May 1, 2013 by eimrick
Read what he has to say to young leaders:
Advice to Young Ministry Leaders: Setting Benchmarks to Measure Progress
Surveyors have a proficiency that ministry leaders would do well to adopt. I’m speaking here of the practice of identifying benchmarks – the ability to pinpoint specific, stable points of reference that can used to measure progress, growth, or movement.
Life, especially life in ministry, has a way of handing us our own personal set of benchmarks – ways of measuring our progress in the journey God has set before us. Every time we change the page in our calendars can be one of those times. That happens to me each January. It’s as if the simple process of facing a new year provides me the opportunity to evaluate the past year and to set goals (some call them “resolutions”) for the next year. I’m not much for making New Year’s Resolutions per se, but I often look at January 1st as an occasion to review the past (especially as I think about gathering my tax records and receipts!); and to specifically list items I hope to accomplish in the future.
There are certainly other occasions in life where our Heavenly Father provides benchmarks or opportunities for us to measure our progress or growth. This past year has delivered a series of those for my wife and me. During 2012, I switched ministries (I’m now serving on the administrative team at Baptist Bible College & Seminary), my Mom died after a struggle with a brain tumor, my first grandson was born (the Walker legacy continues!), and my son and daughter-in-law suffered a miscarriage. Other life-altering situations happened this year, but these four things absolutely made me remember the fact that with God “circumstances are never circumstantial”. God has a purpose for everything. (Romans 8:28 & 29)
Using the analogy of identifying benchmarks, I want to take this opportunity to list 5 quick pieces of advice for young ministry leaders. Perhaps it would be wise for each of us to establish some specific points of reference (or benchmarks) to see how we are doing in the following aspects of our lives and ministries:
1. Guard your own walk with God.
This is where it starts. How are we doing in our own walk with our Heavenly Father? We can never truly be effective in helping others grow spiritually unless we are consistently growing closer in our own personal relationship with Him. We must be sure to protect our own daily time in God’s Word and in prayer; especially as we try to motivate our students to do that. We will never truly be spiritual leaders unless our own walk with God is sound and growing.
2. Protect your marriage.
It’s also imperative for each of us to be intentional about making our relationship with our spouse a top priority. It’s too easy to neglect our most important human relationship while we spend day-after-day, evening-after-evening, and weekend-after-weekend actively involved in our ministries. A good marriage requires effort and determination to make it the best possible. Be sure to build time and finances into your life for date nights and other marriage priorities with your spouse and make sure to work hard at being the best spouse possible for your mate.
3. Disciple your own children first.
Those of us in youth ministry often struggle with this one. We put so much effort into trying to disciple teenagers that we have very little time left over for our own children. Many youth workers attempt to solve this problem by bringing their young children along with them on youth ministry functions. This was an important balance for my wife and me when our children were younger. Sometimes it worked for us to bring our own children to youth events, but at other times we worked hard to find other people (like adopted grandparents) who could help us as babysitters. We must remember to raise our own kids in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” while we strive to help teenagers grow in Christ as well.
4. Make much of relationships.
We must also remember that relationships are the very life-blood of effective ministry – plus it’s important from a human psyche perspective to have healthy, growing relationships with other people. That’s why I always encourage young ministry leaders to work hard at building positive relationships with significant people. This might include other members of the pastoral staff, or members of the youth ministry team, or it might be peers in ministry from other churches. I believe it is imperative for young leaders to have some significant people in their lives with whom they can share the immense struggles and burdens of ministry.
5. Grow in your areas of ministry.
I also highly advise young leaders to keep growing in their own areas of ministry. It’s too easy to quit receiving hands-on training once college or seminary is over. But, please don’t quit learning! Avail yourself of the many conferences, seminars, workshops, further educational opportunities, and other resources that are available today. Take the time to identify the specific aspects of your ministry that could use some attention and then locate some resources, mentors, or organizations that could help you grow in those areas. I know many young leaders who feel as if they don’t have the financial assistance to make this a top priority, but this is important enough to find ways to build further training into your life.
These are reference points only. Taking the time to pinpoint benchmarks that relate to these areas of life is worth the effort. Don’t wait for a crisis or next New Years to make these things priorities in your life and in your ministry. May the Lord bless you as you seek to impact the next generation for eternity!
Baptist Bible College & Seminary
Which of these areas do you find most convicting?
Next week, I’m looking forward to sharing Dr. Richard Dunn’s advice to young leaders. He’s the author of Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life Giving Rhythms for Spiritual Transformation