Put Your Money Where Your Mission Statement Is


They say if you want to know what a person values, just take a look at his or her checkbook. (I’ve also heard a variation that says “if you want to know where a person’s heart is, look at their checkbook” – which is pretty darn close to Matthew 6:21). I guess the updated version of that would include taking a look at their bank statement, but the point is that if you want to know what matters to a person, look at how they spend their money.

The same holds true of the church. In 2000, a study by John LaRue (no relation, though that IS pretty cool… lol) showed that the average church spends about 75% of their tithes and offering on compensation, facilities, organizational fees, and administration and supplies. That leaves about 25% to do hands-on ministry.

The churches who responded to his survey had an average annual budget of nearly $300k. Since I mostly work with small and mid-sized churches, I’m more familiar with churches whose budgets average under $100,000. I would guess that the average small church spends almost half their budget on facilities and almost half on compensation and conferences, leaving about 1 or 2% for outreach and evangelism.

I’ll be the one to say it: if I’m even close to accurate, that’s a crying shame. If we value “having church” more than we value ministering to people outside our four walls, hitting the streets with tracts, going door-to-door to invite people to Christ, feeding the hungry, helping the elderly, giving clothes to those in need, then we’ve lost sight of our mission. Too many churches have mission statements that they don’t carry out. If a person just reads the mission, it sounds like you’re doing great things, but do we actually DO anything more than come to church every Sunday (or Sabbath) and sing and shout and cry for 2 hours (or 3)? I know we enjoy that. It makes us feel good. It’s what we’re accustomed to, so it feels right.Rehearsals, meetings, trainings, classes, usher board, children’s ministry… that’s all great, and God knows it has its place. But there is MORE to ministry than just what takes place in the four walls of your church building.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not minimizing the benefits of a good worship service. I can cry and shout with the best of ’em. But we cannot – we simply cannot forget about the ones who need food, or clothes, or love, or help; the ones we don’t see on Sundays at 11. That’s what ministry is. Anybody can do church. Shucks, these days, EVERYBODY is doing church. It used to be a running joke that in Brooklyn, New York, there are churches on every corner. Nowadays, that can be said of nearly ever major metropolitan city in the US – and even in the small towns. New churches are opening every week… and few of them are doing more than just running through an order of service for a few hours, going home and coming back to do it again the next week. That’s lame. SOOOO LAME.

I challenge you pastors, leaders, and lay members to encourage YOUR local assembly to do more. Show the love of Jesus Christ by serving the people around you. Have your youth ministry rake leaves for the neighbors – for free. Instead of soliciting financial support from the community, give back to the community: wash some cars for free, this time. Adopt a widow or two. Teach people how to write resumes. Start a mentoring program for young men. Collect and distribute winter coats. Offer a free aerobics/exercise class (or if you don’t have the space, organize some walking/jogging teams).  Do a food drive AFTER Thanksgiving is over… visit the sick and hospitalized – even if they’re not members of your church. Go downtown and pass out bottles of water on a hot, summer day. Or go to the local park and give out hot dogs and soft drinks. Offer a parents’ night out to the neighbors. Host a weeknight dinner for all the families who live on the block where your church is located. It’s great to give scholarships to your HS grads, but maybe this year you can give one to some other kid who’s not a member of your church (Philippians 2:4). Instead of trying to think of new ways to get more people in the church, try to think of new ways to show more people the love of Christ, thus winning them into the KINGDOM. I Corinthians 9:19 says, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more.You want to win souls? SERVE THEM!

I encourage all my readers, especially the pastors, to go back to the book of Acts and reflect on how church used to be… how church was designed to be. Go back to the blueprint. And while you have that Good Book open, check out Matthew 25:31-46 (a must read). Flip over to the disciples’ argument about who is the greatest, and re-read what Jesus told them about servanthood (Luke 22:25-27). Let’s reclaim the church for ministry and do what we’re assigned to do.

