Cultivating Ministerial Success by Jimmy Mass

Last Fall I published an article on Cultivating Organizational Success for LinkedIn because I wanted to address limited productivity in the marketplace. Since most of my life has been dedicated to ministry and the development of church and Kingdom leadership it is there where I first tend to notice trends, excesses and fault lines of development. It is in ministry development that I see even more critical need to help address, evaluate, and establish a clear process for identifying and aiding those who make the ministries succeed.  

Proverbs 27:23-24 23 Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds, 24 for riches don’t last forever, and the crown might not be passed to the next generation. (NLT)

Much of what is written or addressed to on the level of ministerial productivity and success for the most part, centers on encouraging senior level ministerial leadership. Many mid-level leaders/servants read or hear this material and certainly receive inspiration of some sort. Yet in most cases it produces little in the realm of “productive” reward for those co-workers or secondary leaders who in many ways “carry the load” to make things happen. I have a heart for the many who serve tirelessly in these roles grinding it out and attempting to produce results for their lead pastors or apostolic leaders.

Having experienced both the highs and lows of both roles, I realized that the key to energized missional productivity is understanding the symbiotic relationship we have with those in our organizations who are called to “manage” and lead the rank and file. There is a reason why the Word of God challenges us to know the state of our flocks and put our heart into caring for our herds—the most valuable of assets in any ministry organization!

The relationship between senior level leaders and their mid-level counterparts is of strategic importance to the health of any corporate ministry structure and yet, it is often overlooked and mismanaged. I would argue that it might be one of the strongest contributing factors to the downfall or short-circuiting of many ministries and local churches. I will attempt to highlight a few key elements of understanding the “middle” in your ministry.

The Buck Stops Here! – It pays to always start at the top when analyzing our bottom line. What are we doing or not doing to both communicate and contribute to our mission? Those on the top rungs of the ministerial ladder often create frustration when they misunderstand their own role. For starters, creating rudderless policies that are not overseen from the beginning to insure success is something we need to think about. Top shelf leaders are often miffed by up and down swings of productivity in their particular departments because of policies that were agreed upon in ministry brainstorming sessions yet are rarely checked on afterwards to see if they are implemented! That as you can imagine is a colossal waste of time and brainstorming. Delegation without understanding, a plan, review and the teeth to enforce—spells disaster for any long-term success. Sadly even the best secondary ministry leaders inevitably get the blame for the lack of oversight that should be coming from the top.  Rarely (as someone once said) do we achieve results from “what we expect—but from what we INSPECT.

Poison in the Well? – Because secondary leaders “manage” the ground operations in any ministry or local church, they have the unique capability to either upend or cultivate productive results.  I have seen where great distrust metastasizes quickly between those workers /volunteers and their senior counterparts because they have been “left” at the mercy of bad secondary management! The converse is also true where secondary leaders’ contributions for stimulating productivity in their departments are consistently ignored thereby creating apathy to continue the extra effort. The bottom line—senior level leadership must be diligent and discerning to know what is truly happening in those departments. The inability of senior leaders to “oversee’ without micro-managing efforts, may very well foment low morale and bad practice and inevitably wipe out the members’ support for the overall corporate vision! The idea that “it will take care of itself” is misguided at best and simply poisonous thinking at worst!

Insecurity Anyone? – The fear of transferring any part of the “corporate wealth” or sharing it with those who serve best can usually stymie promotions for secondary leaders that have grown out of their present league. Whatever happened to our understanding of the how and why of God’s promotion? 

“A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.” (Proverbs 18:16 NASB)

Good jobs should belong to those who perform best with what they’ve been given. Insecurity at the top will always squelch incentive at all other ministry levels. Sometimes the fear of losing a great secondary leader keeps senior leaders from promoting or even congratulating these deserving individuals. This is ALWAYS a recipe for organizational disaster. Wise ministry leaders (at all levels) anticipate and even cultivate upward mobility for those who deserve it and that “culture” reproduces in kind! The best people tend to locate ministry organizations and local churches that know how to care for their own.

Placement Is Everything! – The true worth of hiring or “placing” the right people in the right jobs can never be overstated. In baseball terms, a First-baseman by definition IS NOT a shortstop. Positions are not always easily transferable. Many mistakes can be avoided if we simply provided adequate (and equitable) assessment for “players” who may have been promoted to their failure. Some folks are just in the wrong place and it does them a disservice – not to mention the disservice to your ministry.  Learn how to place people in their best area for maximum results. However, don’t make the mistake of making it a permanent decision that cannot be corrected. In other words don’t just let people fail!

In the end, what we value – we will attend to. What we inexplicably ignore – may very well become what is noticeable for all the wrong reasons. Pay close attention to your flocks and put your heart into the care of your herds!

© 2016 Jimmy Mass /