Stop the “It’s MY Ministry” Mentality
Do you have women who have started ministries in the church and insist they keep going regardless of effectiveness? Has your ministry team been event-driven with one person overseeing Bible studies, another the retreat, & another the Christmas brunch with complete authority in each? If you are a church leader and suggest that some things need to be changed, do they balk at that? We can get so attached to what we want to see happen that we dig in our feet and take on the “it is MY ministry” mentality. Even something good can take our focus off of what is best. Every local church belongs to Jesus Christ first and foremost. We are to not only submit to Him as our authority but also desire what He wants more than what we want. We need to humble ourselves before Him as Lord over our most cherished activities and programs at church. Doing so is the only way to stop the “it’s MY ministry” mentality.
What does Jesus want?
Jesus Christ calls you to a new life, clothes you with Himself, commissions you with a purpose, and empowers you to fulfill that purpose—to follow Him as His disciple and to live for Him as a disciplemaker. Being His disciple means to actively learn from Him through what is taught in the Bible and apply that to your life. We refer to this as discipleship and focuses on personal spiritual growth. Disciplemaking goes beyond that. It includes seeing people trust in Christ and grow in their faith. It also includes training Christians to reach new people for Christ and help new believers grow in their faith so those can then reach their own peers for Christ. The problem is that we can get comfortable doing our favorite activities and easily lose sight of disciplemaking.
Staying tuned to what Jesus wants is especially important for anyone leading a ministry in a church. When we allow someone to keep hanging onto a ministry they started even when it is not effective for disciplemaking, we enable the “it’s MY ministry” mentality. That becomes counterproductive to the overall ministry of the church to fulfill our purpose as disciplemakers inside and outside of the church.
Allowing silo ministries is destructive.
I received a phone call from a friend who is the women’s ministry team leader for a small church. The church had been around for many years, and the women’s ministry had become a “silo ministry,” meaning it had been operating basically on its own disconnected from the church leadership. Various women would bring their ideas of what each wanted to do, help the group to raise money for the projects, and then spend it their way. They loved the Lord, had good hearts, and had supported several local missions. But…
The elders of the church realized this structure was not healthy so they suggested a reorganization of the women’s leadership. The church was putting a greater emphasis on disciplemaking in all areas of ministry. The congregation members recommended 5 women of character and faith to form the new team (2 had been part of the old structure). I met with this wonderful group of ladies to talk over how they would transition from the old “silo ministry” format to one that was integrated with the disciplemaking mission of the church. We also talked over how to carefully affirm the value and service of those who had previously headed up the old way of doing things. We knew this would take lots of prayer, love, and patience.
Most of those who had been part of the old structure welcomed the changes once the purpose was explained. No one was making them stop their individual ministries. They could continue them on their own. They were just not going to be incorporated into the new women’s ministry structure and promoted as such.
However, the new team was really concerned about the response of one particular woman who did not like anyone messing with “her ministry.” For several years, she had been getting away with this “it’s MY ministry” mentality and would intimidate anyone who got in her way. This woman had a heart for a particular local mission, had been allowed to lead this public ministry, and she got the job done her way.
Since my friend’s church was a small church (<200), there had not been the leadership training for women heading up various activities that larger churches usually offer every year. The New Testament is pretty clear concerning the character qualities necessary for anyone in leadership in Jesus’ Church. From 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, we get that she should be humble, teachable, and Christ-focused. From 1 Timothy 3:11, we see that women in any kind of leadership position should be worthy of respect, temperate, trustworthy, and definitely not malicious talkers. Such qualities of a servant-leader should certainly be included in leadership training.
The new women’s ministry team met privately with the “it’s MY ministry” woman so they could carefully tell her about the changes to the women’s ministry structure and allow lots of Q&A opportunity. Sadly, the “it’s MY ministry” woman responded as anticipated. She called other women who had been part of the old structure to whine about it and even slandered the church and the pastor to a visiting family. Not exactly the kind of advertising to make someone want to come back!
As I spoke with my friend, we both agreed it was time for the elders to step in and confront the “it’s MY ministry” woman with her behavior. We prayed for her to respond with humility and a teachable spirit. My friend and I also agreed that it was important to provide leadership training to all the women in any leadership role at her church. This would include not only Bible study small group leaders but also women who oversee outreach events, fundraisers, and the retreat. Based upon my past experience in church ministry, I emphasized this leadership training should include the New Testament character qualities necessary to be a leader in Jesus’ Church. It is important to put everyone “on the same page” of approaching ministry as a team and hopefully stop the “it’s MY ministry” mentality. Check out The 5 C’s of Small Group Leadership handbook and others found on Bible.org.
Moving forward to disciplemaking requires change.
Sometimes, even good activities need to be dissolved or seriously changed when they are less effective for disciplemaking. I do not like change unless, of course, it is something I initiate. For the most part, I am most comfortable when a certain ministry in which I am actively involved continues on year after year just the same. Well, maybe you can add a few tweaks here and there, but leave it essentially the same. It may not be my ministry, but it sure feels like “my” ministry if I have been very active in it. I have to be willing to “blow things up” to encourage disciplemaking.
