Misconceptions about local church ministry often result in ineffectiveness, disappointment, or even conflict.
A misconception refers to something we don’t see accurately, or our perspective is in some way skewed.
For example, a common misconception is that leadership in ministry is reserved for a few highly gifted and deeply spiritual people. If that were true, a lot of us wouldn’t make it.
Still, I hear far too many say something like, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly be a spiritual leader; I’m just not qualified.”
You can see the danger lurking in two directions.
First, that perspective suggests that spiritual leaders are something greater than they are, which can result in placing them on a pedestal. Second, that thinking creates an easy escape from what God may be calling many to do.
Local church ministry was never designed to create ministry superstars or the spiritually elite. Yet, we can all name a few highly gifted leaders, and I’m grateful for them, but the truth is that ministry leadership was designed for very ordinary followers of Jesus who are willing to serve.
The many ministry misconceptions that exist can hurt any leader’s ability to lead at their best, or lead with joy, or both.
This post focuses on identifying just a few misconceptions and adds some practical thoughts that will help you lead better.
7 Ministry Misconceptions:
1) Ministry is predictable.
There are some predictable patterns of human behavior until, of course, someone surprises you. Then predictability is out the window.
The great limitation of ministry is that we must lead from what we know.
The high anticipation of ministry is that the Holy Spirit helps us with what we don’t know.
With all we understand about human nature and leadership principles, there is more in ministry that is unpredictable than known. This is true for a variety of reasons from the rapid changes in culture to the unpredictability of sin nature.
The best approach is to have a solid grasp of your biblical principles, ministry values, and leadership philosophy. Essentially, that means to know what you believe.
When your convictions are strong, and the unexpected happens, you are not caught like a deer in headlights. Instead, you are ready and capable to respond.
2) Ministry can be finished and complete.
Those who love clarity and closure often struggle in ministry.
Ministry comes undone, and it’s never finished. You can “disciple” someone for months or even years, then they experience a faith-related setback, sometimes of serious proportions.
There is no end to things such as recruiting people, raising money, and designing Sunday worship experiences every seven days, fifty-two weeks of the year.
One of the reasons that hobbies are healthy for leaders in ministry is because they are simple, clear and you can enjoy them in bite-sized pieces.
You can go for a motorcycle ride, and then it’s done. You can play a round of golf, and then that game is over. I can play my guitar, then put it back its case. There is no putting ministry back in its case.
Leaders who do well for the long haul in ministry are comfortable in a very fluid, changing, and adapting environment.
3) Ministry is more effective in either a big church or a small church.
There are somethings a small church does better than a big church, and the reverse is also true.
We need both. Ministry is ultimately about people, not programs.
The ability for smaller churches to excel at a personal touch allows them to make profound impacts in people’s lives.
The larger church can reach more people, with multiplied influence, but ministry isn’t measured only in numbers, it’s measured primarily by changed lives.
One person is thrilled with the ministry a mega-church offers, and another person is overwhelmed by it.
While large and small churches excel at different things, neither is better. As long as each church focuses on the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are all on the same team.
4) Ministry always feels spiritual.
We quickly learn that ministry does not always feel spiritual. Sometimes it’s nothing more than – “it’s been a long day.”
Sometimes you are doing very spiritual work, but it doesn’t feel like it, such as working on the church budget. However, the ministry of good stewardship is deeply spiritual.
At times the routine of ministry can cause the spirit within us to fall flat, one of the many reasons to remain consistent in your prayer life.
The dangerous times are when ministry doesn’t feel spiritual because it’s not spiritual. It’s altogether possible to build a church in the flesh, and it’s in these times we pray a trusted friend will speak truth into our lives.
5) Ministry reaches more people when you offer more ministries.
More ministries do not translate to more people.
In fact, the opposite is often true. The more diversified your ministries become, likely, the more diluted they become.
The majority of churches that practice a consistently lean and simple ministry typically reach more people.
6) Ministry can solve all the problems it’s asked to solve.
At first glance, this misconception can seem so foolish, why would I even include it? Because believe it or not, there are so many people who attend church who have this very expectation of your ministry.
A person experiences their pressures, they are hurting or have a problem they can’t solve, and somehow, immediately the church is held responsible.
So, let’s consider reality, it’s not possible for any church to meet every need, even if someone gets upset or threatens to leave.
It’s in these moments that its vital for you to know two things.
First, what are your current ministries (don’t just add one on the spot) and the ministry capacities your church can carry?
Second, are you prepared to accept that someone might leave rather than overload your ministries and volunteers or jeopardize your health and well-being?
These are tough questions because you care about everyone, but you knowing your answers will strengthen your ministry.
7) Ministry can slow down while innovation takes place.
Working on your ministry, not just in your ministry, is still a smart idea. However, this concept was often practiced by taking some time off from a particular ministry, or at least slowing it down, to improve it.
Those days are mostly gone.
The speed of culture and corresponding speed of change no longer allow us to “R & D” a ministry then launch it. We have to innovate, improve, and even launch all new ministries while continuing to make progress.
Ministry innovation today is much more like working on an aircraft carrier while at sea and in battle than while docked in the harbor.
What ministries are you improving right now? What ministry innovation are you excited about?
My prayer is that identifying these misconceptions can help your church become more effective.