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Jul 20, 2019

So You Want to Do Ministry? Then You Need to Remember 5 Things

Mark Hart

We often peruse Scripture for the most profound truths, which is great, but in doing so we sometimes miss the simplest truths and timeless insights that Jesus’ day to day ministry taught us.

Recently, the Lord has been reminding me of several fundamental principles of leadership as exemplified through his public ministry.

Here are five reminders that the Spirit has breathed upon me in my morning Scripture study this summer. Maybe some of them will resonate with you, as well.

#5: Jesus doesn’t need you as much as he wants you.

A careful examination of Scripture reveals something beautiful about Christ’s calling forth of the apostles from the group of disciples (Mark 3:13, Luke 6:13): while Jesus desired them, he didn’t “need” them, so to speak. Jesus chose to animate the gifts of those around him, calling them into loving service.

Christ came (in part) to establish the Church on earth, yes, but he wasn’t about to fulfill God’s mission alone. As the perfect leader, he understood the importance of delegation and empowerment in building God’s Kingdom on earth.

Notice that Jesus sought them out. He didn’t wait for them to come.

Do you actively seek out core members and catechists throughout the year or just wait and hope they come knocking on your door at a parish ministry fair?

#4: Jesus didn’t judge his team’s effectiveness by outward appearance.

Have you ever fallen into the youth ministry trap, for instance, of thinking you need the youngest, hippest core team of catechists? Or the adult ministry trap of believing only the older or most knowledgeable should be doing the teachings?

Let’s be clear:

There is no perfect core team.

Having all young souls or all older souls doesn’t create the optimal balance of energy and wisdom or of openness and life experience. Christ himself reminds us to look deeper than the outward appearance (Matthew 7:2). This is yet another reason that a core application process, ongoing training, and true discernment should go into every potential core member’s involvement.

Don’t just take warm bodies, and don’t just dismiss bodies that seem too out of the mold.

#3: Jesus didn’t measure ministry effectiveness by activities, but by prayer.

Jesus modeled delegation and dependence on others so that the ministry and mission could move forward (Luke 9:1-6).

If it was modeled by Christ, it’s time for all the one-person ministry shows to cease, allow others to help, so you, as the leader, can pray more!

#2: Jesus didn’t judge his success by immediate change.

People don’t just need time for their eyes to dilate to Christ’s light, but for their souls to adjust as well.

Don’t rush change.

Don’t put God on the clock. 

Change takes time.

Re-read John 1:11 and Luke 8:15. The more people you bring along on the journey the better. Share and impart the vision (Habakkuk 2:2) and trust that, in God’s time, the collective journey toward God is going to pay off.

#1: Jesus knew how to handle frustration

Enthusiasm is contagious, but so is negativity.

Ministry is difficult. It is stressful at times. Certain souls in the kingdom— and, indeed, in ministry—can suck all the joy right out of you if you let them, so don’t! Choose joy, and breathe peace.

Take a page out of Jesus’ playbook.

Be steadfast in love and stand firm in truth (John 6:51-58, Luke 9:37-42). Don’t cater to the crowds and don’t react to negativity; virtue demands more. Stand in the face of adversity. Kneel in the presence of divinity. Laugh in the face of negativity.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (James 4:8).

Jesus didn’t do things in a manner that a lot of modern parish staffs would be comfortable with, to be sure. Christ’s Church has survived and thrived for two millennia, and will not cease (Matthew 16:18).

If you want your ministries and, indeed, your parish to thrive long after you’ve been called home to heaven, delegate now. Empower others with Christ’s mission and watch that commission change the face of the world for years to come.

You May Also Like:

Ministry Minutes: When You’re Planning are You Praying Too?

10 Points for Effective Parish Ministry

The 99: A New System for Evangelization

Mark has helped transform Catholic youth and young adult Scripture study in parishes, homes, and classrooms with his wildly popular Bible study programs, T3: The Teen Timeline (for teens) and Encounter (for pre-teens), as well as Altaration (a program about the Mass for teens).

A devoted husband and father of four, Mark’s humor and his passion for Scripture are helping hundreds of  thousands of Catholics, young and old, begin to read and study the Bible in engaging, fun, and relevant ways. His latest project with Ascension, The 99, will offer parishes a new system for evangelization.

This article was first published on the Ascension Blog’s former home, The Great Adventure Blog, August 2004. To learn more about The Great Adventure Bible studies, click the banner below:

The Calling of St. Peter and St. Andrew painting (circa 1626-1630) by Pietro da Cortona sourced from Wikimedia Commons

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  • Wow, hit between the eyes with realisation God doesn’t need me (He is God after all) but he wants me.

  • Excellent core points that mesh nicely with what I have studied concerning leadership in the faith community and relational ministry. It is difficult to implement these five steps when the pastor trusts but a very few lay leaders and expects instant and broad spectrum results from the parish initiatives. Trust in the Holy Spirit’s work through others is an integral key of collaboration.

  • Confirmed something that I have been doing for a while now….I pray and
    trust in God to show me in prayer, in Scripture I read for the day,
    something he would like me to share with others….invariably there will
    be an idea or a word or a phrase that stands out to me….as I am
    leading my group invariably something comes up where I can share it with
    the group….the newest thing that he has shown me is as I am praying
    the rosary or the Chaplet of Mercy, a Reading, Chap. and verse will come
    to mind…I write those down…and look them up later….and then as I
    go about my day, I find I can share that passage with someone else that
    needed to hear it….a very exciting way that God through the Holy
    Spirit is using to reach out to others through a message he has given to

  • Hope you don’t mind I copied and pasted your 5 pts. Mark, as they merit further thought and usefulness in my ministry as sacristan who is presently having difficulty with finding those who are called to the vocation as undersacristans.

  • I agree with everything except point 5. It seems that Jesus very
    much “needs” us. First he “wants” us to turn back to the father and love him. But then he very much “needs” us to be his hands and feet in the world he no longer has a physical body in (or in modern lingo, to be the boots on the ground of his army).
    Jesus “needs” disciples to willingly give over their own lives to him to be used to spread the good news, feed the sick, help the poor, give out his living bread and the sacraments. He needs workers in the fields to bring in the harvest.

  • On the other side of the coin, is the fact that as people give up ministries, everyone else runs away, unwilling to do more than turn up for mass, happy for the faithful few to bleed to death from giving and service.

    When you are tired from working full time, caring responsibilities, reliant on expensive unreliable public transport and heavy tiring Church ministries, there is nothing worse than being berated for saying that you cannot take on more. Returning to a filthy home just before Christmas, in tears because you have worn yourself out for the Church (which you have helped clean) and now are scolded for being selfish enough to want to spend Sunday afternoon cleaning your own house ready for guests,was upsetting. The job I was asked to do was beyond my skills and physical abilities, but that seemed irrelevant.

    Meanwhile, unbeknown to me, God had His own plans in motion. The load was lightened in an unexpected way and at the same time other opportunities opened up. Although I am perhaps busier than before, it is not tiring, quite the opposite. I never knew that structured study of the faith could be so fascinating, exciting and joyful.

    I doubt that I am the only volunteer who has cried and wept to God that no matter how much is given, it is never enough and there is nothing left to give as He has taken everything, including joy.

    So please note, many volunteers may be grateful to give up ministries so that they can actually have time and energy to enjoy exploring and living the faith.

  • One more, Mark. Jesus did not count bodies as the measure of success. Read John 6 and come away with any other conclusion. You can’t.

    Be holy. Be a servant. Look up to Him for feedback, not around to us. And you will have run the race well.

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