By Josh King
Ministry is one of the best places to hide—if you’re lazy.
There are several reasons for this:
- The way we can move from church to church just by who we know.
- The way we’re not supposed to focus on numbers (even though we are all fully aware of them).
- The way we can just lump any amount of time we would like into what we call “networking, praying and meditating on the things of God” when in reality we were just sitting at Starbucks thumbing through Twitter.
Below are seven lazy habits that will kill your ministry. The great thing is, if you put more effort into correcting them you’ll almost assuredly find the strength to try harder as you increase your motivation.
1. Winging the sermon
If you are a preaching minister few responsibilities are as important as preparing the sermon each week.
I fully understand that there are some settings and circumstances (I’m specifically thinking about bivocational pastors), in which time is limited. That being said, for those of us who are full time this effort is of the utmost importance.
Apart from the weekly exegetical and homiletical work, I encourage you to take some time and sweat over a preaching schedule.
Do the work of thinking through how the sermon series will relate to the natural ebb and flow of the year. Build helps around those sermons like discussion guides, weekly emphasis, and interactive challenges.
2. Showing up for meetings unprepared
It doesn’t matter if it’s a review meeting after an event or a planning session to discuss the upcoming sermon series, never walk into a meeting unprepared.
Have an agenda, if you’re leading, read through the material, do some research, and be prepared to list and assign some next steps. Meetings are helpful but unprepared-for-meetings are a giant waste of time and will suck the life out of participants.
3. Neglecting the art of appreciation
This is one of those disciplines that comes naturally for very few of us. We have to get better at saying “thank you.”
My tip is for you to either have some custom postcards made or at the very least, purchase some generic ones.
When someone does something worth noting, send them a personalized postcard. They’re cheaper to mail, just as nice and don’t take quite as much time to fill in.
Have a stack available at your desk. Get into this habit. Being lazy when it comes to expressing appreciation is a quick way to not have many reasons to be thankful later.
4. Not evaluating the “why” behind events and programs
Even simple churches have a lot of events. The problem is we often just do events for events sake—usually because that’s the way the church has always done it.
Every year we’ll do essentially the same Christmas event, next is the annual Valentine’s Day event, then it’s on to Easter and so on.
We rarely stop to ask if we should keep doing these events and whether they are helpful at all.
The irony is that while these events are a lot of work (and make you think this is not a lazy habit), that work is generated because we are too lazy to assess and evaluate the effectiveness of the events we do.
5. Failing to delegate ministry to others
That is a shock title on purpose. What I mean is: doing all the ministry. Like the previous item, this is a lot of work generated from laziness.
When you do everything, you’re not turning over the parts of the mission others can do. You’ll have to train them, you’ll have to clean up after, and you’ll have to evaluate and coach them after they try.
But every leader’s strategy should involve equipping people to do the work of the ministry.
6. Avoiding confrontation
The habits I’ve listed so far involve your calendar and your effort. This one involves your heart.
Confrontation is hard work and not at all fun to address issues. Not only is every confrontation hard, they keep coming and can be exhausting.
But if you do not confront ministry and relationships issues early on they become out of control.
Be proactive and speak directly and kindly to any issues that arise. Whether it’s a tense meeting or the sin of racism, say something. Confront it, speak truth to it, and work toward restoration and righteousness.
7. Using smaller ministries as your benchmark
Finally, one of the laziest things we do is use other smaller ministries to evaluate our own.
Everyone can find a smaller organization by which to prop themselves up. You don’t want to go too far and find yourself worthless because another ministry appears to be making a larger impact.
But you also shouldn’t pretend you are of greater value because your ministry is large.
Don’t be lazy here. Find other works that will stretch, challenge, and spur you on. Learn from them and apply what can be brought over.
Entire communities are disadvantaged when everyone is only concerned with being the biggest fish in a small pond.
Being lazy is easy. But as ministry leaders we weren’t called to an easy task. Even when we think we’re cutting corners in ministry, the feeling of “easy” is short-lived.
Do the hard work of weeding now and enjoy the garden in the end.
JOSH KING (@JoWiKi) is the pastor of Second Baptist Church in Conway, Arkansas, husband of Jacki, and father of three boys. You can listen to his podcast at EST.church.