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How to Hold Ministry Back

It’s easy to spiritualize what the local church does in such a way that preaching, small groups, and the visible signs of ministry get the most attention while other things, administration for example, often gets relegated to the “just do something with it” pile. However, I would counter that how you structure your ministry can have just as big an impact for the Kingdom as that killer sermon series you just finished preaching last week. For example, giving serious attention to things like:

  • the process of how people get into small groups
  • the process of how you develop sermon series
  • the process of how you follow up with visitors
  • the process of how you help the needy

All of these are systems within a church. The big question is do the sizes of your systems adequately represent the size of your church? For example, does a 1000-member church have a 100-member system for taking care of those in dire need? Someone goes to the hospital because of an emergency but the ball gets dropped, people get upset, and resentment abounds simply because the senior pastor, who is the only person expected to get that call, happened to be out of town. That is a system problem. I wonder how many ministries are held back not because there is a lack of attention, skill, or heart to minister on the staff’s behalf, but merely because their system doesn’t fit their ministry. The result is growing frustration in both congregation and staff not to mention the ‘straightjacketing’ of ministry.

In Matthew 25:14-29, Jesus gives the parable of the talents in which a man gives his resources to his servants before leaving on a journey. Matthew 25:15 says, “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, each according to his own ability.” Many know the story. It ends with the man returning to bless those who used their resources well and condemn the slothfulness of the one servant who wasted his opportunity. Now, I understand this story ultimately about how Christ’s disciples should be prepared for his return but I think it worth noting that the master is not only pleased with the good, productive stewardship of the servants were respectively given but that he sought to bless their stewardship for the future.

I wonder if many church leaders are experience stress, frustration, and ineffectiveness simply because they have a five-talent ministry stuffed in a two-talent, or even worse, a one-talent system? It’s poor stewardship and likely holding back greater impact for the Kingdom. You may also find yourself unnecessarily worn-out, depressed, or even angry with yourself, the staff, the congregants, or even God himself. But remember, these issues aren’t centered around an attitude problem or a lack of desire to honor God. It’s a process problem and begs the question: Do you have a five-talent ministry in a one-talent system? Like Moses being overwhelmed in Numbers 11 at the amount of responses by the people, only to have God give him a better system (i.e., seventy elders) to deal with it, we too need to reassess our ministry systems and ask if there are more efficient and effective ways of doing what we know needs to be done. Is there a better system?

This will demand asking questions like:

  • What has God called us to do? What “talents” has he given to us?
  • What ministries are experiencing frustration, ineffectiveness, apathy?
  • What are those ministries’ current systems? Do we have the right “who” for those systems and are they doing the right “what” in those systems?
  • Where have our ministries grown but our systems have remained the same? Do we have a system too big for our current ministry?

Stop holding your ministries back! This is a very spiritual endeavor because it seeks to honor God in all that he has given to us. So make sure the size of your system fits the size of your ministries.


***For those who’ve asked why I haven’t blogged lately. Again, here’s why.



Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

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