Most of the SALT Community and those who have attended one of our gatherings, work full time or part time for a church. And those who don’t work full time for a church, likely serve in a critical role in ministry. And in any ministry, there are a few distinguished phases of ministry.
I’ll never forget when I got my first paycheck from a church years ago. And though it was among the smallest paycheck’s I have ever received, what was paralyzing about holding that check, was that I was partially responsible for putting together Sunday morning. And Sunday is always coming.
Many of you, like myself when I worked for that church, make several sacrifices to get things done. More so in certain phases than others, but the goal to constant sacrifice is finding a balance of rhythm and margin.
There are pro’s and cons of rhythm and margin. But regardless of what ministry you’re in, big or small, there are 3 phases of ministry that everyone will face.
Phase One: SURVIVE.
Every ministry starts here. Whether it’s a new job or trying out a new ministry program, it always begins in the phase of Survival. It’s the phase where you have to find your way to get by, you are starting something new and trying to forge a new path. I call it the survive phase because you’ll find you’re willing to do almost anything to get through the week and accomplish all that you have to do.
This phase is always full of lurking deadlines, often missed, and churning out the never-ending flow of ideas creates long days and exciting work environment. There’s always a new video, always a new graphic to make, and always a new set to build. So in order to make it all happen by the lurking deadline, you end up cutting corners.
Margin is gone. Passion is your fuel and adrenaline becomes your move-in cubicle companion. But it’s important to remember that God has all things in control during this phase. A great prayer is to simply say, “God, please remind me that it’s not up to me right now, and all you’re needing is a vessel to do your work.”
Please know this season doesn’t, and can’t, last forever. It’s the entrepreneurial startup phase of a ministry. Everyone is excited, but burnout is near if we don’t figure out a way to stabilize the processes.
Phase Two: REFINE.
The key to getting out of the survive phase and get into the refine phase is the unlocking of processes and systems to help maintain the ideation and innovation that surfaces in the first phase. This is where rhythm begins to find it’s way onto the scene, and margin begins to increase.
In this phase, when process is utilized, things begin to fall into place naturally. Your team recognizes their role in the bigger picture, and auto pilot begins to take center stage. Now, it’s time to refine the processes that were innovated in the survive phase.
I remember entering the refine phase and recognizing that Gold isn’t just sitting there. It has to be mined. And I was a miner. Refinement prevents settling and falling into the trap that just because it worked once, means it will work again. Instead, we find ways to create processes that lead to success.
Refine phase gives us a chance to build templates, create processes and increase our efficiencies as a team. Therefore margin begins to enter the scene as we find the rhythm of the second phase of ministry.
Phase Three: THRIVE.
After we’ve survived and refined, it’s time to lock those processes into place and enter a season of thriving. Our ideas are confirmed, they’ve worked over and over and now we have healthy processes that allow for continual success. It’s often that you have an established team and in many ways you’ve been able to institutionalize your ideologies across your team.
It’s also highly likely that those who succeeded in the Survive phase, aren’t on the team in the Thrive phase. Survivors move at a completely different pace as Thrivers, and that’s okay. But be careful that complacency creeps in.
There’s also something else to know about this phase of ministry, it doesn’t last forever. Most people who are leaders, like to get here, so that other areas of ministry can enter the Survive phase once again. It’s survival that pushes innovation, it’s thriving that gives us sustained growth and success.
Which of these phases of ministry are you in currently?