So the question to ponder or discuss is, does your church do church or do you do ministry?


Should the Church Take Lessons from Corporate America?


The title subject is one that I’ve pondered for many years, but never really studied beyond the surface. But a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of listening to Brien’s Place, a daily radio show hosted by musician Brien Andrews. (Major plug for my buddy who is doing great things in an excellent way. He definitely gets my personal stamp of excellence! And as a bonus, music lovers will LOVE the show’s background music and BGVs!).

From Pastor to CEO

On the show, Brien mentioned how the use of corporate titles such as CEO, CFO, COO, CAO, and CMO is becoming increasingly common in today’s churches; and that, overall we are adapting more of Corporate America’s policies.

In the many leadership workshops I’ve taught over the years, I’ve said that church leaders could learn a lot from Corporate America. Certainly, we can learn more about structure and order, communication, punctuality, networking, excellence, productivity, efficiency, attention to detail, teamwork, responsibility, conflict resolution, marketing, budgeting and the value of having a good reputation. I’ve even heard some suggest that the church needs to learn the principles of good customer service, considering its members as “customers.” At my own church last summer, I taught a session on branding, and frequently teach leaders at other churches on many of the subjects I mentioned above.

But when I heard Brien say that we are “adapting more [of] Corporate America’s policies,” I felt the unspoken implications resonate in my spirit, and I felt the wheels of my mind begin to turn.  So about a week ago, I asked a few friends what they thought about this subject, and while many of them raised really good points, two in particular addressed the points I had considered myself. Thanks to Vanessa Miller, Bennett Yancey, Philip Brown, Robert Jones, and William Spruill for your input.

Corporate America Needs to Take Lessons from the Bible

In her book, Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership, Laurie Beth Jones uses the ministry of Jesus Christ as the model for a perfect CEO as she shares leadership techniques and lessons inspired by Him. One of the things I learned from reading Jesus, CEO is that we really can get all the tools and lessons we need to be good leaders from the Word of God.

The Bible is full of strong examples of leaders, Jesus being the best example, and each one’s story provides lessons for leaders, lists of what to do, what not to do, and demonstrates the characteristics of excellent leaders. We can learn about excellence and having a good name from Daniel; the importance of detailed planning, networking, and resource planning from Nehemiah; building under duress and overcoming obstacles from Ezra; conflict resolution from Paul; attention to detail from Noah (or Solomon); succession planning from Jesus; budgeting from Solomon, and so much more from those powerful Biblical leaders, and the many others I didn’t name. I would go as far as to say that there is NOTHING a Christian leader needs to learn that s/he cannot learn from studying Biblical principles and Biblical leaders. I cannot think of any concepts, principles or values in Corporate America that are not covered to some degree in the Bible.

So if we desire to pattern ourselves after the strongest Biblical leaders, in an effort to be more like Christ, what reason do we have to seek out secular sources to achieve success as ministry leaders?

Conflicting Goals

Another HUGE reason I can’t support churches taking lessons from Corporate America is that we have some insurmountable differences in our values, missions, goals, and overall purpose. As one friend put it, “Many principles that dominate Corporate America conflict with Christian values.” Another friend pointed out, “the corporate world is cut-throat,” and I have to agree with her.

The overall corporate focus is on producing revenue. Furthermore, the “moral decay facing companies today,” including its self-serving values, make it a fairly dangerous model for churches to follow.

The Church’s overall mission is to declare the gospel of Jesus Christ to all mankind, compel those who are lost, edify its members, and minister the love of Christ to all so that God is glorified. When fulfilled, our mission and purpose, as a friend said, will profit the entire body of Christ. On the other hand, in Corporate America, only the corporation itself benefits.

Taking lessons from an entity with such a conflicting mission puts the Church in a position to receive lessons possibly contaminated by greed, self-centeredness, malice, lies, ruthlessness and immorality. I can easily see us slowly trending into an institution that has unknowingly disregarded its purpose for the pursuit of worldly success and material things.

