Within every ministry or business, there is wiggle room.  Before we examine “the how” for learning about and becoming comfortable within your ministry’s culture, there are several things where there can be no wiggle room.

Jesus’ disciples knew that he was not only their leader.  He was their example.  Before he sent them out in two’s, he traveled with them, showing them the way.  At his death, these men had experienced survival because the Lord had sent them out to experience the Holy Spirit’s working through them.

If any ministry is going to succeed, it is vital to learn how to work as a team.  Jeffery Lay in his book, Top Gun on Wall Street, says “We don’t send anyone, anywhere. We all go together.”  Lay was a top gun pilot who transferred the leadership skills learned from the military into the business world.

Leaders cannot lead from behind.  If you are in a leadership position, you must not only be willing to go before but you must be the first to venture into new avenues.

There is a fatal notion that leaders don’t actually do much work.  They learn to delegate.  The problem with that philosophy is that few people willingly or happily work for a leader if their leader does not fully understand the concerns of the workers.  Before delegation can successfully happen, there must be example.

Within a ministry, you must have the good will of all your volunteers and paid staff.  That doesn’t mean that you need to know the nuts and bolts of every single activity.  However, you must do more than walk though the ministry space, looking, pointing and asking stupid questions.  The person who is following you must know your commitment to the people you are serving.

They need to understand that at any time you are willing to pick up a broom and sweep the floor or make the refreshments.  Each week volunteers need to see you moving chairs, teaching or doing some physical ministry.  Volunteers and staff must know that you are willing learn the bookkeeping or the desk-top publishing or a new data base.  You want to be able to venture into the new activities demanded by your ministry.

When The Special Gathering was having some concerns with our bookkeeping, the head of our ministry, Richard Stimson, went back to college to learn the fundamentals of accounting.  While he didn’t need to learn how to be an expert in accounts receivable, he wanted to be able to have an overall vision regarding this area of ministry.  I was impressed with his willingness to venture beyond his comfort zone to learn how to lead in this vital area.

Years ago, I visited a large ministry in southern Florida.  A bit shocked, I listened as the director of the ministry spoke to her fellow volunteers.  She was more than stern as the men and women listened.  They nodded and smiled, agreeing with her admonitions.  After the meeting, I asked her how she could be so stern with her volunteers.  “I’m also a volunteer,” she said, laughing.  “My teachers know that I am doing as much or more than they are every day of the week.”

She and Stimson live what Lay advocates, “Don’t send anyone, anywhere.  We all go together.”  Without a team no ministry will not be successful.  However, without a leader, there will be no team.

Several years ago, as a few staff from Special Gathering were driving to lunch, we saw a man with a broken leg.  His cast extended from his toe to his hip.  With great difficulty, he was loading a lawnmower into a trailer.  There was an edger on the sidewalk, patiently waiting to be reloaded on to the trailer.  A couple of people in the car said, “That man is a small business owner.”  We all agreed.

I’m not sure how many folks are willing to do the kind of work demanded by the entrepreneur.  In many ways a pastor is an entrepreneur.  Our primary goal is always spiritual.  We are hoping to make an impact on lives, educating them about the most important thing in the world.  Nevertheless, we deal with staffing, volunteers, raising expenses, balancing and making a budget and many other financial and business matters.

Each of us who are building a ministry need some wiggle room.  Recently, at Special Gathering, we’ve been working with a new staff person.  She is wonderful and one of the most teachable people I’ve ever met.  There are so many things that a person who desires to excel in ministry must learn.

Perhaps the first is where is the wiggle room.  At Special Gathering, it was a great adjustment for me to learn where there was NO wiggle room.  I am the kind of person who has 17 irons plugged in ready to utilize.  My personality lends itself to having many projects going all at the same time.  The first year I was at Special Gathering, I maintained my positions in our church as Missions Director.  For twenty years before that time, I had at least one new book that I was authoring while planning magazine articles.  Music was a priority.  My list can go on and on.  One day, our executive director took me out to lunch.  After we had eaten, he folded his napkin and placed it on the table and folded his hands in front of me.  “You need to decide if your priority will be Special Gathering or the 15 other things that are important to you.”

In short, he was saying that my life goal must not have wiggle room.  I must decide–and decide quickly–what my first priority will be and stick with it.  If God has called me to ministry to people with special needs, then I must continue on the path that leads me to that goal.  There are so many scriptures that teach this principle that my mind was immediately filled with pictures of men going to battle with an adequate army.

I could see my husband drawing detailed plans before we started an addition to our home.  I could remember negotiating with the bank to be sure that we had enough money to complete a project we were beginning.  I saw our family sending off our first son to college confident that we had the financial reserve needed to complete his education expenses.

While wiggle room is vital to maintain a healthy outlook,  a life’s goal cannot have wiggle room.  When did you discover your life’s goal?  How easy is it for you to keep your life’s goal paramount in your life?