Get More Done by Doing Less

I was reading a management blog this week, and thought that ministry leaders are not that different from corporate managers. Stay with me on this, the job of a manager is to recruit, develop, and retain human resources, building and managing system or programs to ensure that important work gets done. Managers do these things by making decisions. One of the most important decisions that any manager (or ministry leader) makes is how they will spend their time.

So I ask you – ministry leader – how will you spend your time? The two blog posts below clearly articulate the power of delegation.

This first post is about leverage – how much leverage do you get from delegating work to others? How much help do you need to get work done?

This second post is about what delegation means to the person you are delegating to. How much does it help them to participate in your work? How does it help them grow?

I know that ministry work is not like a "regular" job. You have less "control" over volunteers, and your staff "compensation" comes from a different source. But leadership is always more about influence than control, trust is the conductor for all forms of influence, and delegation is about trust. Answer these questions, and see if your answers change the way you think about what you need to do this week?

How much time do you spend on the mechanics of running ministry programs?
How much time do you spend developing ministry teams?

Which one will give you the most fruit?

Plan to Multiply

Ministry is hard. It is unpredictable, and sometimes even when the ministry is fruitful, that is harder still. I said that the biblical principle behind fruit is multiplication, so if you are going to be fruitful, you have to plan to multiply. Honestly, I think most of us plan to add.

Fruit exceeding all expectations:
So what happens when your fruit exceeds your expectations? Well, it rots. That is the sad truth. Fruit that is left lying around doesn't grow, or multiply, or even add. It rots. A ministry that does not plan to multiply, probably ends up with a bunch of rotten fruit. What does this look like? In a church, it looks like a revolving door – people who come, and then leave because they don't plug in. It can look like a congregation that is mostly spectators or that are complainers. It can look like people expecting the church to do for them, rather than them serving others with the church. At the end, it probably looks like a church that has stopped growing or has started to recede.

A Plan:
How do you plan for growth? You have to start with your resources. How are we going to use the resources we have? How can we make new believers? How can we take new believers and equip them to serve in simple capacities? How can we equip them to share their faith? How can we equip them to lead others? How can we equip them to be a shepherd? What are these time lines like? How then having equipped them, can we provide opportunities to serve, to share, to lead, to shepherd? How can we continue to encourage them in each of these activities and roles until they mature?

Back to our resources! What are our resources? What collection of gifted and talented individuals has God provided to carry out His work? Do we have resources who are ready to share their faith and lead people to Christ? Do we have people who can mentor and disciple new believers? Do we have people who can lead them in service opportunities? Do we have resources for training people in leadership? As God produces fruit from our labor, we get new resources; new gifts and talents to add to our resource pool. Who is the manager of the resource pool? Who knows what untapped gifts and talents we have available? Who understands the resource needs that we have in terms of gifts and talents?

Why all the questions?:
Because God doesn't have just one way for His ministries to work. He didn't prescribe any methods. He expects us to figure it out. At Pentecost, when 3000 believers were added to the church, do you think that the Apostles had a plan? Probably not. But pretty soon they figured out that they needed Deacons to help serve. I hope that my short list of questions has stimulated to think differently about ministry.

I don't believe that there is one surefire way to make ministry work. I am convinced that failing to plan is planning to fail. I don't mean that all details have to be known in advance, but if God expects us to fulfill the great commission, then we should at least have a plan that reflects our understanding of our intention to do so.

Changing the plan:
So what happens, when the plan doesn't produce fruit? Maybe its time to change the plan? Maybe our methods are not relevant to the community we are trying to reach.
Maybe we have organized differently than the resources that God has provided. Maybe its time to adjust the plan to improve the harvest.

Know the plan:
If a ministry had a plan to fulfill the great commission, and everyone who was involved in the ministry knew the plan, and how their role was key to the success of the plan, how do you think those people would feel about the ministry, and their role in it? If there was a plan that very few people were aware of, how would that help the rest of the people who were involved? Not much.

