In my early ministry days I served in a church as the children’s pastor. It was a load of fun. We did sermons and age appropriate group discussion that was way ahead of its time. We made it up as we went. It felt like summer camp every Sunday. And it was real preaching, but with more live acting out the texts.
(I still feel some remorse for the guy I asked to be Mary’s donkey at Christmas time so “Mary” could ride around the room. Sorry Rob.)
Of course, with any ministry, people show up with their ideas on what could make things better. One particular mother of two young children wanted me to do music differently. She wanted to use some of the classics. It was not a good idea, but that was not the first question I asked.
My first question was “How would you like to get your idea started?” Her response?
“That’s up to you, I don’t have time to do it. But you should do it.”
She wanted to offload her idea onto me to get it done. Needless to say, her idea didn’t get very far.
Unless it is my boss, I don’t give a lot of thought to people with who approach me with “you should do this”. Why?
- When God gives a vision, it’s not because you are a messenger for someone else. The reason God gives you a vision is because you are the best person to implement it. You might need help, you might need direction and clarity but fulfilling the vision is up to you. Your job is to implement that vision, not give vision up for adoption.
- I’m looking for partners in ministry, not spectators in ministry. Anyone can make a comment about what you should do. But people who want to partner with you are worth some time and attention. (It may still be a bad idea, but it’s worth a shot).
That doesn’t mean you don’t listen. It might be a good idea that fits with your strengths. But you must always ask one question when someone decides to comment on how you could be doing things better. That question is this: “How are you willing to help?” After all, your goal as a leader is to train others up to do ministry, not do it all yourself.
If you make this the first question you ask when people come with something for you to do, you protect yourself from doing ministry that you were not intended to do. You also release God’s people to do the ministry they are feeling called to do. It will move people from being a spectator on the sidelines to being a partner in ministry.