I am honored to lead the Resources Division at LifeWay and serve with a team of leaders who are passionate to serve the Church in Her mission of making disciples. Each Wednesday, I share the heart behind one of the resources our team has developed and give an opportunity for you to register to win a free copy of the resource. This week’s giveaway includes two registrations for LifeWay Worship’s WorshipLife Event 2018 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Mike Harland, our Director of LifeWay Worship, wrote this post.
I’ve noticed something through the years. Not a single church that I had the privilege of serving decided to close when I left. Somehow, every one of them was able to go on. And may I add, they’ve even had the nerve to flourish after my departure.
The truth is none of us are indispensable. There was someone leading before we came and there will be someone else after we are gone. And as sure as the sun keeps coming up, the day will come when we will leave the stage.
We are all interim.
Okay, call me “Captain Obvious.” But I’m not sure most of us approach our work with this reality clearly in mind. If we did, it wouldn’t be such a shock to our system and the people we lead when change happens.
Ministry leaders have a wide range of responsibilities that demand attention, but somehow there is one that evades many leaders as the days turn into weeks and months and years. Make no mistake: It is our responsibility to prepare the ministry we lead to flourish without us.
Over time, make sure less and less totally relies on you.
It takes time to do this, especially if you are leading a ministry that is changing. But over time, develop leaders around you who can take leadership roles off your plate as you focus on new opportunities. In the healthiest of situations, you may even have the joy of preparing your replacement.
Develop healthy relationships with the people you serve.
Very few people should have an emotionally dependent relationship with you—your spouse, your young children, and perhaps no one else. Yet sometimes ministry leaders create a mutually dependent team that feeds more off of the leader than on the spiritual nourishment that only comes from God. Mature leaders learn how to spot this and work against it. You want your team growing in their dependence on the Lord—not on you.
Give opportunities away.
Your skill set may be such that you really can “do it all,” and you might even be the best person to do it, but even if that were true, you can’t let it happen. Find ways to give responsibilities away to the people you are developing—for their benefit and development and for the purpose of a healthy future for the ministry that one day will be without you.
Nurture the right kind of spiritual health.
Be honest with yourself: Where does your joy come from? How do you find meaning and purpose? If it is in the ministry you provide to others, you will struggle with doing any of this. They will take your ministry from you when they “pry your cold dead fingers” from around it. Your personal spiritual health is informed by your ministry but shouldn’t depend on it. Your personal, growing relationship with the Lord has to flourish independently of your daily activity of service in the church. Bible study, prayer, personal worship, and service—all should be part of your life independent of your work in ministry.
Ask this question: “If I lost my ministry role today, what kind of spiritual health would I still have in my personal life?” If there is no space between the two, then you have some soul-searching to do. Your identity can only be found in Christ, not in what you do for the church.