As Brien said in his radio show, the church simply “can’t forget what your real purpose and your real mission is, and that’s about souls. It’s about people. ‘People’ is the church’s ‘product.'”

So… what’s my final answer? No, churches should not take lessons from Corporate America. Churches should position ourselves to be the organism Christ built us to be so that Corporate America can take lessons from us. We are made to be the head, not the tail; the leaders, not the followers.

So what do you think? Should the church take lessons from Corporate America? Okay, I can’t read your mind, silly! Use the comment box below to tell me what you think. 🙂

Everybody Who’s in Your Corner isn’t on Your Team


Some time ago, the Lord took me to one of my favorite passages in Ezra, and gave me a word to share with the people of God. I shared it on Facebook and forgot about it. Recently, I attended a service and the preached word came from that same passage, so I thought I’d share it here.

Ezra 4:1-5
Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel;
Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.
But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.
Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,
And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

So the story here is pretty clear and easy to understand. The children of Israel were on assignment to rebuild the Temple after decades in Babylonian captivity. They developed their plan, organized laborers, laid the foundation, and were working cheerfully when the enemies of Judah (praise) and Benjamin (son of the right hand, which symbolizes authority) showed up. If it wasn’t 10:30 at night, I would dig a little bit into how there are people who hate your praise, and surely people who hate your authority. But, you get the picture so let’s keep it moving. The enemies of praise and authority tried to fit in. They could’ve just come in trying to tear things up all out in the open and blatantly, but instead, they tried to sneak in cunningly. They devised a plan. They went to the newly freed Israelites and said, “hey, we’re on the same team as you. We want to build with you. We share the same vision. Let us help you build…” Now, if this was a scene from 2011, it probably would’ve sounded a little deeper, maybe something like: “Man of God, I feel led of the Lord to help you advance the kingdom of God here in Anytown. The Lord has placed a burden in my spirit to hold up your arms as you do the labor of the Lord throughout the nations, and through you, we will go to new realms and new seasons and breakthroughs and dimensions and all the other buzz words .
Yeah. You get the picture. They pretended to serve the same God. Probably had the look. Walked the walk, talked the talk, knew all the lingo, gestures, timing, etc. But thank God for a discerning leader. Zerubbabel knew they were up to no good, and told them they weren’t qualified to build God’s house. Some things never change. Back then, somewhere around 537, 536 BC, the enemies couldn’t just walk away and go find another chur– temple to harass. They decided to engage in an all-out attack on these folks who just barely got free from bondage… can’t even enjoy their victory good before the enemy shows up. Yeah, so anyway, in verse 4, we see that they began to do everything they could to “weaken the hands” (discourage, demoralize, burn out, frustrate, to cause to be idle or useless) of the builders. Now, the enemies wasn’t just bothering random Israelites, they were bothering those who were building the Temple (if I were Eddie Long, this would be a good place to say “watch this, watch this.”) The Bible says that they troubled them in building! (Watch this!) Troubled: From the Hebrew “bahal“… means to disturb, to alarm, to terrify, to rush or hasten, to cause anxiety, fear, nervousness, dismay, terror… Whew. If you haven’t met the “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” yet, you don’t even know what enemies are! Imagine just trying to do ministry. That’s all you’re trying to do is what God assigned you to do… and here comes “folks” to try to rush the timeline God gave you, trying to make you anxious, doubtful, fearful, nervous, scared… just trying to disturb you however you can to keep you from fulfilling your assignment.
In verse 5, the Bible says that they hired counselors (co-conspirators) to frustrate (to BREAK) the Israelites’ purpose. Yes, your enemy will go so far as to find a cohort (or what did TD Jakes call them? Comrades) to fight against you. They will build a team of comrades.  They don’t even have to be friends or like each other. They just have to be willing to work together long enough to frustrate your purpose. Whew. Y’all don’t even have to read this, it is blessing ME! Some of us complain over having to deal with it for a whole year… the Bible says these enemies worked against them for 15 years! And… (watch this…lol) they kept. on. building. Selah (pause for reflection).
Yes, they kept on building. Speak to me, Jesus.
The enemies went over their heads and wrote a letter to the king. It was a conspiracy. They went to the king and said, “King, if you let them build this temple, they’re not going to pay taxes and you’re going to lose money. They are rebellious. Look at where they come from! Check their references, King, I’m telling you. You gotta stop them! What you need to do is… I’m not trying to tell you how to be King, but… If it were ME, I would… I’m just saying, King… it’s for the sake of the people!!! The people want you to intervene. I’m just trying to help you, King. You’re going to lose the Kingdom, everything is going to fall apart if you don’t stop them… not that I’m trying to tell you how to run your kingdom… I’m just… sayin…

