By Rev. Dale Cockrum | Inland District Superintendent
Thank you for bearing with me as I have named seven of my most basic ministry convictions, which I set as expectations for new pastors in my district. I have appreciated the chance to share them with any who might wonder how their superintendent is assessing their ministry, and what a DS might especially want to see their pastors emphasize.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he final expectation I have of your ministry is that you will seek to work from the strengths of your congregation. I don’t expect your church to do everything well. I do expect that they can do some things really well.
[quote_box_left]I don’t expect your church to do everything well. I do expect that they can do some things really well.[/quote_box_left]When I took my first church, I found a congregation that was beating themselves up because they didn’t have a youth group. They didn’t have a youth group because they didn’t have any youth. There were no youth even remotely connected to the congregation; there were no parents in the congregation whose children were youth. And yet the congregation felt bad about themselves because of what they perceived as a glaring lack in their ministry. How could they succeed in their community, they wondered, without a youth group?
[quote_box_right]Seven Ministry Convictions
- Ministry is all about people and relationships.
- Ministry requires a team.
- Ministry gives itself away.
- Ministry helps people deal with change.
- Ministry focuses on making disciples and engaging our mission‐field.
- The most important hour of ministry is Sunday morning worship.
- Ministry builds on the strengths of a congregation.
[/quote_box_right]But here’s the thing-they did have young children, a lot of them, and it turns out that one way to get a youth group is to start with kids. I got the congregation to refocus away from what they didn’t have to what they did, and by the time I left six years later, we not only had a terrific ministry with young children, we also had a youth group! We didn’t create it from scratch; we grew it from what we already had.
I’ve learned since then that there’s a name for this; it’s called, by some, “appreciative inquiry,” and by others “Asset-Based Ministry.” Learn all you can about this way of leading ministry in your new church! Appreciative inquiry asks what we do well, what we are known for in the community (in a good way). Asset-based ministry challenges us to work from the abilities of the people in our church, the strengths of the congregation, rather than focus on what people can’t do or what someone thinks a congregation should be doing.
I commend to you Tom Rath’s excellent book, Strengths Finders, now out in version 2, as well as an excellent curriculum by Stephen Ministry titled Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life: You and Your Spiritual Gifts.
This approach to ministry takes seriously that the church is the body of Christ, and the unique and varied gifts and talents of our people. Most of us can’t be all things to all people (it would be more accurate to say no one can). I challenge you to build a great ministry on what you and the people in your church can do well, and I will celebrate that with you.