At the risk of being provocative, I’d like to ask you a question. Assuming you’re not reading this out loud, no one else will know your answer, so be honest with yourself. What role does ego play in your ministry?
You may be thinking, “I don’t have a big ego. I devote my life to the Lord and helping others.” There are, of course, rock star ministry leaders out there, who are in it for recognition and fame. But, in my experience, these big-ego driven types are few and far between. What’s far more common than a big ego in ministry circles is a self-protecting one.
Does any of this sound familiar?
- I have to maintain a façade that all is well, even when I’m hurting.
- I can’t talk to anyone about my needs because I’m supposed to have it all together.
- I can’t admit my fears because God is supposed to be enough.
- I have to keep up the appearance of a perfect family, ministry and life.
It does to me.
So, what happens when a ministry leader’s marriage is in trouble, when they can’t pay their bills, when they’re stressed or battling depression? More often than not, we concede to the constant and palpable pressure to “present well”, and hide the problem. But, when we are not truly in a peaceful, content place in our lives, it’s a lie to pretend that we are. And lies never help to advance the Kingdom of God.
As ministry leaders, we need to cultivate a culture of truth and be willing to share our struggles and vulnerabilities with others.
If we set ourselves up as being perfect, the message to a fallen world is that they have to be perfect to be found acceptable. Only by being real with others, can we demonstrate that the hurt, the broken and the sinful can find freedom and salvation in the Lord—and can even be used by Him.
So, let’s begin by admitting we’re not perfect. Let’s delve into our real struggles and needs, and let’s honestly work through those issues together. Because being real with ourselves and others is how we will truly succeed in the ministry we were called to do.
If social media has become a “to-do” relegating it to a drudgery, you might be looking at it the wrong way. It’s a huge opportunity for those of us in ministry. In fact, it has me wondering if Jesus would have used it in some way. Then, you’d have to have smartphones and of course Steve Jobs would have had to arrive on the scene around 40 B.C. I digress… The fact is we’re in ministry to reach others with the Gospel and Jesus accomplished that in simple, normal ways — quite often just showing up where the need was. I don’t know what your Facebook feed looks like, but it’s usually a three-way tie among very proud parents, photos of overly-spoiled pets, and wannabe politicians. There’s a need and an opportunity for us. Social media is like a modern day Sea of Galilee — a place to hang out and reach real-life, Gospel-hungry people. Our influence, presence and injection of God’s Truth into social media sheds light to a darkened world.
Would you miss this opportunity?
So, back to the drudgery part — here’s where I hope to shift your thinking. What if you could walk into a crowded coffee house and talked with 50 people. What you had to say was so moving that those people then shared what you said to their friends and family. They told their friends who told yet other friends and so on. When all is said and done, you might have reached 1,200 people from a simple, humble crowd. Well, not sure where you worship, but 1,200 people would max out most of our churches. What an opportunity! So, now imagine if your words met a need. Imagine if your posts visually represented a Scriptural truth that resonated with someone void of hope. Social media then becomes a “Church” of sorts — a platform to reach the lost or prodigals that might never otherwise enter a sanctuary.
Cast your net.
Look as social media as the wide part of a funnel. With Jesus at the narrow end. Our job in ministry (and for any Christian) is to point people to Jesus. Social media has the potential to cast a wide (and relatively cheap) net to boost awareness of your ministry and ultimately lead people to the Lord. All off a sudden, that “fishers of men” metaphor Jesus used comes to life with social media! It’s OK that your logo/website url is on your posts, promoting your ministry in some way. Ultimately, that might be the way they get in touch not only with new projects, but perhaps it opens a door for conversation about faith.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Prepare your social ahead of time — think through what you want to say and how you want to portray it visually. Don’t wait until last minute, but rather carefully craft your messaging and how it’s visually portrayed to maximize the attention it draws. Do this for a month at a time, giving staff and others you trust time to speak into it. We do this regularly for our clients in what we call a “content calendar.” You can see an example of this on our home page at ImageStudios.net/social-media. “What do you want to say? What events can you invite the public to? Be strategic in what you say and how you say it, then shape it into a social-friendly, visually appealing post. Then track it using “Insights” and analytics to see what’s impacting and engaging people the most so you can accentuate that in future posts.
