Posted in Church Staff

Ministry Magic

Have you ever felt the expectation to create “ministry magic?”

Sometimes this expectation comes from others. And sometimes we’ve talked ourselves into thinking we have to create ministry magic.

After a recent talk at my church, an intern on staff found a picture of me presenting and decided to dress up it a bit. While I thought it was funny, it also reminded me this unspoken expectation I’ve felt before…to create ministry magic.

“You’re paid,” or “You’re called,” and then they say, “You can make this happen, right?” They/us want kids to magically appear in the preschool. They/us want to have a trendy stage area like so and so church. They/us want to be as a large as the church across town. They/us want the financial debt to go away, overnight. And while seminary provided lots of things for me, it didn’t provide magical outcomes.

But the temptation is still there. The temptation to make ministry magic happen. Yet, there’s dangers in pursuing magical mans, and if you actually do have an “Abra cadabra” moment, well, that can be dangerous too (for your ministry).

Dangers of a ministry magic mentality

You spend too much time looking for a silver bullet (I blogged last week about that bullet not existing). At the chance of offending readers…magic isn’t real. It’s sleight of hand. It’s perception. It’s creating a distraction. I’ve been guilty of this in ministry programming before and I’ve blogged about the “dust of perpetual ministry.” Magic is looking to woo people. Ministry is rarely that. And one or two magical moments may woo you into believing it’s something you can repeat. Magical silver bullets rob you of the hard and spiritual discerning work that will create the best long term pathway for effective ministry.

Even if you do create magic, it’s short lived and shallow. Sure, we all stumble on some magical moments (they’re actually probably Holy Spirit moments). But like the smoke in a magic trick or the bunny in the hat, they do go away, and go quickly. And then there’s an expectation you’ll do it again. You’ll have an encore problem. And when you can’t repeat it, you get booed.

It perpetuates a consumer mentality. Who goes to magic shows? That’s right, people who want to be entertained. That is not our job as church and ministry leaders.

You become the center of attention and applause. If you’re good at creating magical ministry moments, you’ll be the one getting all the attention. It won’t be your fellow staff members or the faithful volunteers, and may even takeaway the attention of the actual miracle Worker.

What magic have you been forced into for your ministry lately? What are you doing that isn’t sustainable, but just short-lived magic? What are you doing that’s making you the magician and therefore always in the spotlight?

If your ministry is one big magic show—incrementalize change. Determine one thing you’ll begin to adjust so that ministry becomes sustainable and is substantial to the Gospel message?

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Creativity in Your Staff Meetings

We bring our staff together monthly from all campuses for an “All Staff” meeting. But four times a year we bring the same people together for Quarterly Staff Meeting. And we do it for four hours. That’s right, a four hour meeting. So to avoid people resigning on the spot, we have to work hard to keep people engaged (we’re not always successful). Here’s a few of the ways we do it:

  • We provide food
  • We mix up the content
  • We have a “fun team”
  • We use multi-media
  • We laugh at each other
  • We vary the presenters
  • We “show off” God’s wins in ministry and wins of staff members
  • We include development (professional, personal, or spiritual or all three)
  • And we have a “newsletter” so they can read rather than be bored by the executive pastor.

The last bullet above, the newsletter is titled “The Office.” It includes tid bits in the Dodridge Download column (see picture of my head split open), a feature article that highlights a staff member, and other pieces of content that celebrates ministry wins, celebrates people, and also pokes fun at people. Maybe there’s an idea or two for church—you can check it out on Resource Page.

p.s. We have a lot of talented people who write and design this content and I’m thankful for them and if it works for you, take their ideas.

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10 Interview Questions for a Minister’s Spiritual Life

We’ve hired nine ministers this year for our church – which means we’ve probably gone through our selection process thirty times. So when I write about the need for insightful interview questions, it comes from a place of need for me (and my church). There are many factors for discerning someone’s spiritual maturity, and that assessment can’t be determined solely by interview questions. However, I’ve listed ten questions I use regularly that help me get a snapshot of a candidate’s spiritual status and trajectory. (If you’re interested, our church’s full section process is available for a nominal cost at equippedchurch.es).

In recent previous posts, I’ve listed both my favorite initial interview questions for a church staff member and also my go-to questions when I’m moving from the discovery phase to the drill down phase of interviewing.

While those sets of questions are important, questions specifically related to their spiritual development is key in our process for our “minister” positions. Below are ten questions that have prompted the most telling responses from candidates. In some cases we have them answer in writing so they have time for an in-depth response – whereas other times, I prefer to have them answer in person (I’ve noted my preference of written or in person after each questions below).

Since I want to understand the person’s spiritual reality and not their preferred or aspirational spiritual life, I try to ask questions just a little bit differently so they’re unlikely to reply with their stock “Sunday School” answer.

  1. Describe for us your ministry path and the spiritual markers along the way. (Written)
  2. In your spiritual walk, how has God used adversity to mature you? (Written)
  3. Share how you have discipled people over the last five years. (In person)
  4. Please share your spiritual disciplines and practices. (In person)
  5. What evidence is there in your life and ministry that you are leading in the power of the Spirit, and not out of your own abilities and strengths? (Written or in person)
  6. What steps do you take to guard and cultivate your integrity? (In person)
  7. Are there any areas in your life that could be considered by Biblical standards to be out of balance or in excess? (Written or in person)
  8. What steps do you follow when you sense disagreement or conflict with someone in your church? Give us an example where you used the steps. (Written)
  9. In what areas of your life is it easiest to demonstrate self-control? In what areas is it most difficult? (In person)
  10. What are you reading in Scripture currently? What are you learning? (In person)

Just as a practical takeaway, make sure you’re prayed up before you host these interviews. Further, I’ve found it helpful to pray underneath my breath multiple times during an in-person interview, “Let me listen the way You’d listen, and not listen out of human-ness.”

Interview and hire well — it matters to our churches.

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