I remember my first day in vocational ministry like it was yesterday. I had a makeshift cubicle, an empty file cabinet, a computer with no files on it, and a phone. That’s it. There was no instruction manual. I was going to have to learn how to lead the ministry I was overseeing all on my own.
Looking back, that season of my life was extremely formative. It plunged me into the deep end of the “ministry pool” and forced me to learn how to swim quickly! Through this process, I learned how to be a godly leader using the skills, gifts, and personality God has given me to lead and minister to his people effectively. Yet, along the way, I learned that my most significant impact didn’t come from these things but through the overflow of my character. Who I was becoming as a person would be the greatest influence on the effectiveness of my leadership.
Whether it has been from my own experience, the experience of others, or from the mentors on my shelves, I’ve seen effective leaders embody several consistent character qualities. Here are a few that I believe are essential to lead faithfully in ministry. Hopefully, this list helps you reflect on your leadership journey and the character God has developed in you along the way.
The weight of ministry can become heavy quickly. As we juggle the tasks of managing budgets, ministry programs, teaching, and our members’ ever-present opinions, we can easily mix up our priorities. Forgetting that we are merely stewards of God’s ministry, we begin to rely more on our skills and abilities than the wisdom of God. It is in these moments that we, sometimes unknowingly, pursue our glory over his and elevate our well-being above those who are under our care.Humility helps us push back against entitlement and embrace accountability as we prioritize loving and leading God’s people well. Click To Tweet
Humility keeps us in a posture of dependence. It reminds us that we cannot faithfully lead and care for God’s people without him. Rather than being primarily driven by the latest business strategy or our church attendance metrics, we are driven by a deep submission to God’s guidance. In faith, we commit to follow his direction, even when we don’t fully understand.
We also become driven by a desire to help everyone in our care flourish and thrive. As leaders, we are called to serve those we oversee, providing opportunities for their gifts and skills to be utilized and developed. Humility helps us push back against entitlement and embrace accountability as we prioritize loving and leading God’s people well.
At some point in our ministry journey, we will experience hurt or disappointment from our people, unmet expectations, or the outside pressures of life. In these moments of brokenness, we can either turn to the Lord or to our coping mechanisms. While our idols promise to soothe our wounds, they inevitably fail us every time. Instead of providing the strength we need, they move us further and further away from the emotional or spiritual healing we desire.
Rather than try to avoid it, vulnerability allows us to lead through our brokenness. By sharing our weaknesses with our team, we help create an environment of trust. When they see us trust them with our weaknesses and pain, they are more likely to trust us with theirs. In addition, suffering is a powerful communicator of the gospel. It’s one thing for people to hear about someone suffering well after the season of suffering is over; it’s another thing to see someone walk faithfully through a season of suffering! As we become what Henri Nouwen calls “wounded healers,” vulnerability helps us proclaim with our lives the power of the gospel we have for so long proclaimed with our words.
The work of ministry is a patient work of guided spiritual transformation. We help people walk, both corporately and individually, in the newness of their identity in Christ. The problem is, transformation rarely happens overnight. It can take a long time for substantive change to materialize in someone’s life, or better yet, in the church itself. After too many disappointments, we can begin to lose hope that change is possible, and over time, hopelessness becomes wearisome.Vulnerability helps us proclaim with our lives the power of the gospel we have for so long proclaimed with our words. Click To Tweet
Like Aaron and Hur did for Moses, perseverance holds up our “arms” when we are ready to throw in the towel. Grounded in the truth of God’s character and promises, perseverance helps us push through by reminding us of his past faithfulness. When we remember how God has delivered his people before, we are more prone to trust that he will do it again. So, no matter how we may feel about a situation, perseverance helps us lead our people with calm and steady confidence. It empowers us to weather the storms because we know Jesus is in the boat with us, and he will get us to the other side.
May we, by God’s grace and for his glory, exhibit these qualities as faithful ministry leaders.