Starting a New Ministry Position: Five Things I Wish I Had Known

First and foremost, you are here to live freely into the Grace of God and fully manifest the love of God in your own life. Prioritizing acts of self-care regularly and consistently will improve your life, work, and ministry.

Tend to Your Soul

You may believe that your ministry is, as the theologian Frederick Buechner describes, “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” And yet, it is essential to remember that your well of deep gladness can run dry, and the world will always be hungry. Ultimately, God did not put you on earth to perform the enumerated tasks in your job description or the endless other duties as assigned.

First and foremost, you are here to live freely into the Grace of God and fully manifest the love of God in your own life. Prioritizing acts of self-care regularly and consistently will improve your life, work, and ministry. 

  • As is possible, work during work hours and workdays. Don’t work during off-hours and off days.
  • Therapy and spiritual direction can help maintain mental and spiritual health. They can also give spaces to let out work frustrations healthily and in confidence. 
  • Maintain or develop friendships, exercise, and hobbies.  

Get the Lay of the Land

Knowing the history of a ministry and the system of which it is a part is crucial. It will also benefit you to understand the relationship dynamics at play. Lacking awareness regarding these aspects of ministry will not prevent you from doing good work and ministry. But it has the potential to minimize headaches and heartache.  

  • Ask a variety of people what they know about the history of the ministry and the system of which it is a part. Include bosses, colleagues, volunteers, and those who take part in the ministry.  

Picture Success

Ministry is work done in relationship with many people. All of them have a picture in their mind of success. For some, that picture is as well-developed as the best professional photographs. For others, it is as poorly executed as the most amateur of selfies. In any endeavor, a key goal will be to get everyone to refocus so that you attempt to develop and execute the same image of success. 

  • Conduct empathy interviews. These are a tool used in Design Thinking. They are based on the idea that what people want may look different than what they say they want. The intent is to get at what motivates people to behave the way they do and understand how they feel. Why do they participate in this ministry and why do some aspects of programming resonate with them while others don’t?

See the Forest for the Trees

It has been said that God or the Devil is in the details. Theologically speaking, the jury may still be out. Regardless, the way details are handled can make or break any program, event, or idea. However, it is all too easy to get mired in the details. And in these instances, you will let the success of a single program, event, or idea take precedence over the whole ministry’s success. Having a vision is the way to overcome this pitfall.

You want to work with those who participate in your ministry to create a shared vision. You also want to define a vision for yourself regarding how you will help facilitate that shared vision. Doing so will also make you aware of how you feel called to grow and stretch the ministry.  

  • Determine a few pillars of your ministry. For instance, spiritual, social, and service. Categorize programming into these areas and ensure there is a balance or the desired prioritization.  
  • With those to whom you minister, create a vision or mission statement that you revisit often. And assess if programming adheres to it. 
  • As much as possible, connect programs, events, and ideas so they are in concert with each other and make people aware of that connectedness. 

Take Stock

For the first year, you will most likely be reproducing programming from the ministry’s past more than producing new programming. This will prove a blessing. It will help you create a standard by which all future programming can be measured. You can mark what is worth keeping. You can notice that which could benefit from slight modifications. You can see what is untenable. And you can try out a couple of your own ideas. At the end of this first year, do a review and assess what is working, what needs tweaking, and what might be let go. Repeat this process every year.   

  • At the end of the program year, survey those in the ministry. Ask them what programming they enjoyed the most and the least. Give them space to comment on improving current programming or offering new programming or providing any other feedback. Take this information, pray and discern, then recalibrate for the coming year’s programming. 

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