How Many?:
How many churches or ministries have you experienced that had a plan like this? How many have you heard of? I have been a member at a few churches, some big, others small, and none of them have had a plan to use all the resources that God provides to produce the maximum fruit. If the plan existed, it was so poorly communicated that nobody knew the plan. If the plan existed, it was so poorly executed that it was not recognized as a plan. I have heard of churches that think like this, but I have not seen their plan. How excited would you be if you were serving at a church that knew how it was going to fulfill the great commission? Me too.

One last question:
Can you imagine a church or ministry that has a plan that answered all of the questions above not being a truly awesome expression of God's power in the community? Can you imagine that the people involved in that ministry or church are not totally excited about the ministry? I guess that was two questions…

Cultivate, Measure, Celebrate

Measuring is something that we tend to be afraid of. We feel that it is so corporate, so business like, so unspiritual.

If measurement is unspiritual, why in Acts 2:41 – does it count the believers who were added to the body at Pentecost? Because measurement is required for celebration.

When God talks about the harvest, He doesn't talk about a puny, pathetic, barely able to keep us alive harvest, He talks about abundance. If God is talking about an abundant harvest, why are we satisfied with puny, mediocre, adequate harvest? How can we tell the difference?

All of the words that I used to describe the harvest are words of measurement. When the harvest is abundant, we celebrate. We celebrate the works of God in delivering a bountiful harvest. How do we know whether the harvest is bountiful or mediocre? We measure it.

Is measuring fruit biblical? I think it is. I am not talking about measuring incidentals, but real fruit. Incidentals are things that may or may not correlate with real fruit. BIPs is an incidental measurement – what are BIPs? Butts In Pews. Sunday morning attendance is not a good measure of fruit. You can get more people to attend by putting on a good show, than by preaching the truth of the gospel. Small group attendance is not a good measure of fruit. You can have a lot of small groups and many people attending, but no discipleship or personal growth.

So how do you measure evangelistic fruit? How do you measure discipleship fruit? The measure is more about completion than showing up.

How many people made decisions for Christ? How many were baptized? How many completed a "foundations of the faith" class. How many completed a 2 year intensive discipleship program. How many are serving on a regular basis? How many are serving out of their giftedness? How many have met the qualifications of deacon or elder? How many have been sent into a mission field?

I would be willing to wager that your church or ministry does not keep great statistics about these things. So how can your congregation celebrate the fruit if they are not aware that it is being cultivated? The celebration of God's results is where we rejoice in the evidence that God is alive and at work in our midst. It is when we all get to say, "If God can do that for [him/her] He could do it for me? Our faith is encouraged, and we are challenged when we see God at work in the lives of others.

There is nothing better than counting the fruit to inspire us to participate in the harvest!

The Fruit Justifies the Methods

We have all heard the phrase, "the end justifies the means". It is a blanket rationale, when the ultimate outcome is worth any sacrifice, or expedience. It is used by governments to justify actions, and by good people to justify questionable actions.

How does fruit play into this? Well, the apostle Paul said "…I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some." 1 Corinthians 9:22… What does this mean? This passage from 1 Cor 9:19-22 is all about fruit. It is about maintaining empathy for those that you are ministering to; about making sure our ministry remains relevant to those we are ministering to, so that we " by all means may save some." It is about ministry methods. How you conduct the ministry that you are engaged in. Because people get hung up on methods – specific ways of doing things that may engage some people, and turn others off. Again, it is about the fruit. God will bless methods that are aligned with His will by making them fruitful.

If we conduct ministry the way we did in 1970 or 1950 or even 1850, we probably will not get people engaged. Is it because those methods were not biblical? Probably not. Is it because people perceive them as archaic and out of date or step with "the times", most likely.

The bible doesn't really have a great prescription for how to conduct a church service, run a youth ministry; a women's program; a men's ministry. God left it up to us, each generation of believers to relate to our generation, our culture so that we would figure out how to cultivate the soil around us to produce fruit.

Value Driven Ministry

Every ministry or minister (servant) has values that relate to their service. God has given each of us talents and gifts to use in His service. In service each of us glorifies God by using those gifts and talents to produce fruit.

God does not need our service to produce fruit. But we experience God's work when we participate in the production of fruit in this way. Our relationship with God is strengthened by our service. God allows us to participate, for our own edification, and His glorification.

