My microwave was broken. Everything worked except it didn’t heat the food anymore. A quick search narrowed it down to 2 problem areas, one of which was called the ‘magnatron’ which sounds like a villain in the generic version of the Transformers. The parts would cost near the price of a new microwave. In a moment of fierce frugality I jumped on Craigslist and searched for an over the stove microwave of the same brand so I knew it would fit.
Success! For just $25 all my problems would be solved, except one. I was informed by my bride that the new color didn’t match the old color… unacceptable. In my haste to reach a solution, I had already picked the little Craigslist hero up. I took a breath and hit the computer again wondering what to do. It turns out that the model I picked up had the same parts as the one that matched our appliances. A friend came over and a few hours flew by, but we switched out the parts and it was solved. My first solution was not the best solution, but rather a stepping stone to the better solution.
I like to solve things. To me Math is fun, giving advice is a joy, but the pleasure I receive out of arriving at a solution usually outweighs the prudence of discerning whether this is the best solution. This happens all the time in ministry in a variety of ways.
- We hire too fast and fire too slow.
- We settle for behavior modification instead of authentic conversion, because if it acts like a Christian, it must be a Christian.
- We justify not doing certain activities because of the potential problems or challenges they might create. An often occurrence is ‘Safe Environment Fear’ where a ministry or group chooses not to innovate because of the possible difficulties it may create to align with Safe Environment Policies. This would say that the best solution is to not have a potential problem in the first place.
Whether it’s meeting a new need, pioneering the use of a new technology or simply another fire to put out, how can you move forward toward the best solution in ministry while avoiding pitfalls.
- Begin with the end in mind. In the beginning, share what the ideal outcome would be and work backwards. Start with the why behind the actions or outcome desired.
- Work with those who would benefit from the solution. If you are seeking to meet a rising need of teens in your youth ministry, ask the teens what ideas they have and their thoughts on possible solutions that have been offered. Create something together.
- Avoid becoming stagnated. While discerning the best solution is important, allowing said discernment to take 12 months is imprudent. Set a time limit on the discernment period and then take action. Let the bumps on the road redirect you so that every solution is being refined or redeveloped. Keep your momentum toward the solution.
- Creatively Consult. Ask people from other fields, industries and churches how they have solved similar challenges in the past. Learn from the best practices, but know that others do not know your community the way you do. Be sure to adapt and create your solution to meet the needs specific to your community. Otherwise it could be a square peg in a round hole.
- Invite the Lord in. Pray is vital and our God is generous. Inviting God into being a part of the solution process is vital. New ideas are often inspired by the Holy Spirit and your invitation to God will put you in a place where you can more readily receive the promptings of the Spirit. The adventure of God’s plan is better than anything we can imagine.
- Accept Failure. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth the work. Always see failure as a stepping stone to a better solution. Learn from failure in the classroom of experience.
Ministry is filled with challenging moments. Know that God desires you to succeed more than you do. Avoid allowing these challenges to steal your joy and instead work toward a solution and let God lead you to the best solution. The adventure of God’s plan is always a blast, even if it’s just fixing an old microwave.