Posted in Ministry

The Needed And Under-Developed Skills Of Ministers


Photo courtesy of iStockphoto®

I’ve gotten to learn from Jeff Young and be his friend, for more than a decade now. No matter where Jeff has served, he’s always made it a point to serve other churches and ministers. Many people can claim Jeff as a mentor – he purposely looks for opportunities to care for and develop those around him.

Jeff serves at Green Acres Baptist Church in Texas (at the time of this interview, he served at Prestonwood Baptist Church Plano, Texas.

I recently interviewed Jeff regarding what he’s found to be the core competencies of successful ministers. Specifically, I asked him which skills ministers should be developing, and what are the weaknesses he’s seen in those who serve in mega churches. (Jeff has served in multiple.)

My questions to Jeff are in bold, followed by his responses.

What are the skill sets you feel are must-haves for any minister coming into their first full-time position?

Obviously, there are matters of character that are critical for any minister, but from purely a “skill set” perspective, I believe (1) a bias toward action (both with relationship building, and current issues that need to be solved); and (2) teach-ability (a willingness to listen, read, understand… all are critical and will endear them to their supervisor, peers, and volunteers).  If I can find a young minister who has a bias toward action (both relationally and in problem solving), who is eager to learn (absorbing information and changing as a result)… I’m all in!

What skills sets do you see that are most under-developed in ministers, and cause issues for them and the church?

(1) The ability to coach and develop volunteers in small group settings.  Honestly it’s easier to have a large-group equipping session and disseminate the prepared vision, ideas, etc., than it is to discuss these same matters with a small group of leaders and get push-back or specific questions about implementation. (2) Lack of confrontation skills. – Everyone wants to be liked, and “after all, they are volunteers”. (3) Execution abilities. Developing strategies isn’t our issue… it’s the self-leadership that’s necessary to make those strategies soar, that holds many back.

For you and others you’ve developed, what have been the best places to get training in these important areas?

Honestly, I think it comes from experience and the people leading you.  I realize that could be frustrating to a young leader, due to the fact that they might be serving under a weak leader and/or experience takes time… but I believe I’m right. Obviously there are books on building relationships or execution (I highly recommend Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan’s book, Execution), and other helpful topics.  I believe reading and discussing what you read with a teammate is extremely beneficial to skill development.

As church sizes get bigger, what are the biggest shifts in mindset needed for ministers serving larger churches?

The old adage, “you give up to go up” applies here.  (1) You have to focus on equipping and development of volunteers more, because you can’t be aware of everything that is occurring in every setting.  While you may garner more oversight, you will also give up some control.  (2) Your delegation skills will need to expand (because your time will be spread thin), and [you’ll need to learn how to] leverage meetings.  Preparation for meetings is extremely important due to your time being spread thin, (i.e. learn to use meetings for hearing prepared updates vs. simply assigning tasks).  While you must spend time thinking through who needs to have reports to share, this will save you multiple meetings, it allows the team to see the big picture, and provides accountability laterally all at the same time.  (3) [Understand that] while you will know more people, you may not know as many “closely”, due to your influence being spread wider.  (4) Finally, you will learn to allow others to attempt things that you never would in a smaller setting.  Most likely, the church you are serving became larger because people took risks; they tried something new/different.  That can be scary, expensive… and things can fail.  But you have to learn to allow your team the freedom to “swing and miss”.  It’s critically important.

What are the assumptions/attitudes made by ministers at larger churches that you feel hinder their effectiveness?

(1) “We can’t have close friends in the church.” I understand their concerns, and we must be very, very wise – but I disagree with the “absoluteness” of the concept. (2) “I can’t disciple a small group of men because some will feel left out.” That’s the worst reasoning I hear. After all, who is our example? Jesus left quite a few out! (3) “Email/texting is the best way to communicate.” Nothing beats a face-to-face meeting or a phone call – even if it’s a voicemail.  (4) “I said it, so they need to do it.”  While I understand this thought in its purest form, volunteers rarely respond well to this attitude and, honestly, neither do the ministers on our team.  Think relationally versus powering up.  Clearly there will be times when you need to say “because I say so”, but make those the exception versus the rule.

Jeff and his wife, Carol, live in Carrollton and have three children, Emily (married to Dave Kinney), Brett and Bryce. You can follow Jeff on Twitter via @JeffYoung7.

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Ministers and Mourning


If you’ve been doing ministry long, it’s happened.

It’ll be months after a friend’s death, and you’ll wake up one day extremely sad. The kind of sad most people typically feel during days 1-3 after losing someone they care about.

