Cuss Words in Ministry: “I think we should…”

Before you get mad at me, let me clarify the title. I love suggestions and people giving input into how we can do things better, be more effective, possible new opportunities, etc. The fact is, I’m just not creative enough to think of a lot, so I always ask for feedback from people involved in our ministry. Some of the best and most fruitful activities we’ve done came from not-me. And I’m so thankful for that.

But what makes this a cuss word is when it looks something like this:

Person X: You know Scott, I think we should really do __________.

Scott: That sounds like a great idea, how would you feel about taking that on? I’ve got a lot on my plate right now and don’t know if I can stretch more, but I’d love to give others the chance to take the lead.

Person X: Oh no, I didn’t mean that. I just think this is something we should do.

Scott: (Fighting back obvious frustration and the desire to allow flesh to come out) Just pray about it and if God really lays it on your heart, let’s talk about it.

I’ve sat through numerous meetings when people said “I think we should really do _____, but I don’t want to be the person who does it. I think someone else should do it.” In the words of my Centrifuge camp director back in 2004, “If you think someone should do something, guess what. You’re the someone.” That’s nothing but passing the monkey to someone else’s back, which doesn’t do anything except make for very awkward meetings. Empowering ministry isn’t throwing arbitrary suggestions out there and hoping someone else does it, that’s another form of laziness. Empowering ministry is taking suggestions, matching them with people’s passions, and allowing them to lead and grow and learn and multiply themselves.

A big reason this can be a source of frustration is the calendar is typically outlined a year in advance, around a multiplicity of factors including the school calendars, other church events, significant student ministry events (camp, retreats, DNow, etc.), and intentionally keeping the schedule un-cluttered to keep from continually pulling families apart. Adding things to an already busy schedule can sometimes be counter-productive. That said, I have been known to cancel things and replace them with suggestions that come around that sound better.

Another reason this is a cuss word is that mindset doesn’t develop and multiply leaders, it simply continues a reliance on “professional” ministers to do the work. Ephesians 4 lays out the task of pastors, to equip the saints for the work of ministry. My greatest joy as a pastor, and longing as a developer of leaders, is to multiply my life. Here’s how that works. Let’s say an idea comes across to adopt a nursing home in our area. Great idea. Option 1 could be for me to handle the contacts, do all the work setting up dates, make the trip to Wal-Mart, recruit other volunteers to assist, and ultimately take students there. Option 2, on the other hand, allows me to find a student who has a passion for ministry and pair them up with an adult who can help with planning, logistics, making the phone calls, and meeting regularly with me for prayer, accountability, encouragement, and such. Then on “game day” everything is lined up and I drive the bus since I’m on the church insurance, but the majority of the work has been done by two others. Guess what I do next, I have those two seek out two more to help with follow-up and make it a regular ministry effort. Now I’ve got 4 people involved in being instruments of grace. I’ve got a couple students (who don’t know this yet) who will be planning a couple events and who will be helping me plot out our mission trip, and some adults I’ll have help them. Why? Because I want to see people grow as disciples and leaders. Sure, I could do all the work and get it done, but I’ve not done the greater work of seeing others involved.

Here’s what that’s looked like very recently. I did very little oversight except check-ins and “veto power” for our student ministry’s Hanging of the Green. I had another adult take on the music along with a student called to ministry, and gave another maturing student the task of making the drama side happen. I sketched the outline of the service and contributed ideas, but left the majority of the work to them. In the end, I think it was for the best. We multiplied leaders, allowed others the opportunity to serve, and had several new faces get involved who next year can step into leadership positions. I’m not bragging on myself, far from it. More accurately, this is how great they were able to do with me out of the picture.

A third reason this is a cuss word is that it can quickly breed a culture of negativity. Critique is helpful and necessary, but unchecked you can end up like the two grumpy old guys from the Muppet Show. Churches as organizations are very fragile, and negativity works like a cancer to kill momentum for goals. Always looking around at what’s not being done and saying “Someone should do _____” without actually doing something does nothing to forward the mission of the church. Instead of being the public herald of what needs to be done, do this. Prayerfully seek wisdom from church leaders about these needs, and ask if there’s someone in the church who could take on this ministry. Maybe it’s Person X who brought it up, maybe it’s Person Y who isn’t plugged in anywhere and has obvious gifting for this area. Now what the pastor, Person X, and Person Y are doing is multiplying themselves for the work. They’re creating a coalition of people praying, growing, and working together for a common task. Instead of dumping it in the pastor’s lap or expecting “someone” to do ______, legwork is being done and leaders are being developed. Person Y is being developed to make disciples, Person X is learning to lead, and the pastor is able to devote more time to prayer, preaching, and equipping.

So to conclude, bring suggestions! Bring ideas! Bring innovation! Bring new, because change is helpful for growth! As a pastor, I crave for people to come with new ideas to reach our community and make disciples. But more so, I crave to take those people and equip them and help them grow and multiply themselves for the Kingdom. I can speak for many pastors, this would be a delight to our souls to have people willing to be used for great things. Instead of “I think someone should do ______” come to it asking this: “I see a need, who can I raise up and we together meet this need?”

Tomorrow’s cuss word will come from Daniel Kinkade, Student & College Pastor at First Baptist Murray KY!

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