So naturally, we value the ministry or service opportunities that allow us to use the gifts and talents that He has so freely given us. We see God working through us, using the gifts and talents that He gave us.

Problems happen when:

1) On a personal level, we identify with our gifts instead of our fruitfulness – this is a beginning of spiritual pride, when we identify with our gifts and talents, rather than focusing on how we are an instrument used by God to produce fruit. We then limit God to using us in specific ways, we see certain areas of ministry as out of bounds because they are not aligned with our gifts or talents.

2) On a corporate level we value some gifts and talents above others – this is about spiritual deformity in the church. A church that values some gifts and talents above others will eventually become crippled, like a bodybuilder that builds one muscle only, the church becomes "muscle bound". Our values become our constraints. A church that values evangelism above all else, may fail to produce fruit of discipleship. A church that values teaching above all else, may fail to produce the fruit of regeneration. A body made of hands can't walk, a body made of feet can't carry, a body made of eyes, can't hear, etc.

When we value the fruit, rather than the gifts and talents that produce the fruit, we are free to maintain balance, and recognize the gifts and talents that we lack to produce more fruit. Each ministry should recognize what gifts and talents it needs to produce fruit, and continually seek to uncover, develop, and leverage those gifts and talents. Each ministry should evaluate how it could use the gifts and talents that it already has to produce more fruit.

If you value the fruit, then you value the resources GIVEN BY GOD that help produce the fruit. If you value the gifts and talents more than the fruit, then you don't really understand why God gave them in the first place, and you will eventually err by misusing the gifts, you will eventually fail to produce fruit.

What is Ministry

Ministry is service. Jesus came to serve. We are to follow his example and serve. Our service is ordained by God. We are to serve by doing the good works that He has prepared in advance for us to do.

Our service is to build each other up. Our service is to share the good news of salvation with others. Our service is to produce Fruit.

We are called a "holy priesthood". We are called "saints". What this means to me is that God has called each believer to a life of sacrifice and service. To a life of ministry. This ministry is expressed to family, to friends, to co-workers, to others we encounter.

Here are the Hebrew words from the old testament that are translated ministry:

Shareth – Priestly service or work in the temple or tabernacle
Abodah – labor (of a servant), service (of God)

Here are the Greek words from the new testament that are translated ministry:

Diakonia – service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others; of those who by the command of God proclaim and promote religion among men
the ministration of those who render to others the offices of Christian affection esp. those who help meet need by either collecting or distributing of charities
Leitourgia – a public office which a citizen undertakes to administer at his own expense; a service or ministry of the priests relative to the prayers and sacrifices offered to God

Ministry is the body of Christ using the gifts and talents and resources given by God to pursue or promote the production of spiritual fruit in others.

What Is Fruit

Fruit is part of a new testament analogy the talks about the results of our labor in God's kingdom.

Most of my thoughts on Fruit derive from the parable of the fig tree in Luke 13, in which Jesus describes the state of the Jewish nation, but which also applies to us individually, and to ministries or churches that we participate in.

In the old testament, fruit is a symbol of God's blessing, and points to the harvest in a primarily agrarian society. So what do I mean by fruit?

Fruit is the harvest – therefore evangelism, the great commission, the winning of souls in which we are to participate.

Fruit is spiritual growth – therefore discipleship, engaging God on a continually deeper level, and growing to spiritual maturity, growing in ever deeper dependence on and trust in God.

That is it. In our ministry to others, that is what God cares about. What is really unbelievable, is that while God allows each of us to participate in this fruit, we are not responsible for it, He is. That is why the analogy of the fruit and the harvest is so powerful to me.

We are like farmers. We cultivate the soil, we continue to work to keep weeds and animals from destroying the plants, and we reap the harvest. God is what causes the fruit to grow. We are just farmers. If we do not work the field, the harvest is small, like picking wild berries.

We are not God who makes the fruit grow, nor are we biologists and geneticists who are changing the nature of fruit, we are simple farmers.

The principle behind fruit is multiplication. You plant 1 seed, and a whole plant grows that produces lots of fruit that has its own seeds. These in turn are planted and grow into many plants, that produce more fruit.