Working In and On Ministry
The saying has been around for a while, and I’ve slightly adapted it: One must work in the ministry, and also on the ministry. It was a saying that I was first introduced to by a plumber – an extremely effective one.
The difference that one word can make is huge. ‘In’ the ministry means activities like preaching, visiting people, meeting one to one with people, routine meetings. It is a little like being in maintenance mode – frantically running around doing the essential building blocks of ministry. Working ‘on’ the ministry means stepping back, and thinking about what needs to be done at a more macro level.
So, my example in recent weeks arises from the area of welcoming. I have certainly been visiting people who have visited our church (working in the ministry). And, for the first time in a while, I have organised other meetings to think about how we do welcoming, and how the whole process can be made even better (this is working on the ministry).
For most, it seems a continual challenge to move from the in to the on. Now, don’t get me wrong. Working in the ministry is both vital, and foundational. But without working on the ministry, most will struggle to make too many gains.
The change management fable, The Iceberg is Melting (John Kotter – a brilliant book to understand the change process), is set in an environment where the living environment of penguins is melting away – literally. Most want to keep doing what they have been (working in), but as circumstances change what is needed is for them to change their living environment, and to do this they have to dedicate energy to working on their situation.
If they didn’t do so, they would have become extinct.
In a rapidly changing world, churches and other Christian organisations, need time to work on the ministry. The natural tendency by many is to become swamped with the in category. There is always more to do – and it is mostly good. But the world is changing, and each local community is changing, and this requires continual adaptation in the way that the message of Jesus is brought to those around us.
Some people take a week out from time to time to deliberately focus on this area. Others seem to be able to incorporate into their weekly routine. Most seem to do nothing.
If you are a minister, what can you do to make space to work on the ministry? If you are in a church, how can you encourage and help your church’s leadership to do so?
Feature photo: tomsk