Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How To be Ineffective in Ministry

If there's one thing I know, it's how not to do something. Now, I've been in ministry for around 10 years now, and one thing I've learned is that I'm no expert, but I have come up with a few tried-and-true methods on how not to be effective in ministry.

Here's the List:

6. Base Your Ministry on Programs
Programs are the framework around which we structure ministry. And, to paraphrase A. W. Tozer, without the working of the Holy Spirit programs can be a great way to prop up a spiritually dead ministry. In fact, if you find a meeting format that really works, you can turn it into an automated ministry machine, simply change the scripture reading each week.

Another thing you can try is to change your programs with every new ministry fad. Surely if it worked in Southern California, it will work in your [Midwestern/Northeastern/Southern] congregation. And, if that doesn't work for you, try something else- quick. I'm sure you can find a large selection of books on this topic at your local (or online) Christian Book store.

5. Stop Growing
I've found that one of the best ways to be effective is to share what you are learning and going through with your congregation. Ergo, if one stops growing they can certainly suck the life out of their ministry with little or no effort.

This is a great method for the person who has already figured out the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Be a know-it-all. Don't read books. Refuse to accept challenges to your theology or methods. In fact, you may even want to avoid other ministers from whom you can learn.

4. Stop Caring About People
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that you should be mean to people. That would be way too overt. Just stop caring about them. Avoid conversation. Don't pray for your people. Be sure that you only handle crises that occur during business hours. Even better, stay hidden in your office all week long- don't even go out in public where you may accidentally have a soul-bearing conversation with another person.

3. Fail In Your Personal Life
Nothing can invalidate years of ministry faster than personal failure. I have several friends that turned away from Jesus because our ex-youth minister literally left his wife and kids for a church organist. How's that for ineffectiveness?

Burn out by doing it all yourself. Never delegate. Sexual failure is easy if you have unhealthy relationships with the opposite sex. Ruin your home life by neglecting your family and working too many hours. Get caught with your hand in the cookie jar; steal money from the church. Of course, the easiest way to wander into these traps is to avoid accountability.

2. Forget What is Really Important.
This works for both workaholics and lazy ministers. Find something else to do. For the busybody, find something else "good" to do, like have a Christian Blog (wait a minute...), or take on someone else's ministry responsibilities. Start a new project. Make lots of phone calls. John Piper calls these things "sacred substitutes."

For the ministers who need help with GTD, play on the internet all day. Get a Facebook or MySpace account. Try Homestarrunner.com or YouTube. Find a hobby and work on it during your office hours. Read the paper. The most important thing you can do is to lose sight of the most important thing you can do.

1. Stay Away From Jesus
Far and away, this is the best way to not be effective in ministry. If you neglect daily prayer and Bible study, you most assuredly fail in every spiritual endeavor that you pursue. Why? Well, because our relationship with Jesus is what it is all about, right? It is the source of all direction and passion in our ministry. If you cut that out, what is left, besides a lifetime of work without heart or purpose. Is there any better way to define "ineffective"?

While I'm sure that this is no exhaustive list, I think that there is a lot that I have learned through making (most of) these mistakes. I hope that you can see through the dripping sarcasm and find some truths you can use.

How does your ministry measure up? Are you already following any of these methods? What have I forgotten to mention?