12 Things Every Ministry Leader Needs to Do

Ministry leaders need some task orientation. We have things to do and jobs to accomplish. While our activity comes out of who we are (see my previous blog on “12 Things Every Ministry Leader Needs to Be”), ministry certainly involves action.

But action without direction leads to frustration. So what are we to be doing as ministry leaders? Here are my thoughts on 12 things every ministry leader- regardless of the specifics of the ministry- needs to do.

1. Vocalize the vision. Ministry leaders have the responsibility of telling others where the ministry is headed and what the ministry can become. Some ministry leaders actually originate the vision (church planters, for example) while others are the primary vocalizers of what the ministry is all about. Leaders must often tell others where they are headed and invite them to join them in the journey.

2. Lead healthy change. Every ministry and every church faces change. Change is inevitable. Leading healthy changes in ministry is a critical task for leaders. They need to know what to change (and why) and how to make those changes in healthy and God-honoring ways. No change leads to stagnation. Unhealthy change leads to chaos. Healthy change leads to effectiveness.

3. Model the expectations. Ministry leaders cannot help but be models and examples. What they do- even more than what they say- sets a tone for the ministry. Want others in  your ministry to be evangelistic? Be evangelistic. Want others to be servant leaders? Be a servant leader. Use words to set expectations. But be an example of what you want from others as well.

4. Make difficult decisions. “The buck stops here,” said President Harry Truman famously. Leaders are the ones ultimately who make the hard decisions. Good decision makers get counsel, of course. They base decisions on sound information, of course. But sometimes a decision has to be made. That is what leaders do.

5. Enlist and de-enlist. One of the biggest jobs for many ministry leaders is enlisting people (often volunteers) to participate in the ministry. Finding, training and encouraging those participants is critical. And, there are times when volunteers or staff are in the wrong place for their gifts, or, perhaps, their behavior is unacceptable for ministry participants. Occasionally, people have to be moved or removed from their position.

6. Connect with staff and volunteers. The care and feeding of ministry staff and volunteers is an important part of most ministries. Those overseeing the small group ministry of a church need to be trainers and encouragers of their teachers. Personal connections with volunteers both encourage right behavior and discourage dissension and poor performance.

7. Connect with guests and newcomers. Having been a visiting guest at churches, I know how important it is to have someone warmly and intentionally greet me. Pastors and ministry leaders need to understand the value of intentionally connecting with guests. Set the example for others in your church by being friendly, not just to your friends, but to those who are guests. Be kind, interested and empathetic to those visiting your place of ministry.

8. Prioritize the priorities. Leaders tell others what really matters. By what they say, do and reward, leaders tell others what things are truly valued. Ministries can easily become focused on secondary issues. Leaders are always reminding others about what matters most.

9. Calm the turbulent and stir up the complacent. Wise leaders calm overreactions and misunderstandings. They learn how to lovingly confront when necessary and to do so in kind and helpful ways. But they also know the danger of complacency and they stir up those waters. They want both unity and passion. The combination of those two characteristics is powerful.

10. Define the win. How does a ministry know if it is successful? How do volunteers know if they are doing what they should? Leaders define that victory. If they want the ministry to grow, they celebrate growth. What they talk about, celebrate, encourage and model helps others know what is expected of them if they are to accomplish what needs to be done.

11. Organize for effectiveness. Organization, or lack thereof, can help or hinder the long-term effectiveness of any ministry. Become overly mired in bureaucracy and you will move at a glacial pace. Be disorganized and you will miss opportunities. Healthy organization allows ministries to thrive and expand.

12. Go after people for God’s glory. Good ministry leaders are active, not passive. They don’t just talk about outreach, they reach out. Intentionality about reaching people trumps meetings to talk about reaching people. Too many ministry leaders are passive in this area. Actively going after people matters. And, long-term effectiveness happens when it is done for the right reason- to glorify the Lord himself.

Ministry is about action. We don’t just talk ministry, we do ministry. Ministry leaders have something great to do and something big to accomplish. If you are a ministry leader- a pastor, teacher, men’s or women’s ministry head, youth leader, etc.- understand what you are to do and God will do his great work in and through you!

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