In her book, Community Is Messy, Heather Zempel wrote a whole chapter on being willing to “blow things up” when an activity or event is no longer effective at doing what it is supposed to accomplish. She calls it “Operation Kaboom” and says that it requires humility and honesty to recognize that what worked yesterday may not work today—or may never have worked at all!
In the process of “blowing things up” to dissolve or change a favorite activity:
Be humble, be prayerful, be discerning. … Make sure God has initiated the process, and invite Him to be a part of it all the way through. … Be willing to hurt some feelings and offend some people. … Stop doing things that are really good to make way for things that are better. Just because you’ve ‘always done it that way’ doesn’t mean you should keep doing it that way.Heather Zempel, Community Is Messy, page 168
Operation Kaboom. In fact, Heather Zempel calls it “Divine Demolition.” This is hard to do. Women do not like change. We get attached and even possessive about ministries we have started or have held together for years. This can cause an angry backlash.
Heather Zempel recognizes this and brings us back to focus on our purpose.
There may be some [activities] that you really love, that carry sentimental value for many people and that even accomplish good things. But they are no longer the right thing. Be willing to [stop] good things to make way for better things.Heather Zempel, Community Is Messy, page 168
When we are truly open to the Lord’s leading, we must be willing to let go of our cherished way of doing things if they are not successfully bringing new people to Jesus, establishing new believers well, and launching everyone into disciplemaking. A few tweaks may not fix it. Time to “kaboom!”
An example in my life
About 10 years ago, one of my favorite ministry activities got blown up. It felt very weird not to have it the same. But it was the right thing to do. It was time to blow things up.
For 7 years, I had been a mentor mom for Mothers of Preschoolers (a.k.a. MOPS). It was a wonderful part of my life. Then, “kaboom” happened. The host church decided in the spring that they would not continue hosting this MOPS group (that had been around for 12 years!) but would host its own mothering group with a greater emphasis on disciplemaking.
MOPS is designed to be an outreach ministry, bringing in moms from the community including those who do not know Jesus yet. What a great idea! At first, this particular MOPS group attracted lots of unchurched women, and a few got to know Jesus and grow as believers. Then, it became more of a community for moms from area churches. It was still providing fellowship and occasional helpful hints through quality speakers, but it was not attracting unchurched women and moving them towards a relationship with Jesus. The leadership recognized that women could spend 8 years in MOPS and never move forward spiritually. Reflecting on my 7 years, I can count on 1 hand the number of women I knew who became Christians because of our ministry. It was time to “kaboom” it and create something new and more effective.
Of course, those of us who loved MOPS immediately balked. It got really messy. Then, as we honestly looked at how little influence we were having on unchurched women in our affluent community, we agreed to the “kaboom”—though hesitantly. It was time to create something new that met the needs of moms of young children yet also would give them spiritual principles on which to base their mothering.
Stop the “it’s MY ministry” mentality with “it’s Christ’s ministry.”
Christianity is Christ. He is living inside of you. Your ministry inside or outside of the church is HIS ministry. It is not your ministry. The old MOPS format was not my ministry. It was Christ’s ministry. It is not just for being comfortable in our groups. What hope do any moms have without Christ for themselves and their children? I was reminded once again that our role in the here and now is to “make disciples.” A disciple is someone who follows Jesus. They cannot follow Jesus if they do not know Him. Making disciples starts with introducing people to Jesus who do not know Him yet. How many of our women’s ministries focus on that?
Christian women spend a lot of time with each other. We love Bible study groups. That is where disciples grow. But, who is preparing each one of us to reach the women around us who do not know Christ. Where is the weekly training and practice for that? Unless we intentionally reach the women next door to us and share the love of Jesus with them, we will not be fulfilling our purpose. Honestly, other traditional women’s ministry activities I have enjoyed through the years might also need to be “kaboomed” to make room for disciplemaking. Ouch. Even good change still hurts.
Let me insert a caution here. Move slowly with your “Operation Kaboom.” Consider whether that activity can be moved to another church ministry (local missions or hospitality or assimilation) or released to an individual to continue doing it apart from women’s ministry. Always plan a time of celebration and appreciation whenever you end it.
Stop the “it’s MY ministry” mentality in your church. Bring everyone together to fulfill the disciplemaking purpose Jesus Christ gave to each of us individually as well as to every local church. Every ministry activity is HIS ministry!
“The original blog was posted in July 2014.”
- Add a Disciplemaking Focus to Women’s Ministry
- Disciplemaking Resources on Bible.org (read online)
- Disciplemaking Resources at melanienewton.com (checklists and booklets to download)
- Pitfalls of Leadership by Dianne Miller on Bible.org
- Lifestyle Disciplemaking blog series
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