Cliff Young came to prominence in 1983 after he won the 544-mile Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon. Untrained in long-distance running, but skilled at herding 2,000 sheep on foot over 2,000 acres, he entered the Ultramarathon in sweatpants and rubber boots. Much like the “Tortoise and the Hare,” he quickly fell behind the trained runners but kept running through the night while the others slept; Young only slept two hours a night. His lack of sleep was an unorthodox approach and so was his stride. Unlike other runners, his stride consisted of shuffling his feet. He won the race and the $10,000.00 prize which he was unaware of until he crossed the finish line (he split the money among the other runners.) Cliff Young’s story reminds us that small strides often lead to great rewards.
Likewise, ministry leadership is a marathon and not a sprint. While some situations and circumstances require drastic and immediate changes to stay afloat, many situations require the sure and steady hand a lovingly firm leader guided by the leadership of God the Holy Spirit. We cannot underestimate the value and impact of “small victories” in the turnaround process of a ministry.
While this reality is not new to me, I have seen its impact in new and fresh ways in the last seven months. I want to share these things with you as you lead in your own context.
Morale isn’t everything, but it is sure is vital.
If you see the dysfunction, then know this: so do your people. They’ve also probably been in the dysfunction longer than you have. The longer they is stuck in dysfunction, the more helpless they begin to feel and their morale begins to falter. Nothing is more dangerous to a fighting force than low morale.
How’s the morale in your ministry? Are people excited? Do their actions support their words? They may say one thing and do another. If they claim excitement but live and act defeated, there’s a problem.
What can you do as the leader to help boost morale and help give your people a second wind? Just recently we purchased Tork paper towel dispensers and air fresheners for our restrooms. I realized the low morale of my people and knew something had to be done. We don’t have tons of money but this would be a simple and inexpensive morale boost. So, I purchased them and put them in the restrooms. To my surprise, they were noticed almost immediately, and my people were encouraged. One even remarked something to me along these lines: “Man, we’re moving up in the world! We’re not as bad off as it sometimes feels.”
Right you, are brother. Right you are.
When we can provide a morale boost for our people, we would do well to do so. A fighting force whose morale is high will fight on to victory.
Holistic stewardship encourages everyone.
When Church Leaders speak of stewardship, we often speak in the realm of finances. While this is certainly an aspect of stewardship, it is not all there is. “The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the LORD” declares the Psalmist (Ps. 24.1). Therefore, our stewardship pertains to more than just our checking account. It influences our care of the buildings, our bodies, and other things God has entrusted to us.
Think about it…When you pass a church that has let its exterior become dilapidated, what do you think: “Those people are alive and thriving and reaching the lost!”, or do you think: “That’s a shame. Such a beautiful building with so much Kingdom potential slowly wasting away if they aren’t already closed.”? Chances are, you think the latter and not the former.
Granted, the physical appearance of the building does not determine the spiritual health of the congregation that meets there, but it certainly can reflect the spiritual health of the people. In my experience, a church who’s exterior is wasting away, generally belongs to a congregation that is doing likewise. Some congregations are the exception to this rule, but that has been few in my experience.
Consider how you steward the things entrusted to you by Holy God. How does your church steward its resources? Small things consistently done over time make a big difference in both the care and culture of the congregation.
Just recently, to help our heating and cooling costs, we installed 1-inch, room darkening vinyl blinds in the office suite. For myself and my Admin team, it was a game-changing, encouraging victory. The office suite stays cooler longer on the hot Mississippi days. The next project, as funds allow, is the replacement of the air conditioning unit—which is struggling due to its age.
The improvements to our office suite are just one of many examples thus far at Four Mile. We’ve given some education space a facelift with new paint and sheetrock work, we’ve begun to utilize the Multi-Purpose building for weekly ministry, and more. We steward our finances and facilities to the glory of God because they belong to him. Therefore, we use them in his Kingdom work, and he encourages us in the process.
Desperation breeds unity and growth.
I read through the Psalms a year ago and was surprised to see the Psalmists declare in many ways: “I am oppressed and needy” (Ps. 40.17a). That strikes at the core of our sinful flesh that proclaims as confidently as it is wrong: “You can do it by yourself.” I’ve called my congregation to pray daily for the three most pressing needs of our church. They have a business card-sized reminder to carry with them and pray as they can for our church.
I’ve stressed the reality that we are a people wholly dependent upon the Lord. We cannot pay off our $700,000 debt by ourselves. We cannot reach our immediate community for the Gospel in our own power (cf. Acts). We cannot grow spiritually or in unity with God’s people unless the power of God the Holy Spirit is indwelling us (cf. Gal. 2.20). So, we pray. And as we pray for these things both individually and corporately, unity and growth will come.
I’ve noticed how my own prayers for the needs of our church have morphed and changed as I pray daily for those things. When I pray for wisdom in stewarding the finances of our church, God the Holy Spirit has directed me to pray for wisdom for my people as they steward their household resources. As I pray for an outward, community focus for our church, he has directed me to pray for my personal evangelism. And as I have prayed for unity and spiritual growth, God has revealed people I have yet to forgive fully.
When God’s people walk with a limp both individually and corporately, unity and growth will come, albeit, though the small but consistent daily prayers for the church.
So, take your time in running the marathon. Make headway with a few shuffles at a time. Find the small things—the low hanging fruit—that done over a consistent time, will yield big results for His Glory and our good. Watch your people become energized from of all things, a paper towel dispenser. Eventually, by God’s grace, that energy will translate into great Kingdom work.
On the Journey,
Child of God.