Simon Sinek in his book Start with the Why tells a story of American car executives who tour a Japanese assembly line. They get to the end of the line where the doors were placed on hinges and notice that there was not a line worker present with a rubber mallet to tap the edges of the door into place so it would fit perfectly. Upon questioning why no one had that role, which was a vital piece of the American assembly line, the Japanese makers simply stated “We make sure it fits when we design it.” The desired outcome was perfectly engineered from the first step.
So often the ministry that we take part in needs minor adjustments. Sometimes, it requires adjustments more colossal. Next time you are ready to pull out the rubber mallet to make sure things fit just right, consider these things.
Whose ministry is this?
As a youth minister, I often say ‘my ministry’ or ‘my teens.’ It is important that I have definite ownership over the area God has called me to serve, but God is ultimately the one who owns the ministry. God desires the youth or adults to which you minister to be His more than you could ever imagine. It’s freeing knowing that if I get in the way of ministry, God still desires to work through or in spite of me.
God must be the designer and you an instrument in His capable hands. Often I can make the ministry be more ‘Chris’-centered than Christ-centered. Relax a bit, God has this. There is no case where God desires poor ministry to take place in His name in any church. Your church has all the ingredients present for dynamic ministry to take place. If the right people are not there, the resources to bring them in are. If the right volunteers are not volunteering, God is calling them forth and we must assist in fostering a culture of openness to God’s calling.
Do the offerings of your church serve the varying needs of your community? If God is the designer, they should. Cars have changed over the years; new designs, new requirements, new models. Is a program you are running the 1997 model? Look at the growing needs, evaluate how your programs meet those needs and ask the hard questions. If you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you’re getting. If that quote doesn’t get you excited, then adjustments, changes or improvements need to be made. Do not be afraid to try something revolutionary if you feel God calling you to even if you have to sacrifice the golden calf to do so. Those you serve are worth innovating for, even if the changes are imperfect.
Perfection is not the goal, salvation is.
I have always struggled with Matthew 5:48 ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’. I have never had a ministry event run perfectly. I believe that Jesus’ message here is not one that sides with legalism, scrupulosity, or polishing every detail of an event. Rather I believe Jesus reveals a deeper message of the Father’s love. The Father’s perfection is drawn from how he showcases His love for all. Relationship is vital and often it’s in spite of or through the imperfections of the ministry that Love has an opportunity to be showcased. When volunteers are out, we combine small groups because we love the teens and would rather have a larger group than a group without a leader. Love builds a relationship that leads to salvation. If perfection is the goal, then we would need critics to judge and measure each ministry event (and some of you do). Love is messy, look at the cross. Love requires relationship and perfection is found in the journey and all the challenges along the way.
Give time to God and allow Him to reveal the perfect design He has for the ministry at your church. It will not look like the ministry in the church across town, or the ministry that existed at your church 5 years ago. It will require some letting go and some reaching out, but God’s perfect design simply requires faithfulness, not adjustments. You can leave the rubber mallet at home.