Christian magazine seemed an obvious choice with the plethora of negative websites available making a plethora of counter websites a necessity. Sharing this vision with this particular group was easy because each of them had “revealed” a practical gift or talent that was being squandered and unused during our time together. I saw an equation that by all accounts rang obvious; talent + dream= overnight (and inevitable) success. The expectation of this outcome lent significantly to our groups demise.
In this area, when your building your ministry you must part particular attention because the compliment gives way to the insult. That means, you see so much potential and believe so fully in your groups capability that you develop impatience and inflexibility never allowing them to develop into what you know they can be. I am guilty of this. When building your ministry team the most important thing to do is abandon your own timeframe and allow God (exclusively) to set the pace. Impatience is undermining to faith. Nothing that is done in haste is done right. We wouldn’t want to move into a house that was built quickly with cut corners or feel secure driving a car rushed off the assembly line to mass produce and save money; in the same way we should want to rush developing important relationships especially those binds which are appointed to service others. A rushed ministry is as dangerous as a faulty house that can fall down in a storm
or a car whose tires can fall off turning around a bend. The ministry team is indicative of the ministry and if it is compiled of broken trust, broken relationships, hidden resentments and overwhelming tensions then that is the call card for your ministry.
Thank God for your vision and hold firm to the excitement and enthusiasm of developing your ministry and ministry team but pace yourself and enjoy the process. Remember a truer equation would look more like God+ +HIs will+ gifts and talents+ vision +patience +prayer +failure +perseverance + faith+ planning+ sincerity+ humility+ opportunity= inevitable success in God’s timing.
2. Putting the Cart before the Horse
I can hear my parents cautioning me about the mistake of putting the cart before the horse which means essentially, the right tools out of order are inoperable. This could not be truer when it comes to developing a ministry team. Again, sometimes the energy and excitement of a great idea can breathe impatience. Impatience is a sure fire way to make critical and unnecessary mistakes. Developing means to undergo the process of development; to grow and to evolve. One of the biggest mistakes I made was that I wanted the flower before planting the seeds. Sometimes, when we plant a garden, we can become so anxious to cut the flowers in bloom to put them in a vase that we negate the need of the seeds, the soil, water, sun, air, roots, stems, and the time to grow them. This is very similar to the first mistake but also distinct. Just as doctors don’t perform surgery and then go to medical school and contractors don’t build a house and then draw a design, there is a natural order of things that I disrespected when I attempted to build my team. God requires that we conduct ourselves in decency and in order but impatience creates in us a disorderly conduct. In my ministry, I wanted executives who weren’t trained, I wanted leaders who weren’t taught leadership, I wanted outcome without the patience for proper input and it became unyielding. As you develop your ministry and ministry team remember the importance of planning and preparation. Don’t just chart your desired outcome but chart options and ideas for how to achieve them. Allow room from growth and development such as through training, schooling, mentorship, and advice. Pacing yourself is the best way to determine whether or not you are in proper alignment or placing the cart before the horse. In the event you are out of order, don’t get discouraged. Simple take a step back, put your ministry and team in prayer, and start charting a realistic and reasonable course to re-embark on.
3. Misidentification of Character
Misidentification of character is potentially the most costly mistake that one can make in developing a ministry and ministry team. There is an old adage that says, “When someone shows you who they really are…believe them.” There is a lot of truth to this statement. My problem is that I see beyond what is front of me. I see potential. I also have a habit of taking what people say literally. So when a friend tells me that they have goals of becoming the black Suze Orman, I’m ready to invest in business school, secure a recording studio, make flyers to fill a studio audience and be the first to receive the good financial advice being shared with me in mind. I’m a ‘doer’ not a ‘stand around and wait indefinitely until someone else takes my idea or until I change my mind’ type a person. It is important to let people not only tell you who they are (by way of identification) but to honor and respect who they are and how they know themselves to be (by virtue of present quality of person).
Each encounter shared in my present outcome was not a surprise. Each person not only revealed to me their quality of person, they further requested (by action, deed or request) that I respect it. I persistently told them they were not in fact who they told me and revealed to me they were but that they were instead who I hoped and desired them to be. This is a detrimental flaw! I believe it was Dr. Myles Munroe who said, whenever you don’t respect the true nature of a thing you give that thing the power to hurt you. Remember the story of the lion trainer who trained his lion from a cub and the lion later attacked him after years of performing together in harmony? Just because the trainer took that lion out of its environment, trained it to be what he wanted, and relied on it to become something new-it never stopped being a lion. A lion by its very nature is aggressive and has the potential to attack and kill. That is part of its innate, God given quality and yet, the trainer saw something else and now he is dead. The point here is not that people can never change; it’s that you can’t truly change people. People are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and when you try to change them you will always find yourself contending against their true nature. A better thing to do is to learn and respect who a person is; offer good and Godly counsel for transformation and allow God to do the rest.
4. Misappropriation of Work and Title.
This is one of those mistakes that you don’t realize how damaging it is until your knee deep in error. I found out because I was starting an unconventional ministry in the form of an online magazine and from te start it was deadline oriented and deadlines were never met. Each member was assigned according to their gift and talent. The ones who revealed themselves a gifted writer, was asked to write, the one with experience in editing was entrusted there. For the ones who didn’t know there gifts, there was the flexibility to discover it. Since we were new and developing there was flexibility to play and grow by trying. What I did was give everyone equal responsibility, having equal authority and then held them equally accountable for when we failed. The outcome to that was a mass releasing of everyone. I believe parents are guilty of this with their children; they see their children’s potential and immediately hold them to the task of overreaching it.