The moral of the story is that everyone who looks like you, sounds like you, dresses like you, and plays in your sandbox is not necessarily on your team. These enemies didn’t come with a red cape and red horns and an evil grin. They came pretending to be worshippers.  Their Plan A was to “work” right alongside the Israelites tearing down everything they tried to build without them even noticing it.  They planned to unglue what the Israelites glued, unstitch what they stitched, remove nuts and bolts, hide bricks, whisper murmurings and complaints… But when that didn’t work, they enacted Plan B and just went public with their assault. 
Be prayerful. Be watchful. Sober. Vigilant. Be discerning. And no matter what, keep on building. ‘Cause going back is not an option. 🙂

Note: Sound familiar? I originally published this on my Facebook page on August 31, 2010. I’m sharing it here with minor edits.

Who Told You You Could Preach?

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In Who Told You You Could Preach?, the comedic musical video from Sean Plummer’s Church™ series, Lil Ricky and the Church Thugs offer a humorous glimpse into a not-so-comical experience nearly all churchgoers have had at one point or another.

We all know “that person” who thinks they are better at what they do than they really are. There’s the one who blames everyone else for their teams’ failures or shortcomings. Or maybe you know the one who wants to lead every song – and can’t sing worth a rusty penny. Or perhaps you know the one who is always complaining that he doesn’t get enough opportunities to preach, but doesn’t have any Biblical knowledge, or the ability to execute an effective sermon. There’s the person who always volunteers to cook for fellowship dinners, and always serves burnt, dried out chicken. Or there’s the teacher who enthusiastically talks about how great his Sunday School class was this morning, meanwhile all the students gather after class to exchange tips on how to stay awake in class.

The unfortunate thing that these folks all share in common is that everyone knows how difficult it is to be on the receiving end of their ministry – except them.

Look, I know this is pretty tough to discuss. People get really defensive when this subject is raised because nobody wants to consider that they may be “that person.” You begin to hear defenses like “well, I’m not singing for you anyway, I’m singing for the glory of God,” or “as long as I’m doing my best, God is pleased.”  This may (or may not) be true, but the Bible reminds us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but to think of ourselves with sober judgment (Romans 12:3).  Sometimes, we need a little help with the sober judgment part. 🙂

In a previous post, we talked about the importance of giving regular performance evaluations to your team members, so they will know what is expected of them and be able to gauge their accomplishments, progress, and success. Periodic performance evaluations also allow staff to ascertain what areas require improvement and are invaluable in determining the changing development needs of your staff.

Today, I want to encourage you to conduct regular self-evaluations to ensure you’re in the right position, performing at an excellent level, ministering to the people, and being effective in whatever it is you’re doing. Whether you’re a minister, pastor, administrator, or other church leader, you should always be striving to excel in the work of the Lord. That means that from time to time, you’ll have to make sure that the people you’re ministering to are (still) benefiting from your ministry.

