It's All About Ethos

Sue Edwards's picture

Ethos is the ministry environment you create. What impacts ethos? Many factors—for example, the depth of the leader’s relationship with God; their spiritual, emotional, and mental health; their view of themselves and others; their view of their role as leader; their comfort empowering others; and, if the team is mixed-gender, their view of the other sex.

If you influence others, you create the ethos. Who you are, how you think, and what you believe colors the atmosphere. And what you think and feel about the opposite sex will determine whether or not men and women work together as brothers and sisters. You are responsible for the ministry’s health. It all begins with you.

As a leader, what kind of working atmosphere do you want to create? What kind of ministry ethos is optimal for both the men and the women God entrusts to you? How can you create a healthy mixed-gender ethos?

Every workplace has its own unique ethos. The ministry leader, whether volunteer or paid, creates the ethos, intentionally or unintentionally, and that ethos trickles down into every nook and cranny of the ministry.

"Georgia" micromanaged her children’s ministry staff, monitoring every detail, quick with words of rebuke but miserly with praise. Their creativity stifled, her staff began to pick at one another as well as at their volunteer workers. Soon the volunteers started complaining that they needed more rooms, more supplies, and more appreciation. By Christmas three of the four staff were looking for other positions and a third of the volunteers quit, resulting in a pathetic Christmas program that embarrassed everyone in the audience.

Mark hired the best people on his pastoral staff that he could find, and his goal was few turnovers, and then only if they were a poor fit for their ministry. He did not require them to keep office hours. He wanted them to work wherever they were most productive. He provided a comfortable office but if they accomplished more at home or the local Starbucks, all the better. He budgeted money to send each on a yearly mission trip. He wanted the church to develop a global mindset and knew it started with staff. He insisted each take several days a month and get away for one-on-one time with the Lord. Every seven years, each enjoyed a six-month paid sabbatical to rest, refresh, or focus on a ministry project. Occasionally an e-mail would flash across everyone’s screen—“let’s go out for ice cream,” or “let’s go see a movie tomorrow—on me.”

Think about what kind of ethos would be appropriate for your ministry. How can you make the environment a place where people thrive and men and women work together in healthy partnership?


A Christian school can be a great place to create an ethos that releases blessing to the laborers and those being ministered to. In this place, children and future generations can become those recipients of the plentiful fruit of the harvest. Afterall, aren't children a product of their environment?

Encouraging love and unity in Christ along with teamwork is essential for fruitful productivity and success. Unity is the place where God commands the blessing. The leadership team simply must walk in unity according to Ephesians 3:20. Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I often think of how imperative it is that our endeavoring be to please our Heavenly Father and not man. This vital key called unity along with God-pleasing responsibility from each team member can and will be instrumental in releasing a plentiful harvest in the mission field of Christian school.

Selflessly understanding the truth, that Christian education is not only a gift but an inheritance from the Father who loves with his perfect love, will help us to minister out of His heart, and not our own, if we remember that our serving is all about Him and His children; not us.

When thinking about ethos - please be mindful of the kinds of jobs and tasks we ask leaders to do. In our church, volunteer leaders were burning out b/c of the all the time and back and forth (emails, calls, signup sheets) to coordiante volunteers for community ministry, Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and fundraising projects. We started using VolunteerSpot (free & totally simple online signup and scheduling software) and everyone is happier! Some times it's the little things that can make all the difference.

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