Make sure it meets a need.
Don’t always “preach,” but rather offer hope. What themes are you using in Scripture to encourage your Church community that can spill out into social media? Think of something that will resonate or that is timely they would be likely to share with others. That’s where you get the most traction when, like the coffee shop, they share with their friends and their friends share as well. Before you post it, ask yourself: “Is this something I’d be likely to share on my timeline or retweet/repost?”
What a great opportunity we have! Could it be that God has placed at our fingertips social platforms that are the lifeline for hundreds in your community? That’s a pretty cool perspective to have and one that I hope will give you a renewed sense of the potential your social media has to reach others. After all, the Gospel was meant to “share.”
- The Connected Church by Natchi Lazarus
- The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication by Justin Wise
- Getting the Word Out: How to Market Your Ministry by Bunnie Jackson-Ransom
So here we are at the end of January, less than one month into a new year. Have you been weighing yourself?
One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight. But the weighing—that is so much a part of knowing whether we’re succeeding or not—can also be a hammer that can, ironically, keep us from experiencing the very success we hope for.
Here’s how it often plays out for me:
- I set a goal.
- I get myself motivated, by thinking positively of my goals—how I’ll feel, how I’ll look, all the things I can achieve, etc.
- I weigh myself. Success. I’m happy, I’m proud, I’m motivated.
- The next day, I weigh myself. Success. I’m happier, I’m prouder, I’m more motivated.
- The next day, I weigh myself. Success. I’m even happier, I’m even prouder, I’m even more motivated.
- The next day, I weigh myself. Failure. I’m sad, I’m frustrated, I consider that I might never be able to achieve my goal.
But that’s so short-sighted…and doesn’t reveal the truth. The truth is that—although the scale may have gone up a pound, or a half pound, from the previous day—my diligence towards my goal is having a positive effect over time. If I stand back and look at the big picture, I’ll have a much clearer, and more encouraging view of what’s actually taking place. If I just look at that single day, I could easily get sucked into a downward spiral of failure and just give up.
This truth about weight loss can also be applied to our ministries. As ministry leaders, we are motivated and determined, and we put much planning and daily effort into our ministry goals. Sometimes, when we weigh ourselves against our goals, our hopes and our plans, we feel that we are succeeding in doing something meaningful and powerful for the Lord. But then, there are times when we weigh our ministries and find them lacking. And, just as with dieting, these temporary bumps don’t always feel so temporary. It’s easy to feel dejected and defeated. And it’s easy to consider giving up.
But God sees the big picture, and that’s what He wants for us, too.
One of the Bible verses I’m so encouraged by when I feel as if my ministry is lacking, is 2 Corinthians 4:17. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. It’s one of those verses that may be so familiar to us that it almost seems trite. But let’s take a moment to unpack it. Our troubles are light and momentary. That’s not trivializing our problems; it’s putting them into perspective. God is seeing our ministries from His viewpoint and, in sharing this bit of information with us, He’s encouraging us. He’s telling us that, what seems so big and overwhelming and insurmountable to us now, is nothing compared to the eternal glory that far outweighs them all. And, after all, isn’t that why we’re in ministry…because we want eternal glory, for ourselves and for others?
Weighing our ministry’s success against our goals can be a valuable tool to keep us heading in the right direction, but is not the final word on whether we have served God well. He is the Ultimate Authority on that; I will listen to the Truth that’s been revealed to me through the God of the universe, and not a finite scale that only reveals a fleeting moment in time.
So, beyond losing weight, my New Year’s resolution is to live in God’s Truth. Because, whether my scale goes up or down, and whether my ministry is in a season of growth or disappointment, my challenges are momentary. And, in His big picture, it all works together for good, because we love Him.
Blessings in the New Year!
- Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman
A Hope and a Future: God’s Provision in Difficult Times by Jack Graham
God Speaks: Finding Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness by Ray Comfort