The shame in continuing to do something you’re NOT good at is that you’re missing the opportunities to do what you are good at. The time you’re spending on the thing you’re not so good at could be spent honing your true craft. You’re sowing valuable seed that won’t even yield much fruit. And the people who need you to minister to them in that area, are missing out, too. Plus, there’s satisfaction in doing what you’re good at. It just feels good.

Three ways to ensure you’re not the guy Lil Ricky is singing (or rapping?) to in that video is:

1. Be humble and approachable – make sure that the people you’re serving feel comfortable talking to you about sensitive issues.

2. Ask your mentors, family, friends, and other people you trust to help you evaluate yourself. Ask for their feedback; ask them what they think you could improve and what they think you excel in. Ask for resource recommendations (classes, books, online communities, etc.).

3. Seek God. Make sure that what you’re doing is what you’re actually called – BY GOD – to do. Don’t just pursue your talents and what you perceive to be gifts; and don’t let other people push you into serving in areas where you don’t belong. Don’t wear out an old gift after you’ve been called to do something else. Seek God.

Bonus: Read the signs. In case you’re one of those people that others aren’t comfortable approaching, watch your “audience.” Try to read their facial expressions, reactions, posture and body language. Listen for clues in their feedback, and if you’re still not sure: ASK. (But don’t ask the ones that you know will sugarcoat or withhold the real assessment).

A Few Things I’ve Learned Along the Way


I’ve been in church leadership for close to 20 years, and have held several supervisory and/or leadership positions in my secular careers in politics, labor relations, law administration and corporate administration. Along the way, I’ve learned a thing or two (first and foremost, that if you can survive leadership in the church, you can survive leadership ANYWHERE), and thought you might find some of them useful.

I strive to be a life-long learner, but my days of learning things the hard way are over! So, if there are some lessons you’ve learned, PLEASE do me a favor and post them below in the comments section. Share your wisdom! (God knows I need it). 🙂


1. There are lots of characteristics necessary to be an effective leader. But above all else, if you don’t have humility, you may as well hang it up.

2. No matter how experienced and certain you are, you can still be wrong sometimes.

3. No matter how anointed and certain your pastor/leader is, he can still be wrong sometimes.

4. Acknowledge your mistakes freely and be quick – very quick – to apologize.

5. Leaders don’t have to have all the answers, but they should be able and willing to find them. (And by the way, leaders should use every resource available to learn more. Read books, attend workshops, network, find mentors, subscribe to publications, and do anything else you can do to increase your knowledge).

6. No matter how talented you are, be careful believing your own press. Some folks will try to make you think you’re the best [insert your job title] since sliced bread. Maybe you are; but you don’t need to know that.

7. There are plenty of people who have the skill to do your job, maybe even better than you. (But, it’s not the ones who say it…)

Burn-out Prevention and Sanity Maintenance

8. Leaders have to sacrifice a lot. Two things that always have to come first, no matter what: God and family. No matter what.

9. Delegating is a blessing from on high. But some things really DO only get done right when you do them yourself. The key is knowing what those things are.

10. The world is NOT going to fall apart if you take a day off. It just won’t. No really. It won’t. Everything and everybody will be ok.

11. Everyone has an off day.

12. Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today. Tomorrow will be here before you know it.

Integrity and Character

13. Jesus inspired His team. That’s why they followed Him. You’ll get more from the people on your team if you inspire them rather than boss them around, barking orders and flexing authority.

14. Your name can take you places skills alone can’t; you should care what people are saying about you. Guard your reputation.

15. Demonstrate what you expect – you want loyalty, be loyal (support them, esteem them highly, correct privately, praise publicly). You want selflessness, commitment, dedication, endurance, timeliness; show that.

16. No matter how great your relationships are with people, always say “please” and “thank you.”

Difficult People, Difficult Circumstances

17. If you don’t have an annoying, draining, sanity-challenging peer or team member, you’re missing out on some growth opportunities.

