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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

09 Feb '14

Ministry founders and their ability or inability to take the ministry they founded to a place of maturity

Posted by T.J. Addington in leadership transitions, ministry founders, transitions
I have come to the conclusion that it is harder to bring a ministry to maturity than it is to found one. That does not mean that ministry start ups are easy - they are not. However, what they require in the beginning -  moxie, energy, vision and enthusiasm is different than what is required to bring them to maturity - discipline, empowering others, letting go of control and being a steward of a vision and mission rather than of a ministry.

In fact, the very skills needed to start a ministry may keep it from maturing into an enduring ministry. After all, ministries start with the vision of a person but enduring ministries are driven by a team who have a common vision. Ministries start by the seat of the pants while enduring ministries exist with disciplined excellence. Ministries start with a fair amount of control by the founder while enduring ministries are not dependent on the founder but where authority and empowerment is given away to qualified individuals. Ministries start with a fair amount of chaos (you do what you have to do) while enduring ministries endure because of stability.

In my experience no more than 50% of ministry founders are able or willing to transition from the start up stage to an enduring ministry stage. And that statistic may well be generous. Why is this?

First, it means giving up control of something we have birthed. For anyone that is hard. For some, it is impossible. It is "their" ministry and that is how they see it. Yet enduring ministries belong to a group with a common vision not an individual. Unwillingness to give up control allows the ministry to go only as far as the founder can take it with his/her span of control.

Second, it means delegating responsibility and authority. An unwillingness to give up control makes this hard for some and impossible for others.

Third, it means allowing the ministry to develop through a shared vision of others not the singular vision of the founder. This inevitably means that the founder is no longer the singular voice and this is how it should be. Only a shared vision with at shared plan can move from the founder stage to and enduring stage. But, the founder must be willing to allow this to happen and believe that the shared vision of the right group of leaders will be even better and more enduring than the singular vision of a single leader

Fourth, it means that the vision and mission become more important to the founder than that of controlling what she/he birthed. Enduring spiritual influence comes from an attitude that what we have birthed belongs to Jesus alone, not to us. We were simply the servants that Jesus used to birth what He wanted to birth. To the extent that I am unwilling to give up control even when that would be the best for the ministry itself - I am believing that it is more about me than it is about Him. And when this happens, it often is to the very detriment of the ministry He used us to found. Ministry founders can both start and hurt the same ministry depending on how they steward it.

From the moment a ministry is founded, good leaders understand that they play a unique role for a season. If they are unwilling to see their role change in the next season, they limit that which God used them to initiate. I have watched founding leaders make both good and poor choices in this and their choices impacted the ministry they founded for better or for worse.

Taking a ministry from start up to maturity is not easy. It comes with losses But if done well it comes with kingdom impact and even greater influence than when initiated.