My favorite facet of being an associate is team ministry. I love brainstorming in staff meetings. I am energized seeing pieces come together from different ministry areas for a great mission or event. I get excited when our sermon series, Wednesday night study, youth ministry, and children’s ministry are all teaching the same theme. Being part of something so much bigger than any one of us could do alone, is what it means for the church to be the body of Christ in our communities.
I am blessed to be part of a great ministry team where the staff has mutual respect for one another’s ministries. We lean on one another’s expertise, and cover for other’s weaknesses. We celebrate together when things are going well, and surround the one who is struggling with love and support. Our lead pastor makes the final call (as a good leader should), but we collaborate on just about everything. Not only is this my favorite way to work, I believe it is best for our congregations. But I confess, it is not always easy.
Over the years I have worked with and known many associates, staff members, and lead pastors who would struggle in this environment: youth pastors who resent others’ input in “their ministry;” lead pastors who believe being a leader means never asking for input, supervisors who micro-manage their area. I wish I could show them the depth of ministry they are missing by not cultivating an environment of doing ministry together.
The key to becoming a successful team ministry member is to loosen your grip on your ministry area, as you do it with excellence. “Your ministry” really isn’t yours anyway, nor is it about you. Each of our ultimate goals is to work together with every member of our congregation to build the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. This means the lead pastor might have a great idea for children’s ministry, the children’s minister an idea for the youth ministry, and the youth minister a great idea for a sermon series to be preached by the lead pastor. We need to be willing to listen, and invite others into the area we serve.
It also may take us out of our comfort zone. For example, the church council may adopt a churchwide theme for the fall that will cause the team-oriented children’s minister to explore ways to communicate that theme in Sunday School classes, rather than what he had planned. The associate pastor may may be asked to preach during a series. The team-oriented associate will keep the series going, even though the text or topic might not be something she would have chosen for herself. Good team ministry members need to be flexible and willing to stretch into areas where they are not naturally attracted or gifted. They need to be willing to put in some extra time and work to read a book, research a concept, and look for or write an appropriate curriculum.
The rewards are fantastic. Ministry flourishes. Individuals grow. Families chat about spiritual things in their downtime. Congregations work together to do greater things than any portion of the congregation could do on its own. And you, the team ministry staff member, grow, learn, and develop new knowledge and skills for ministry.