by JC Thompson
If there is one principle that I’ve learned since being in preteen ministry, it’s to look at more than just my primary area of responsibility in order to determine effectiveness.
I think as ministry leaders it’s pretty easy for us to get stuck in the “am I being effective at what I’m doing” bubble of analytical thought. But before we realize it, our bubble looks much different, not because of our doing, but because of the “doing” of someone else.
I’ve met some leaders who rather than adjust, blame other parties for “getting in the way,” failing to be aware of my ministry needs, or just being clueless. I think it’s hard to live an Ephesians 4 kind of life, if we continue to look at the way other people haphazardly pierce our beautiful bubble rather than look at how we are affecting theirs.
So, how do we break the habit of being more consumed with ours than theirs?
I think it comes down to one thing: Effective Evaluation.
See, if we are only aware of what is happing in our orbs, then we can’t expect to work alongside others and their orbs, and we also can’t expect for other people to be aware of our orbs.
Preteen ministry has really forced me into this role of evaluation. Because, not only do I have to be keenly aware of what it is that I’m doing in ministry, but also aware of what our elementary ministry (1-4) and middle school (7-8) are involved in. If I’m not, then I could really derail some progress and also tear down rather than build upon the ministry of my fellow workers.
Here is a way of evaluating your ministry from more than just inside your bubble.
Hopefully, I don’t have to voice that your ultimate authority, blessing, provision comes from Christ and His finished work on the cross, but I just did. This principle, however, deals with your boss and for most of us that means pastor. What is your executive team, elders, senior pastor struggling through right now? Are you struggling with that issue as well? With them?
How are you helping to support your leader(s)?
Look in Front and Behind
For me, this is elementary and middle school. For you, it looks different. I know that my ministry is a stage in the faith development of a human being. Your ministry is too. How can we support where they are coming from and prepare them for what they are going to?
It’s easy to get stuck in the bubble and only work on your ministry goals, but by preparing students for the next place, stage, environment, we set the tone that we are a part of development rather than the place of development.
I hesitate to describe it in this way, because our parents and volunteers are in no way “less than.” But sometimes my tendency is to look at ministry from my cliff rather than ground zero. You will lose families if you are leading from the mountaintop but they are having picnics in the meadow. Find out what families need and how you can support them. They are the primary influencers of faith, right?
My favorite conversation to have with church leaders: What is your community like? They can name food places, sports teams, and history, but can they tell you the attitudes, personality, and story that the community is in? It’s much tougher to figure that out. It’s why I love Memphis, Tenn., (where I grew up) and sometimes struggle to figure out Greenville, S.C. (where I live). I don’t have a full grasp on the community.
I truly believe that if we become people that begin to look above, in front, behind, and around rather than just inside we will become not only better leaders but much better members of the community in which we partake. Ultimately, shouldn’t that be our goal?
What is some helpful advice to get out of your own bubble and into someone else’s?
JC is the 5th and 6th grade pastor at Brookwood Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. His second passion is preteen ministry, and he loves to talk about it with other leaders. His first passion is his growing family. JC and his amazing wife welcomed their first child, Cannon, in the Spring of 2012.