18. Problems that aren’t addressed don’t just go away.

19. You can get more accomplished in prayer than by any other means – prayer changes things. Even when YOU can’t, prayer changes things.

20. There are some people that will NEVER be happy. No matter what. So don’t bother trying. Unless you’re a licensed psychologist, you’ll end up with a headache.

21. Sometimes, it really is best to sit back, hold your peace, and let God vindicate and validate you. (Learned that one in the longest class I ever took).

22. Being crushed is part of the leadership process. Sometimes, the worst experiences have a way of bringing out the best oil in you. Don’t resent it, don’t despise it; stay humble and embrace it.

23. Never let your enemies see you sweat. Grace under fire is admirable, respectable, honorable. Walking around with an attitude… eh, not so much.

24. This one takes practice: always look beyond the shell and see the God in people. Look for the gift, not the packaging. People are a mess, but it’s not everyone except you who has issues. It’s everyone, including you. Tolerate other people’s flaws because they’re tolerating yours. People are products of their genes, environment, upbringing, and experiences. Everything a person says or does (or doesn’t say or doesn’t do) is a result of a complex formula that contributes to their behaviors, habits, thought processes, actions, and points of view. In other words, sometimes it’s not a person’s fault that they’re insecure, rude, competitive, or just difficult. Try to build a relationship with the soul, not the person.

25. Don’t be a drop-out. Life is like one big educational experience. You can’t go on to the next “grade” until you pass a few tests. When things get rough, if you quit, you won’t go too far. And God has a way of staying on top of you until you complete the assignments He gives. If you don’t believe me, ask Jonah.

26. Sometimes, people will give you a hard time and hinder your attempts to get things done. You can’t change the people, but you can change your approach. Don’t quit; just change your approach.

Team Building….

27. If you know Sally talks too much, don’t trust her with confidential information. Likewise, if you know that Susie never completes the assignments she’s given, don’t give her the “matter of life and death” stuff. Know those who labor among you…. and handle them accordingly (that’s one of my favorite LaRueisms).

28. If you have discernment, use it. Not everyone who says they want to help, really does (that one came from Ezra 4).

29. Sometimes the one no one else wants on their team will be your star!

30. Don’t hide your flaws or fears from your team. They need to know that you realize you’re human.

31. The best way to correct your team members is to use the sandwich technique: put whatever correction, critique or constructive criticism you have right smack in the middle of two sincere compliments and commendations.

Team Development

32. Not everyone knows what they’re good at, or what their calling is. But everyone knows what their hobbies are. Start there.

33. It’s usually the one who raises his hand the least that has the most to contribute (thanks, MJE).

34. Sometimes the quiet wheel should get the oil.

35. You’ll never know just how smart, bright, gifted, talented, pleasant, and committed that person is if you have them serving in the wrong position.

36. People forget positive stuff long before they forget negative stuff. Try to give your team as many positive experiences as possible.

37. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you’re not excited about it, don’t expect them to be.

38. Be genuinely interested in your team members’ personal lives, and show it. They’ll appreciate it.

39. No matter what they say, everyone needs attention, validation, correction, and love. If you love them, everything else they need will come naturally.

40. You’re only as awesome as your team. Surround yourself with diverse talent to make up for your weaknesses and shortcomings.

General Leadership

41. If you don’t have a mentor, you’re missing multiple opportunities to be better. If you don’t have a protégé, you’re missing a great opportunity to pass along all you’ve learned to develop someone else (and do a little succession planning).

42. If it isn’t in writing, it doesn’t exist. Document!

43. Very few people enjoy meetings. Don’t have one “just because.” And when you have to have one, have a clear agenda, start on time, stay on task, end on time, and let people participate.

44. Stay in your lane. If you have to get over (perhaps to avoid an accident), be sure to use your signal. Otherwise, you’ll cause an accident, and you’ll be at fault.