Sometimes, as parents, we can forget to put in to account mitigating factors that prevent such immediate results. Sometimes there are social, emotional, cultural and even physical obstacles our children are working through which keeps them from giving their best at that time but all parents see is laziness, not trying hard enough and unwillingness to thrive which can create irreparable damage. This is the case with my team. I held everyone to the standard of their potential and totally discounted all of the mitigating factors which included lack of training,
misunderstanding of the projects objective, lack of faith in themselves and me, and their personal lives- all which played a tremendous part in what they would be able to produce. When developing a ministry and ministry team titles are unimportant. The idea can make you feel like you’re being productive and that each member is important but it can also place undue pressure on people who are not ready to be burdened to the degree a title holds. My advice in this area is cultivate, cultivate, cultivate! Individual time and attention to each member will allow them to grow independently and with confidence! Instead of insisting that your member assume responsibilities they are not equipped to handle; train them to become capable of handling responsibility when the timing is right.
5. Acknowledging Spiritual age
Spiritual age and physical age are often different. Just as it is ridiculous to place a toddler in a college lecture hall and expect the child to receive any knowledge or be able to share any knowledge it is equally ridiculous to place a person with a young spiritual age in the position of responsibility for a spiritually mature person. Not all people will be at the same spiritual place at the same time. This was a jagged pill to swallow when building my team because I placed everyone at the same level spiritually when the range of spiritual age was diverse. The problem with doing this is the child in the lecture hall…picture a parent tossing their 10 year old the car keys. There is a reason why children don’t drive. They are not physically, mentally or spiritually mature enough to drive. Driving requires response, knowledge of rules for the road, quick reflexes and a capacity to respect the law. The consequence for giving a child keys and placing them the machinery of a car can be death. Not only could the child hurt themselves, but they now how the power to hurt or kill someone else. This is what building a ministry team and not acknowledging spiritual age is like; giving someone the power to hurt or kill themselves or others.
As I mentioned earlier, despite all that I knew I choose not to know. Everyone doubting- I made faithful, every insecure-I made empowered; I literally attributed the opposite age to each person to my ministries (and my own) detriment. This was another act of impatience on my part. In my processing, if 1+1=2, there is no need to pull out a calculator, consult mathematicians or find mathematical text; it’s elementary. This is how I shoved Christianity down the throats of my teammates. It was elementary to me. Our discontented lives + Jesus= Redemption. I wanted them to fast forward through their process and get to the obvious answer especially since I was their cheat sheet. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that we. We each have to journey through our own physical and spiritual age. Newborns no more brush their teeth than a new Christian counsel other new Christian. I not only placed people in a position of authority and expected them to be in service to others, I did so with complete disregard of their ability to do so. Luckily, the only casualty in my irresponsible behavior was my pride and feelings. (For a full article of Spiritual Age visit the archives for the article “What’s your Spiritual Age”)
When I started writing this article, I expected it might be a page or two. I did not expect to compose a fourteen page journal but I’m glad I did because you can learn from my mistakes and missteps. God is sovereign. He doesn’t make mistakes and He has the power and authority to fix the mistakes we make. One of the first things I’ve learned is that this ministry does not belong to me; it belongs to God. God has given me the vision so I know He will all make the provisions to bring His ministry to fruition. As grim as it may seem; I still have love, peace and faith in my heart. Each and every person I have detailed I maintain genuine love for today. I apologize to them for any pain, confusion or conflict I have caused them. That was never my intentions.
I’ve learned that learning doesn’t end unless you shut yourself off to the lessons. Regardless of how difficult the lessons or the homework, you only get wiser from the diligence to the work. Another lesson I’ve learned is not to take other people’s feelings so personally. If I were to internalize how my team members felt about me, I could never show my face in public again. I’d have to sulk in a corner and accept failure as the end result. This is simply not true. God allowed me these failures to perfect my love for Him. Through this pain I have turned even more completely towards Him. I have rededicated my heart and confessed my sins. Failure is an opportunity to do things differently the next time around. Mistakes that I have made had such a strong impact on my life that I am dedicating time and energy to share them with others so that they can have the option of whether they want to make the same mistakes I made, or make brand new mistakes of their own. I want to thank each person who dedicated their time and came to seminar, shared in my ministry, showed belief in my capability to share God’s Word and shared in my internet ministry vision. My heartfelt prayer for you is to know that I have loved you with all that I had and as a imperfect person serving a perfect God.
For those of you who are building a ministry and developing a ministry team, I pray that you will allow God to take the helm and walk in patience, love and faith. Without those things not only will your ministry not succeed but you may lose relationships along the way as I have. Not everyone who leaves your life should stay and not everyone who stays should be there. Let God tend to your garden and when He pulls the weeds don’t replant them. It has been my experience that when God pulls the weeds from your garden He is making room for the seeds He planted to grow. My hope for you is that your faith, friendships, ministry and ministry teams grows as a beautiful and fragrant bouquet to His honor and glory.
Thank you for reading