You would be hard pressed to find anyone serving in ministry who wouldn’t say that they aren’t busy.

Ministry places a demand on you that few might understand. It’s not just the physical demand on your schedule. It is the combination of the spiritual, mental, emotional, psychological, and social demand that’s creates the pressure and produces the weight of ministry.

Researcher George Barna and his team revealed a few sobering statistics in April 2008 (Willow Magazine) that reveals the demand and pressure that’s placed on Pastors (and many ministry leaders). When dissecting the data, Barna discovered:

  • 90% of pastors work more than 46 hours per week
  • 80% of seminary and Bible college graduates will leave ministry within the first 5 years
  • 80% of pastors believe their ministry affected their families negatively
  • 50% of pastors would leave if they believed they could make a living doing something else

So, the question becomes, why do the job?

If you put 50 Pastors and Ministry leaders in the room, you could get 500 answers. But there is one answer that would probably consistently ring true: Calling.

The calling (purpose) on the life of a Pastor and Ministry Leader is what would drive them to “risk” some of these “work hazards”.

But today, we have to understand that “calling” is no longer enough to stay IN it!

Calling gets the game started. Calling allows you to at least enroll in school or go on the first date. Calling allows you to get up, drive to the gym, and walk through the front door. Calling doesn’t help you win the game or succeed in classes or have a thriving relationship or meet your fitness goals. Strategy does!

Across denominational, race, culture, and geographical lines, we see individuals with passion, drive, excitement, and eagerness to get people motivated about the vision. Once the vision is launched, what’s the strategy?

One of the most powerful VISION (and calling) narratives in scripture is Exodus 18. In common terms, Moses is celebrating a victory. In this case, it was getting freedom from Pharaoh. In your case, it could have been getting the building finished, successfully launching the program or initiative, finishing the rebranding, releasing new leaders into ministry, launching the campus, meeting the budget or accomplishing the campaign goal. Take your pick! It was a time of rejoicing. Exodus 18:9 says, “And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians.”

Parenthetically, it would be important to note that it is always in order to pause and celebrate victories. The demands of ministry and the “next thing” often push us to simply move on, but sometimes you have to pause and throw a party.

After their time of rejoicing and testimonials, the next day Moses re-engages his daily routines and go about his daily work. As his father-in-law sees the PROCESS that Moses is utilizing, he swiftly steps in and engages in a healthy dialogue with Moses.

“13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” 17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good.18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you!’ (ESV)

If Jethro was a Christian Hip Hop artist, he would say something like, “Slow your role. Before your role rolls you. Put down your majesty, you need a strategy.” (That was lame, I know! I’m a strategist, not a lyricist! But you get the point!)

Jethro, in his wisdom, wanted to expand Moses’ (and the people’s) capacity, improve his cadence, and establish his credibility by sharing “advice” that is literally a STRATEGY for leadership.

Pastor, Ministry Leader, I don’t doubt that you have vision. I don’t doubt that you have heard from God. I don’t doubt that you have researched scriptures that confirm what’s in your heart. Your catchy title and cool graphics will be a grand slam, but I’m really curious – what’s your strategy? HOW will you move this bus? When will you crunch the numbers and count the cost? WHO do you need to assist you? What are the short term and long term steps and process to accomplish the vision? Who’s asking the hard questions? Are your processes written down and outlined clearly? Beyond a packed room, what is your “win”? What kind of culture do you want your organization to have? How will you (intentionally and unintentionally) create that culture? Have you actually scheduled strategy missions (different from vision sessions)? What’s your formal evaluation process?

All of these questions and more are the beginning process of developing, executing, and maintaining strategy.

Early in my ministry career, I would get excited when I would listen to Pastors and Ministry Leaders who were starting churches or revitalizing ministries or launching new programs or creating clever ideas. That excitement remained until I saw the long-term effect of chasing ideas. Ideas get you going, but strategy keeps you going. Many of those Pastors who I celebrated their start with aren’t in the game anymore. Some of them had to close their doors or even worse, keep the doors open with unfulfilled vision and reduced expectations. One of the common variables of these realities is a lack of strategy.

Every ministry and organization needs strategy. But more importantly, every ministry and organization deserves it.

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