Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church, where I have served as Senior Pastor for the last 12 years, is currently celebrating her 127th anniversary throughout the month of September. We are having a blast with several guest speakers and times of fun and empowerment. I'm sure the parishioners each have their reasons for what makes this anniversary so special to them. For me, it is how our ministry has evolved since 2002. Union Grove in 2014 is very different from the Union Grove in 2002. It is much, much easier to make decisions and find people flowing accordingly. There's much more excitement in the air. People are overwhelmingly glad to be a part of the Grove Zone. It didn't seem that way 12 years ago. Times have changed. Our church has experienced a makeover. I am by no means offering the following keys to take all the credit. Pastors and leaders are very limited in making ministry makeovers actually happen. The people have to have a mind to work and the Lord has to bless the works of our hands. Over the years, I have simply done my part-and still do-and offer what I hope will help you do your part to make sustained ministry improvement a reality.
Teach God's Word. Teach leadership insights, teamwork principles, organizational culture insights, and whatever else you think will help. Some parishioners may label such topics as "worldly" or "carnal" or complain about other things, but keep teaching. I was teaching leadership across the country in churches that celebrated me as if I was the greatest thing since sliced bread. But, was gaining very little traction at home. One leader told me they were getting nothing from my leadership teachings. But, I kept teaching. I would change my approach from time to time and keep at it. And one day, I taught our church on strategic planning during a quarterly ministry workers' workshop and several people said it was "awesome". It almost brought tears to my eyes.
Also, teach through exemplifying what you want to see in your ministry. Be what you want to see in your church. Vision is caught more than taught. Ensure your life, your habits, your demeanor, what comes out of your mouth when you're angry, etc. are consistent with your vision casting sessions and leadership Power Point presentations.
God added increase to continual planting and watering over the years. He can do the same for you. Trust Him and keep teaching.
I learned a lot about effectively serving these wonderful people and I'm still learning. I'm learning the power of asking great questions. I wrote a book about it. I'm learning how to overcome bad habits so I don't work against myself. I'm learning how to manage my anger. I'm learning how to hold people accountable-I hate doing it. I'm learning my church's love language and how to effectively and consistently speak it. I'm learning how to be collaborative in decision-making. It's paying off like crazy! If you're in leadership in a church that needs a makeover, you're probably in touch with what everyone else needs to learn. But, what do you need to learn in order to be more effective in leading change in your ministry?
Communicate the signs of progress you see. I talked about this in another blog post. If you see people trying to flow with the vision, be grateful and talk about it. Ezekiel heard a sound of bones coming together in his vision of the valley of dry bones. The bones weren't a mighty standing army yet, but he acknowledged progress. When someone seems to get it, mention it. Don't mention names, but communicate you're encouraged by those who are trying to make things better.
A sense of humor is a great leadership trait. Keep the humor going. Don't forget to laugh at yourself sometimes, too. There are numerous benefits for you and the people you lead.
Give them time to digest proposed changes and develop questions. I used to spring proposed changes in leadership meetings or congregational meetings only to find them backfire. I have learned the importance of presenting the proposed change in a meeting with a few leaders first and asking, "Who needs time to digest what I've shared tonight before they give it a thumbs up?" Hands tend to go up so I schedule another meeting a few weeks away and open the door for one-on-one chats in between to answer any questions people may have. I have a subsequent meeting and get buy-in with no problem. Some leadership gurus may disagree with the approach I take, but giving people time to digest proposed changes before seeking a commitment to working with me to implement the proposal works like a charm in my context. Find what you have to give in order for proposed changes to work in yours.
Get away from time to time to refresh your mind. Come back to the ministry with fresh wind and fresh fire. Refuse to be too busy to take care of yourself. Vacationing, taking sabbaticals, and days off over the years has worked wonders for all of us. I believe it will do the same for you!
I would pray stuff like, "Lord, I know you didn't send me here to fail." Like, really, I did…over and over again. One Wednesday morning, I prayed like Jeremiah-one of those I'm-gonna-let-God-have-a-piece-of-my-mind prayers. I was really down that morning and prayed holding nothing back. Later that same day I met with a guy at my church who knew nothing about my venting unto the Lord earlier that day. Everything that came out of his mouth addressed and refuted everything I vented about in my prayer earlier that day. It was as if he was in the room listening to me cry out to God. He wasn't there. But, God was. The Lord responded to me and encouraged me through the voice of this young man. He had no clue he was actually speaking as God's mouthpiece. I'll never forget that moment and the two or three other ones like it as long as I live. So, pray and trust God to hear you and respond in a way where He does a makeover on your heart while He does a makeover on your ministry.
May the same God who is granting our church a makeover do the same for you. Be encouraged and enjoy the journey!
Pastor David Anthony Clarke, Sr.