45. Leadership is an opportunity to minister, whether you’re leading the usher board or the United States.

46. After every major event, project, or initiative, there should be a debriefing meeting. That’s the best way to keep from making the same mistake twice.

47. If you have no influence, you’re not really a leader. You might be a puppet, a token, or just a warm body filling a vacant spot… but you’re not a leader.

48. God cares about the details, so my anal-retentiveness and “pickiness” is okay.

5 Signs You’ve Outgrown Your Assignment


Over the weekend, I was carrying two new plant pots, one of which was pretty large, and 3 African Violets out of Home Depot when a kind, older gentleman offered to help. I declined his offer (I’m just one of those people who can’t let people do things for me… ugh!), and explained that it was actually very lightweight, despite its ceramic appearance. Trying to make small talk, I guess, he asked “so how many of those do you have? A house full, I bet.” I told him that I really only had about 6 or 7, but that I couldn’t deny how much I love plants. In fact, I recently ordered this one online since I couldn’t find it in any of the local garden stores. Isn’t it beautiful?

It's a prayer plant, so named because its leaves "close" (point upward) at night, like praying hands. Cool, huh?

Anyway, I told the gentleman that I love plants because tending to them always gives me revelation. Plus, it’s just awesome to see God in nature – it makes you realize just how detailed and orderly and thoughtful and creative and just how HUGE He really is.

**this is a good place to bust out in a rendition of “How Great Thou Art” (can’t you hear it? Then sings my souuuuuuuul, my Savior God, to Thee: How great Thou art…)** Okay, so back to the point…

I explained to Kind Old Guy that I had a plant that I had nurtured from its baby stages for the past couple of years, and that after flourishing for months, it suddenly stopped growing. (Raise your hand if you know where I’m going with this). Now, I’m not new to this whole plant thing (and I’m a pretty smart chick in general *toot, toot*), so I knew immediately what that meant.

You see, my plant had outgrown its pot. As plants are nourished properly (with water, fertilizer and sunlight – and talking to it doesn’t hurt either), they begin to grow. Their roots will extend further and further into the pot (or ground), and they will stretch out as far as their soil base will allow. When there’s no more room for them to stretch out, they will become “pot-bound” and the roots will begin to grow around each other, getting all coiled and tangled and basically strangling the plant. You’ll know the plant has outgrown its pot because it will stop growing, or will grow a lot more slowly than usual. Some of the leaves may begin to wilt or fade, and eventually, the plant may even die.

That's my baby! Notice how a couple of her leaves are fading?

Just as plants can outgrow their pots, leaders can outgrow their assignments. And hey, growth is not a bad thing. In fact, Colossians 2:7 says, “Have the roots [of your being] firmly and deeply planted [in Him, fixed and founded in Him], being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving” (AMP). Peter makes it clear that if we hunger for the sincere milk of the word, we’ll grow (I Pet 2:2), and that we should grow in grace (II Pet 3:18). Growth is good. And it’s a normal part of the life-cycle. If you don’t believe me, take a look at your kid (or at your high school graduation pics).

What are the signs you’ve outgrown your assignment?

You’ve succeeded in and fulfilled the current assignment, AND:

1. You’re no longer growing. If you’re not learning anything, being challenged, pushed, expanded, or stretched beyond your comfort zone, it’s possible you’ve outgrown your assignment and are ready to advance to something new.

2. You’re cramped or immobile. When your roots (or core assignment) are no longer enabling you to move about and explore new ideas, tapping into creativity and inspiration, your pot could be too small for you.

3. You’re chronically unfulfilled. No matter how much you’re “fed” or nourished, you still aren’t finding any satisfaction from the assignment. (And yes, God’s assignments do yield satisfaction).

4. You’re wilted. When there’s no energy fueling your work, no more excitement, you feel as “blah” and drab as you look, you probably need a bigger pot.