But in days 1-3 after your friend’s death, you weren’t mourning – you were ministering.

While I and others applaud transparency from our ministers when they struggle, many people expect ministers to pastor them through their grief. Pastors are expected to be controlled emotionally. We need them to be “the okay one” in the chaos of loss.

As ministers, we’re not alone in this. Jesus had to hurry through His own grief for the sake of ministry.

Matthew 14 tells us about John the Baptist’s beheading, and how his disciples went and reported it to Jesus afterward.  Jesus was sad, and he “withdrew to be alone.”  He went to mourn. But his mourning was short-lived, and it soon became time for ministry. The crowds followed him, and as he stepped ashore, he “saw them, and felt compassion for them, and healed their sick.”

Jesus is God, but I wonder if he wished for more time to mourn John.

You and me, we’re not God. We need time to mourn when we bury our friends and family. We might plan the funeral or preach at the service, or we may sing a song or hold a distraught loved one. But in addition to those things, we must also mourn.

I’m a realist, and I understand that we may not be able to fully engage our own mourning as we minister. But if we’re going to be emotionally healthy in the long-term (so we can minister to more people, longer), we must find room for our grief.

Professionals tell us that people grieve differently, but it’s clear all will experience it. When you do, give yourself permission to grieve – even if your grieving methodology doesn’t meet the expectations of others.

Don’t wait months to fully grieve. Take a day off after a funeral. Talk to a counselor. (I’ve argued for this before, through a previous guest post you can read here.) Go do whatever it is you need to do to vent and deal with the stress.

Ministers often try to put their “grieving” off until later, but that’s not healthy, and not sustainable in a career of ministry.


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Spiritual Journey: Stolen.

Broken glass

I was crushed. As I drove east on Interstate 40 towards our new home in Nashville, I frantically called all the important numbers I could think of, while trying to hear over the flapping of plastic that covered our recently broken window.

A new ministry job had our family moving from Texas to Tennessee. En route, we stopped for a night in Memphis. Our housing wasn’t available until the next day, and the kids had never experienced the indoor hotel swimming pool (“Dad of the Year” Award went to me). After breakfast and a morning swim, I began moving suitcases from the hotel room back into the car to continue our new Tennessee adventure.

As I neared the car, I stepped on glass.

A thief had broken into it. The moment that thought registered, I felt instant frustration. Anger.

Then the anger led to confusion. I’d unpacked almost everything from the car the night before, so what could they have stolen?  What was missing? Even when I met with the police I couldn’t remember what was in the car that might’ve been taken.

But between Memphis and Nashville, it hit me–I’d left one bag in the car overnight. It contained a Ziploc bag, which held all the contents I’d taken from my bank’s safe deposit box– passports, birth certificates, SS cards, and even my wife’s most important jewelry was in the bag.

Most of those things were replaceable. Bu it was the next few items I remembered, that caused me to literally become sick.

Journals, my personal journals.  One recorded how God had been dealing with me the last two years, including the very important last six months as God called me from one church to the other.

But there were also other journals in the bag–gone. And those were the ones that caused me to grieve.

For each of my children, I’d started a journal. From the day of their first sonogram, I’d been writing in a journal that was just for them. I planned to give it to them when they moved from my home as adults.  Their journals were about them, my faith in God, my hope of their faith in God, their awesome mom, and other “dad needs you to know” stuff.

I could never replace that content. It was worth a lot more to me that anything else stolen from my car. The moment I realized the journals were gone, I was disheartened.

But I chose to journal again for my kids.

With the outset of a new journaling venture, I chose a new plan–a simpler plan for me to start from scratch. I purchased a nice, large leather journal, and its contents were for all four of my kids, one journal to be shared amongst them.

My entries are typically universal. I record what God is teaching me that I want them to know when they’re older. I brag on their mom and the daily sacrifices she makes for them. I write about the importance of manners, and of reading Scripture. I record significant moments in each of their lives, that each of their siblings will be able to celebrate with them as they read about it.

When my oldest child moves from my home, I plan for the journal to go on loan. It will be theirs to keep and read through until their next youngest sibling leaves home. Then they will pass it along. (I realize the journal could forever be lost in a college dorm room, but I’ve dealt with that loss before.)

For me, it’s a part of legacy-leaving. I’ve blogged before on how journaling serves me, how God has used it in my life. Now, I hope the discipline of journaling will allow my kids to remember some very important things (plus some funny things) about their lives and about the lives I believe God has for them.

Consider a journal for your children. You have a lot to say, and it can be a lasting legacy for your family.


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