In the next month, I am transitioning from my current life in Tulsa to Cape Town, South Africa. I will go from working with Park Plaza, one of the local churches in Tulsa to working with Africa International, which provides resources and equips local churches throughout the continent of Africa with tools to know Christ and make Him known. In this transition, I am learning a lot of lessons of things I could have done better. I’m not using this as a way to beat myself up, but simply learning from some of my mistakes. I hope these will help you.
When you transition, you are responsible for leaving well. This means you have to diagnose what you have done well, and what you have executed poorly. It is like looking at my ministry over the past three and a half years through a microscope, and evaluating what needs to be done better for the future of 20 Park. Here are some things I’ve learned not to do. You don’t have to repeat my mistakes.
Mistakes Not To Make
1) Lose your teachability. If there is one thing that is key for a leader, it is that you must be a learner. If you think you’ve arrived, you’re shortchanging the people in your ministry. I have worked to remain teachable, but I have had a few seasons where I wasn’t teachable. By the way, if you want to find out if someone is insecure, share some common sense with them, and see how long they can wait before they say something to the effect of, “I know.” If someone always has to have the answers, then you know they aren’t interested in learning anything new.
2) Don’t prioritize. You will always have a lot of good things to do in ministry. If you don’t prioritize what is important, you won’t get it done. You can be busy all the time without being effective. We maximize what we prioritize, but if we don’t prioritize, then every other thing is maximized, and your energy will be minimized.
3) Develop a Messiah complex. Here’s a key mistake I see a lot of ministers make. Start thinking you’re the Savior. You’re not. Jesus is. You will never be Him, so point the way to Him. I think sometimes, the reason a ministry or a church doesn’t take off is because the leader gets in the way. We only do what works for us. If you’re insecure, unsure of people really care about you or not, you might just try to make sure that you know everything going on with every person in your group. You can’t. That’s why you have to train leaders, and ultimately trust in the Holy Spirit. There is no way the 12 Apostles, or the 120 disciples of Jesus were able to know what was going on in the 3000 new Christians lives after the day of Pentecost. It was a Spirit led movement. Teach people to trust in Jesus, not you. He’s always present in their lives. You’re not.
4) Take care of others first. Ultimately, I can’t give you what I don’t have. Jesus is always getting away from crowds to be with God in prayer, or to spend time with his closest 12. Jesus knew the importance of His own relationship with His Father. You have to work on your relationship with God. Yes, it takes work. Every relationship does. I can give you something from God if I’m spending time with Him. If I’m not, I’m going to have a hard time giving anything important to you.
5) Don’t plan things out or communicate well. Keep it off the calendar, and fly by the seat of your pants. A few things: First of all, you don’t want to be last minute in the way you take care of your life. This is not healthy, and eventually it will catch up to you. Secondly, you want your ministry to be about all of us, not one of us. If you want it to be about all of us, then you have to work with other people’s schedules, and communicate well. It is better to overcommunicate than not say enough. If you want everyone on board, then say it. Then say it again. Then again. Put it on the walls. Put the info in their hands. Send emails. Texts. Make calls. If you don’t, who will? You must own the responsibility of this, even if it is tedious, frustrating, and quite often annoying to do these little things.
6) Say “it’s all their fault.” Here is one of the things I’ve come to in the past few days. If I give someone a project to do for our group, and it doesn’t get it done, it is not all my fault. But it is partly my fault. Either I didn’t communicate well enough, set enough boundaries, or cultivate expectations. If there is a problem that has been stewing for the past few months, even if I am unaware of it during that time, I take partial responsibility because I wasn’t communicating well enough to know what the problem was. I do not own the responsibility of the other person or people involved, but I do have responsibility of my ministry, so it is partly my fault, and partly their fault. I have ownership, because I’m the leader.
These are a few of the things I’ve learned. By the way, just because I’ve learned them, doesn’t mean I’ve implemented them. I’m still growing, but working on it. Stay fresh. Work on your relationship with God. Take responsibility for your life, and your ministry. Listen to what people have to say. Communicate well. Plan ahead.