We may never claim to be the smartest person in the room, but we often function like that is exactly what we believe.
Gospel-work is collaborative. I can’t find a place in Acts or the epistles where the apostles did ministry alone. Even when writing from prison, Paul talked about his partners in ministry. We read about Jesus withdrawing from others to pray and rest, but his ministry was done with others by His side.
This year we faced the annual challenge of creating an Easter experience for our families. Each year we try to do something gospel-centered that is creative and fun. We loved the idea of an escape room type experience, but we cringed at the amount of creative energy it was going to require.
We gingerly threw the idea out to our leadership team. After an awkward moment of silence, one person after another started throwing out ideas. Everyone’s creativity fed off of the others’. Within twenty minutes we had the entire experience outlined, including the gospel focus and the puzzles we would use. I was shocked.
But why was I shocked? We serve a triune God who created us to be in community together. He doesn’t call us to do the Christian life, much less ministry, alone. Yet we often try to do just that. What causes us to try to do it all on our own rather than lean into the gifts of those God has placed around us?
Sometimes it is pride. We get caught in the trap of thinking because we’re the “paid staff” or the “ministry veteran” that all of the thinking is our responsibility. There are times that we want the credit or to be seen as the one who is the expert. Y’all, there is no expert in gospel work. Only Jesus. We need each other. The ultimate goal is glorifying Christ and we should utilize every idea, inspiration and individual to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Sometimes it is busy-ness or maybe even laziness that causes us to avoid collaboration. Talking ideas through with others requires proactive planning, significant time, and extra energy. We feel it is easier to just handle things ourselves. It takes less effort in the short term to just do it ourselves, but we are sacrificing so much.
It is never a waste of time to involve others in every aspect of ministry. We should never consider it an insult to our pride to have others speak into our ideas. Ephesians 4:12 reminds us that our job is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. Our job is to involve others in the ministry and help them own it as well.
Here are some other situations in which I’ve learned I’m definitely not the smartest person in the room:
- We have started theming our series for Sunday morning kids’ worship. My college-aged intern comes up with the most unique ideas that I would never think of and quite honestly I don’t get some of them. But guess whose themes the kids absolutely love!
- Several years ago we decided to revamp Wednesday nights. I had an idea of where we were headed, but when we got the leadership team together to brainstorm, it morphed into something so much more engaging and interactive.
- I send prospective new songs to a few kids and adult leaders to preview and pick their favorites. Again, they pick ones everyone loves.
If collaboration has not been your best thing, how do you change?
- Identify the right people for the situation. Not everybody is the best choice for every decision. Get the right people at the table. Definitely involve those who are most invested and will be most impacted. Involve those that know the area of discussion. Look for people who are positive and good thinkers.
- Give real ownership. The purpose is not to just get everyone to say yes to your ideas. The purpose is work together to create the best ideas.
- Make it a habit to involve people whenever you can. Obviously you don’t need an opinion on every decision you make. But in ministry we tend to be much better at handing away tasks and not involving people in the process.
- Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism. For people to really speak freely, you have to be a little tough-skinned. You can’t take it personally if your idea gets changed or vetoed. Others’ may not have the same opinion as you and that is ok. That is the beauty of the body of Christ. God uses all of our differences together to do His work.
- Ask for people’s opinions. A lot. You need fresh eyes on your ministry all the time. Remember the phrase “love is blind”? We love our ministries so much that we often don’t see where improvements are needed. Ask volunteers, parents, random people… whoever… to tell you what they see.
Look for areas where you are doing ministry alone. Stop. Bring others into the fun.