5. You’re not effective. Perhaps the most telling sign of becoming pot-bound is that you’re no longer effective in areas where you once were. If the people under your leadership are no longer growing, you’re unable to excel and accomplish new things, fix what’s broken, or improve what is outdated or worn, you may have reached your capacity in that pot.

Each of these, when examined alone, could mean a host of other things. Maybe you’re just burned out. Or maybe you’ve lost your connection with God. Or perhaps your skills need to be polished. But chances are, if all five are in play, it’s time for a bigger pot.

Just to make sure we’re clear: I don’t suggest you run off to Home Depot shopping for new pots to try to re-pot yourself. Sit still and pray. Talk to your pastor (or if you’re the pastor, talk to a trusted confidant or your spiritual leader). No need to hurry, unless of course, God has already spoken and you’re just sitting around waiting for someone to come re-pot you. In that case, you’re probably strangling yourself, which could turn out pretty badly.

Side Note: Yes, I realize how… ummm… weird this article is. I decided to embrace the thorn in my side instead of running from it. So if I sound a little ADDish, it’s because that’s how my brain was working today. 🙂

Please Look Over Your Work!


And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31a KJV)

Serving as a church administrator, or in any administrative function, is a selfless, often thankless job. Almost all of the administrator’s work is done behind the scenes, often during ungodly hours without a “lunch break” or any days off. It’s tiresome, draining, and can be discouraging at times. Since we operate in the spiritual gift of government (and let’s face it: a lot of folks don’t want to be governed – or don’t want to be governed by anyone but the pastor), administrators are often the targets of attack by church members and leaders alike. We’re often made to fight our policies and procedures battles alone, without defense or support. We’re usually the most unpopular people on the leadership teams, there are no appreciation services or pats on the back from members or guests. We endure a lot, and at the end of the day, we don’t usually get credit or recognition for the work we do.

So why do we do it? We do it because it’s the job we love. Most administrators LOVE their jobs, even with the variables (you may not love the particular church that employs you, may not like your boss, co-workers, church members, etc.). We love the work we do. We love taking a pastor’s vision and outlining the steps to bring it to fruition. We love managing the day-to-day operations, so that the pastors and other leaders can focus on other areas. We love crunching the numbers, drafting the plans, researching new methods to streamline our processes, coordinating events, scheduling, planning, developing, orchestrating… we love what we do.

Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, once said “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Having chosen a few jobs I loved, I agree with him. I believe that when you really love your job, you really don’t work. Even on the days when it feels laborious, it’s still a pleasure and it brings a mutual benefit. There’s satisfaction in doing something you love, and when you’re satisfied, it really doesn’t matter whether anyone ever recognizes you for it.

Once in a while, when looking for a file, I come across old programs, bulletins, budget plans, 501(c)(3) applications, policies and procedures manuals, course outlines or perhaps an old syllabus, and I just smile. I remember how God, after He had created the earth and the waters, the vegetation and the animals, looked at His work and acknowledged how good it was.  I’m rewarded simply by looking at the work I’ve done and knowing that it was good and that I contributed somehow to the body of Christ. Of course it’s in our human nature to want recognition or approval, but we can’t wait for people to celebrate the work God assigned and anointed us to do; we have to look over our own work and smile with approval. Ecclesiastes 3:22 says, “So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his portion. For who shall bring him back to see what will happen after he is gone?” Enjoying your job, Solomon said, is a gift from the hand of God (Eccl 2:24).

Without much down time or encouragement, it’s easy for us to burn out and even be resentful. But somehow, we have to readjust our focus, remembering the assignment and purpose. I’m fortunate enough to have worked with pastors who never hesitated to say “thank you.” My pastor shows his appreciation very liberally for even the smallest of tasks. But, if he never says “thank you” again, I can look over my work and know that I’ve done something good for the kingdom. Today, I encourage my fellow administrators to behold the work of your hands and rejoice in it; and you’ll never have to work again.

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