How to NOT get in your own way this year

With the chance of church buildings opening up again sometime in 2021, now is a great time to start dreaming about how to build a meaningful worship ministry. 

In my time working in churches, I’ve noticed that some great ministry ideas crash and burn because people get in their own way.

Here are some tools I’ve learned that can help to pave a path for starting something new. 

Stop serving things that aren’t God or people

I’m talking about when good ideas are thrown out because it doesn’t fit in the bulletin.

…or because that wall already has a bulletin board on it.

…or because someone donated that plastic keyboard five years before you were hired, and that’s why you can’t use the grand piano, Brian. (Sorry, got a little carried away. A little trauma from the first church I worked at.) 

Sometimes churches treat objects like people, protecting them as if they have feelings. 

But I promise your bulletin won’t go home crying if you change the order of worship, and a plastic keyboard is not going to write you a nasty email. 

A good question to ask yourself is: Who are we serving here? It may feel strange, but I’m surprised how many times I answer with something like “my organization system” or “an idea I had earlier.” 

Serve God. Serve your community. Even if it hurts your bulletin’s feelings. 

Embrace the project that requires a lot of work in the front-end but will make things better in the long-run 

I repeat this from last year’s New Year’s Resolutions list because I need the reminder. 

Does this sound familiar? A great idea comes along, and sometimes I respond like this:

  • “That would be great, but then I’d have to retrain some of my volunteers.”
  • “I would love that, but then I’d have to reorganize all my chord charts.”

This year, try responding this way: worship leader, just do the thing.

For me, sometimes it helps to make a list of all the things that would have to happen to get an idea off the ground, and them chip them off one by one. Or if the task is especially tedious and requires organization, I find a long gap in my schedule, get myself a tasty coffee and load up a podcast, and get to work. 

Now is the perfect time to start the project that will make your ministry stronger, more efficient, or more meaningful. Do the thing!

Dare to assume that people WANT to grow in their faith

An easy trap to fall into, especially in such a bummer year, is to assume that people aren’t interested in your ministry ideas. 

  • “People don’t really want to read the Bible.” 
  • “People are bored with the music I play during online worship.” 
  • “People are sick of Zoom.” 

What if, for the heck of it, we flipped the script on this line of thinking? What if we dared to assume that people are hungry to learn about Jesus, meet with others, and grow in their faith—especially during a pandemic? 

Imagine trying out these phrases: 

  • “I bet some people have more time to explore the Bible and are looking for guidance.”
  • “Music may be the most meaningful part of worship for some people.” 
  • “This opportunity to gain connection in a lonely time will be worth people logging into Zoom.” 

Part of being a person of faith means actually having faith sometimes. Don’t get in your own way when you’re trying to build the Kingdom of God in new ways. 

Don’t be afraid to knock Conservative Evangelicalism off the top shelf of your mind 

Okay. So. 

You know Conservative Evangelicalism? The Christian churches and organizations that contribute to unchecked misogyny, racism, homophobia, purity culture, nationalism, capitalism, and biblical literalism? 

Maybe this is the year we refuse to allow them to be the standard-bearers of what it means to be a Christian. 

With the help of ridiculous amounts of funding, the media, and the administration that has run this country for the past four years, this Christian tradition seems unstoppable. And I’ve been in many conversations with church workers who are spending a ton of time figuring out how to compete with—or emulate the success of—the megachurch down the block

But the deal is, Conservative Evangelicalism is unsustainable. 

There’s a whole world to explore on this topic, and I see a future post in the works. (Send me a message if you have thoughts about this!) But maybe this year we de-center the megachurch down the block in our minds. 

Instead of proving we’re “not that kind of Christian,” maybe we start to stand up for what it means to be “this kind of Christian.” 

We won’t topple the Empire overnight, friends. But at least we can try to remove the power they have over our minds. Our ministries will be better for it. 

As always, Jesus beckons us forward. Happy New Year!