It breaks my heart to hear the Barna statistic that 38% of pastors have considered leaving the ministry in the past year. It breaks my heart even deeper to hear that 45% of these pastors were 45 years old or younger. -1 The last two years of pastoral ministry have been difficult. We all know the numerous reasons.
I’m curious to know what percentage of these pastors are doing ministry on a healthy collaborative team? Too few, I imagine. It's sad that the collaborative team ministry model of Jesus is not a standard way of operation for many churches. It’s like we’ve not read and deeply meditated on the humanity of Jesus in John 6.
Jesus shared many hard words that have whittled the crowds down from thousands to simply the twelve. Jesus knew how to clear a room. Yet Jesus still needed a team. In one of the greatest displays of Jesus’ humanity in all of the Gospels, Jesus looks at the twelve disciples and asks, “Do you want to go away, too?” I imagine there was an awkward silence. Some of the disciples may have thought, “Yes. I’ve certainly considered it.” Peter breaks the silence by boldly proclaiming, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-68
Jesus exhales and thinks, “My hour has not yet come. My team is not ready to abandon me. Not yet, at least.” Jesus was abandoned by His team, but not by His Father. After Jesus willingly laid down His life into the hands of His Father, the Father ratified the sacrifice of His Son by bodily raising Him from the dead. Jesus immediately appears to the women, the twelve, and hundreds of others over forty days. The team spirit of the Divine Trinity mobilized the team of the early church to multiply the story of the risen Jesus to the ends of the earth.
Praise be to God!
Lonely pastor, if Jesus did not do ministry alone, why are you? Make a choice today to start to discover, develop and deploy your team. Some of you are right now thinking, “But we don’t have money to call more staff?” Who said anything about calling and paying more staff? Even if your church and staff are small, I know there are at least a half dozen people ready to join your team if you’ll simply ask for help. They are waiting for your shoulder tap to invite them to your church’s leadership table.
Here are five joys of being a part of a collaborative church team!
1. You’re never alone.
Let that sink in. You’re not alone. Not now—not ever. Jesus is with and in you by the power of the Spirit given in the waters of baptism. Lift up your eyes to see the women and men eager to serve in your church. They recognize we live in a post-Christian environment. They want to be a part of the solution. They do not want to sit on the sidelines. Ask them for help. You’re never alone.
2. Problems are identified and solved together.
There have been so many times over the years where I was stuck. I wracked my brain for
solutions to financial, cultural, and societal problems. I became angry and frustrated. I could not find the answer on my own. Early in the ministry, a good friend said, “Tim, 'we' is always smarter than 'me'.” This is one of the truest leadership statements I have ever heard.
Watch your pronouns. Human beings, because of our sinful nature, are radically insecure. We put the best construction on our efforts and the worst construction on the efforts of others. It should be the other way around. If something goes wrong, I take responsibility. If something goes right, we get to celebrate. Don’t believe the lie that you’re able to solve problems on your own. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Asking for help is a sign of strength.
My son loves the Marvel Avengers. All of the Avengers have gifts and gaps. They are good on their own but they are so much more powerful working together to solve complex problems. You’re more powerful than the Marvel Avengers. They’re not real. (Sorry, Stan Lee.) You have the real Spirit of the risen Jesus living inside of you. You have the living and active Word of God upon your lips. You have all you need to identify and solve problems on a collaborative team.
3. Unique gifts are utilized.
The apostle Paul’s “body” analogy is so appropriate. Every part of the body is interconnected. I dabble in physiology just enough to make people think I know what I’m talking about. (I stayed in a Holiday Inn last night.) I do know there are ten major systems in the human body including the skeletal, muscular, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular,
lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about feet, hands, and eyes. Science has advanced into the twenty-first century. None of the ten systems of the human body can operate on their own. The skeletal system cannot exist without the muscular system holding the bones together. The muscular system cannot exist without the respiratory system giving oxygen to the blood moving through the cardiovascular system. No one part of the body can exist on its own.
This may sting, pastor. You are not the body. You are one part of the body. Some parts of the body may have made you think you’re more important than you are. You’re not, though you have a special role. You get to equip the rest of the body through Word and Sacrament to carry out their unique roles within the body in their various vocations. You do not survive apart from the other parts of the body. You are inseparably interconnected. This is a very good thing.
4. Collective learning multiplies missional impact.
What is your ultimate motivation for ministry? Honestly, why are you doing what you’re doing? If we’re honest, too many of us battle a desire to be known, seen, loved, and respected. We want to serve for what we can get rather than what we can give. This is sin. Repent. There is a better way. It is the Jesus way.
The twelve disciples followed Jesus for three years. They ate, slept, walked, talked, and did what Jesus did. They were far from perfect. Yet, when Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave them the Holy Spirit to multiply the message of Jesus to the masses.
Collective learning was embedded in the hearts of the apostles. None of them could claim to be better than the others. They all denied or abandoned Jesus to the point of death on a cross. Yet that same Jesus rose, restored and empowered with His Spirit the greatest team the world has ever known. You are beneficiaries of the work Jesus did and the way Jesus led.
Lead like Jesus. Learn collectively to multiply your missional impact.
5. Celebration is better on a team.
I love sports. No one ever celebrates alone. Super Bowl winners exchange hugs and high fives. Even individual sport winners (golf and tennis) immediately invite coaches, family, and friends to share the victory.
Ministry is hard. Celebrate all of the wins. Your soul needs it. Celebrate the first-time guest joining you for worship. Celebrate the baptism. Celebrate the new learning by sharing it with others.
Our team has persevered through many trials over the past two years. I pray you’re the same. We’ve collaborated to solve problems. We’ve celebrated that we’re not where we were. We’re hopeful that tomorrow's problems will be solved because of expanded collaboration yesterday and today.
There are so many reasons to be joyful! Jesus is the primary reason.
What is your list of joys found in collaboration? Please let us know to continue to learn collaboratively! How can we increase your joy? Share with us at email@example.com