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 it up a bit. While I thought it was funny, it also reminded me of 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 are dangers in pursuing magical means, and if you actually do have an “Abra cadabra” moment, well, that can be dangerous too.
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’ll get booed.
It perpetuates a consumer mentality. Who goes to magic shows? That’s right, people who want to be entertained. Entertainment 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 it 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?