Whether you are an assistant pastor, administrative assistant, or simply serve on a ministry support team, it is important to remember that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves; we are part of a team that is investing in the hearts and lives of people. Although most of us have leadership responsibilities within our designated areas, we all have one thing in common—we are called to support and carry out the vision of another leader. In fact, that vision is to become our own vision. In the last fifteen years in a ministry support role, I have learned some of these lessons the hard way and continue to learn them on a weekly basis as God impresses on me the importance of the “big picture.”
1. Die Daily
These were the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:31. One of the greatest things I can do each day is to die to my own selfish ambitions. We must die to the desire to be recognized and be reminded every day that God’s glory is our focus. Much of our work is done behind the scenes. Satan desires nothing more than to divide our ministry team, and he will do his work in our mind. Set down your halo for a moment and admit to some of these thoughts thrown in your direction by our spiritual enemies: “You deserve more recognition.” “No one really appreciates all that you do.” “Others will receive the recognition for your work.”
I have listened to these and other lies far too often. The truth is that it is not about us. It is about something far greater—God’s glory and God’s mission. So, let us daily knock that chip off of our shoulder and die to the desire to be recognized and noticed. Paul says again in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” It really is ALL about Him.
If we are not committed to details, then we are in the wrong role. When we are supporting a ministry leader who is called to be among the people and leading the people, it is vital that we as assistants are given to detail. It is important that every event be carefully thought through and planned, so that the leader can stay focused on the overall big picture. We will not be perfect, but it should be our goal to take as much detail from the leader as he/she will allow.
If a ministry is to grow, the leader is going to need time to focus on vision and goals to accomplish that vision, not to mention that many of them are called to speak into the lives of hundreds of people several times a week. The last thing that they need is to have to worry about the details of events and delegated projects. What powerful advice Moses received from his father-in-law, Jethro, in Exodus 18. Jethro warned Moses of burnout if he did not change his system. Jethro encouraged Moses to seek out able men who could give themselves to details, so that Moses could handle greater matters and focus on prayer, teaching, and leading the people with vision from God. So, give yourself to details with a vision of allowing the senior leader to give his time to prayer, teaching, and vision.
Whether it is electronically or on paper, get organized. Have all the weekly, monthly, and annual projects that you are responsible for carefully planned out with every detail covered. This also makes it easy for others to take over when we need to hand off a project or event.
When we speak of being driven, we are talking about being personally motivated. If we must be constantly pushed to do more and be more, then we are a liability rather than an asset to the senior leader for whom we work.
One of my favorite men in the Bible was an assistant to Paul and the church at Philippi named Epaphroditus. Here is a man that was not afraid to lay it all on the line. Paul says of him in Philippians 2:30 that, “For the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.” In verse 25, Paul refers to him as a brother, a companion in labor, a messenger, and a fellow soldier. Being personally driven involves discipline—discipline to get up early, be at appointments on time, find solutions to problems, and bring ideas to the table. So, avoid laziness at all cost. Determine to be someone that is self-motivated and Spirit-energized.
Communication is essential for any support staff member. Perhaps the greatest mentorship model of all time is found in the relationship of the Apostle Paul and his son in the faith, Timothy. We see throughout the writings of Paul how important communication was between him and Timothy.
Timothy was an aggressive messenger between Paul and the churches that he had started. Although it is not necessary for you to constantly be calling or needing to meet with the senior leader, it is crucial that you keep him informed. Try not to overload him with needless emails, texts, or phone calls asking one question at a time. Rather, make personal notes throughout the day or week on certain projects that you are working on and then send an email or set up a meeting to cover them all at once. This sends two messages to the leader—that you understand that his time is valuable and that you desire to keep him informed on what is going on. Good communication and dialogue is necessary for any ministry project to be successful.
Although all of these points are vitally important, perhaps none is as important as personal, spiritual development. Too often in my own life and ministry, to-do lists and projects have trumped my personal walk with God. In our service for God where our days are filled with meetings and projects, may we never forget our most important meeting of every day is with the God of the Universe.
Our walk with God must always precede our work for God. I love what the Psalmist said in Psalm 63:1, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.” May this be the testimony of each of us. Let us be reminded of the great lesson with Mary and Martha in Luke 10. We are quick to jump on projects and planning each day, and if we are not careful, we will miss the most energizing activity of each day—our personal worship of God.
So, what detail (that is not going as planned) does Satan have you focused on? What person (that constantly refuses to share the ministry’s vision) are you allowing to sidetrack you? Stop and take a moment to see the big picture today! Rejoice in the opportunity to be involved in the greatest work ever—the work of God through the investment of people. Drive into the ministry where you are able to serve today and as you pull in, be reminded of the miracles that God is doing there, and rejoice in advance for the great things He will do and the privilege of being His servant in that place.
I am often reminded of the folly of James and John in Mark 10. In their pride-dominated hearts, they simply desired to be the most recognized among the disciples. I often see myself in that story—comparing myself with others, looking for an opportunity to claim greater importance. James and John are convinced that they are the best assistants, and then, the Greatest of the Great, Jesus Christ, steps in and gives them a dagger to the heart. He says that the one that will be the greatest is the minister and servant. Even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give His life. James and John were changed by the Lord’s message and became humble servants rather than self-confident men. May we live today to serve others with the gospel for the glory of God. We must do more than admire humility in others. Let us be purposely focused today on weakening pride and cultivating humility.