In the last post I introduced the subject of mental preparation for ministry and offered three skills of those well prepared mentally for ministry.
Here are the other two:
4. Understanding the church as a body. The church is a body, not merely the sideshow for our preaching. One of the biggest reasons lead pastors and elder boards make poor decisions is they lack an understanding of how the church functions as a body. If a person goes to the doctor with back pain, a bad doctor may assume they’ve slipped a disc or had poor posture. However, it may be an old knee injury is causing them to overcompensate as they walk, thus leading to the back pain. The pain is in the back. The problem is in the knee.
Pastors who are well-prepared mentally devote themselves to the field of knowledge known as “church systems.” Or, think of it as holistic medicine and wellness care for the body of Christ. The church is a bit like a mobile. Pull this and that moves, pull that and this moves. We need to know what moves what. We need to understand how our decisions impact the whole church body and how before we make them – as best we can.
If you want to see this principle at work, watch the budget process carefully. The budget process is like a throat culture for the body. You can see so many incubating diseases in it. Watch as we cut things or spend things based on making ends meet and the value system of those making the decisions, rather than on a full understanding of how cutting out pizza night for the youth ministry or not giving raises this year is actually going to impact the body. Understanding the church system as a body may not change whether the cuts need to be made, but it might change where the cuts are made or whether an effort to raise more resources is the solution.
5. Breadth of practical ministry understanding. There is a reason doctors are trained exclusively within their area of specialty. An ENT doctor has to also study some podiatry. This is because the body is a system, and knowledge of the body’s various parts helps in understanding their specialty and the body as a whole. The church is the same. Reading broadly, studying broadly, experiencing broadly – these all help you as a leader in subtle ways that add up over time.
A lead minister really needs to know something about youth ministry, worship ministry, children’s ministry, etc. Notice I said “know” and not “think they know.” Also, notice I said “something,” not “everything.” If a leader of a staff has zero knowledge of a given ministry area, they will likely lack the ability to understand the body’s parts and health system. Study youth ministry, hang out with the youth minister some, and go to a few youth events. Watch the band rehearse, walk through the children’s wing at check-in time. Sit in on finance team meetings and have lunch with the chairperson every few months or so. You get the picture. All of these add to our understanding in subtle ways intellectually and experientially – and they keep us from making subtle mistakes as we lead because we didn’t know various parts of the body existed or how they functioned.
This two-part series of posts is about growing as practitioners of ministry. I’d like to know what you think about the concept of mental preparation, and what you might add or remove from this list.
If we devote ourselves to practical, mental preparation for serving the Lord, we will be more effective practitioners of the Gospel.
Tim Spivey is lead planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, CA. Tim is also an adjunct professor of religion at Pepperdine University and purveyor of New Vintage Leadership, a blog offering cutting-edge insights on leadership and theology. He is the author of numerous articles and the book “Jesus, the Powerful Servant.”