Recently, my church celebrated its 10th anniversary. To an outsider, this may not seem like a grand feat. Many of you may think, “They’re babies, a decade is nothing more than a blink of time in the grand scheme of things.” You’d be right. However, in those 10 years, we’ve seen our church grow from 16 individuals in 2006 to 22,000 in attendance last weekend. It seems unfathomable, really. We’ve come a long way, and yet, we have so far to go.
As the children’s director of a church that ministers to more than 4,000 families every weekend, I often get asked how we stay on top of everything and yet continue to push the ministry forward. I would love to tell you the answer is simple. Unfortunately, there isn’t a formula I can plug into Excel that will spit out our next maneuver or strategy. I wish there was. We’ve made so many mistakes, taken so many missteps; we probably should all be out of jobs. So why are we still here? Why, despite many failures, have we been allowed to keep pressing on? There’s one reason: We’ll do anything and everything to engage kids and empower families so that people far from God will be raised to life in Christ. That goal can only be accomplished when the commitment to God’s calling on our ministry exceeds our fear of CHANGE. Ministry is messy. What worked once, may not find success in the future. What appealed to your congregation last year, won’t connect today. I believe success is measured in units of willingness.
Here are three questions to help you assess your willingness and measure your dexterity in ministry.
Are you willing to try?
My pastor often says: “Don’t give me the flashy or the trendy. Give me someone who tries too hard any day of the week. I want a team of people who try too hard.” No hero was ever made, invention come to fruition, product sold, victory won, dream brought to life without effort. But TRYING in ministry is more than the effort expended preparing a lesson or straightening a classroom. Trying often means considering the absurd or committing to the illogical. Trying is about intentionally setting yourself apart with your nimbleness. Ask yourself, are you willing to go to any lengths, try that which may seem impractical or harebrained to impact the families to whom you minister?
Are you willing to push?
I clearly remember sitting in brainstorming meetings where the solutions to the problems we were facing seemed ridiculous to the point of stupidity. Even so, we were willing to push through the obvious or in some cases, the expected, in the hopes we might stumble upon the unexpected, the strategy that might take hold in a way that could only be anointed by God. So many times we fell on our face. So many times the families we minister to and our volunteer teams looked at us as if we had lost our minds. We clung to the vision God had given us, stayed true to our purpose, and pushed. We pushed the envelope. We pushed the status quo. We pushed until we found something that worked. We will always push. PUSHING is advancing. I never want our ministry to stop advancing. Ask yourself, are you willing to push to the point of irrationality to see God move on your behalf?
Are you willing to fail?
Michael Jordan, legendary NBA player, once said: “I missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. 26 times I was trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Your next level of ministry may be only one fail away. Missing the mark is only done in vain when you fail to see the wisdom gained through the experience. Are you willing to take the hits that may come with time wasted, money spent, and ideas that flop before they fly? For every success we’ve found in the children’s ministry at Elevation, we’ve experienced 10 failures. We were willing to endure the fall-out of short-term failures to see a ministry with resilience. Ask yourself, are you willing to shake hands with disappointment to land the contract of a lifetime? Are you FAILING regularly? If it’s been a while since you experienced setback, it’s time to evaluate your willingness to try, push, and fail.
In ministry, CHANGE is a constant. It’s always coming. You’re one breath away from a new cultural phenomenon, a trend that will sweep the globe, a technological revolution, a political overhaul, a generation who not only accepts change, but expects it daily. Your successful navigation of that change will be determined by your willingness. Are you willing to try? Are you willing to push? Are you willing to fail? My pastor, Steven Furtick, once said: “You can make friends with mediocrity and complacency and find contentment. Or you can make friends with frustration and do something about it.” Are you satisfied with the results your ministry is experiencing? If not, make friends with frustration and then go do something about it. Be WILLING to do whatever it takes to fulfill the calling God has placed on your ministry.
Jessica Bealer has been leading children’s ministry for 14 years. Currently, she oversees standards, systems, and atmosphere for the children’s ministry of Elevation Church. Jessica is a mother of three and published children’s author. She is married to Frank, the Family Pastor at Elevation, and together they are the founders of Lead e3. You can find reach her on Twitter.