From time to time I hear from associates about how their ministry is not respected by their congregation, their organization, or someone on the staff. As a youth pastor I had a janitor try to ban the youth from using the sanctuary because they sometimes made a mess. Others I know felt that their lead pastor or their supervising board did not respect what they did – asking for time sheets, wanting office hours posted, or scheduling other things in conflict with their ministry events.
There are those who do not respect our ministries – or any ministry for that matter. I have felt the sting of those who seem to believe that if I were any good I wouldn’t still be an associate. I would have “my own church” by now. There are others in our churches who look down upon the whole staff thinking that if we were smart enough we would have been able to go into another field to make a lot more money, rather than settling for these lower paying jobs. Disrespect for ministers is everywhere, but there are things we can do to turn the tide.
Many of our ministries are disrespected for two extremes. Some of us act as though our ministry is the only one in the church that matters. In other words, we are not respectful of the other ministries of the church/organization. As in personal relationships people find it hard to respect those who do not respect them. Your passion for your ministry may cause you to have blinders that do not allow you to see the rest of the work of the church.
Others of us go to the opposite extreme. We are not sure that our ministry is vital to the congregation, and we invite the disrespect. Again, as in personal relationships it is hard to respect those who do not respect themselves. If you are not defending your ministry area, it may be easily overlooked. Let people see your passion.
The answer, as usual, is a third route that only takes two steps. To gain respect for yourself and your ministry:
- Own your ministry. Be able to simply state why you do what you do, the value of your ministry, your ministry goals, how you expect to accomplish those goals, and the like. Know what you are doing and why you are doing it. Be prepared to share that information in an elevator pitch kind of way. Someday you might need to have that 30-second chat with a Trustee.
- Understand how your ministry fits into the whole. More than likely, as an associate, you are part of a whole. The congregation/organization you serve has a mission and vision of which your area is a part. Memorize the mission and vision of the congregation and how your ministry fits into those goals, and have your areas mission match. Write that down in your notepad so that you will be reminded of that at every staff meeting until you have it committed to memory.
Here are a couple of examples of my failure to follow the above from my days as a youth pastor:
- I used to get asked to have the youth do things in the church no one else wanted to do – clean out a closet, move a shed, pick up the trash on the church grounds, go door-to-door with flyers inviting people to worship, and things like that. I didn’t know how to say no, so that youth group and I did many of those things. If I had owned my ministry I would have been able to share my elevator pitch that would have shared the goals of our youth ministry, how we try to accomplish them, and how what we were being asked to do did not help us achieve those goals. Then I could have employed step two and led the youth in some of those projects because we were part of a greater whole, the local church. Instead I invited disrespect by doing whatever I was asked whether it fit or not.
- I once said something stupid to a lead pastor (I’m sure it has been more than once, but for the sake of this conversation let’s stick to this one time in particular). We were talking about his desire to increase the congregation’s participation in missions. Our youth program was very missions focused, so I said, “Maybe it is time for the youth to lead the congregation.” That was not wrong, but it didn’t need to be said. To top it off, what my lead pastor heard was, “Maybe it is time for the youth to leave the congregation.” Wow! I had no idea I was perceived as one who did not understand my role as part of the whole. I cannot expect to be respected if I think my ministry doesn’t need the rest of the whole. I was disrespecting the church.
If you want your ministry to be respected (1) respect it yourself, and (2) respect the other ministries of which it is a part.