This article is a part of our Ministry Agility series

When I was eight or nine years old, I made a huge mistake. A terrible mistake I will never forget. I was hungry for breakfast; my go-to meal was cereal. I love cereal still today. But, that morning years ago, I poured my bowl of Cookie Crisp and opened the refrigerator door. I pulled out the milk carton only to realize that it was empty. Not a single drop of milk was left. I tossed the carton and looked longingly at my Cookie Crisp. My stomach let out a growl of sadness as I realized, there would be no bowl of cereal that day. Then, a thought occurred to me: Do I have to use milk? Perhaps any liquid would do. I put the bowl of Cookie Crisp under the faucet and filled it with water. Surely this would be just as effective as milk. I sat at the table, turned the cereal box around for my morning read, and lifted the spoon to my mouth. That was the mistake. I will never forget the disgusting taste of that cookie-flavored mush.

It turns out, there is a reason milk is used in cereal and not just any old liquid. There are some essential elements that both the cereal and the milk bring to that perfect combination. To ensure you are getting the best result, you must follow at least these basic two ingredients: milk, cereal. You add and mix that combination up all you want, but you have to have the minimum to make it work. The same is true for ministry agility. Remember, ministry agility is your ability to be agile as you deal with the multiple facets of the ministry. While ministry agility is an attribute, I believe is overlooked, thankfully, it is one you can develop.

So how do you increase your ministry agility? Just like the essential cereal ingredients mentioned above, you must start with two key elements. Developing and sharpening these elements will increase your ministry agility.

Operational Clarity

The first element you must hone to increase your ministry agility is your operational clarity. This simply means you must have a clear understanding of the ministry. While this may seem over simplistic, this is precisely where many leaders fail. For example, a small group leader has been feeling stressed about his group and struggles to lead the group each week. He calls the Groups Pastor and says he thinks he needs a break. Without operational clarity, the Groups Pastor begins doing damage control to “keep the leader from quitting”. Instead of managing this situation from a 30-thousand-foot view, the Groups Pastor focuses on the individual and the reasoning for the struggle. Conversely, if the Groups Pastor has operational clarity, he begins by zooming out and evaluating the Groups ministry as a whole rather than the preservation of the leader. If the leader of the group is at the point of burn out it will not be effective for him to continue anyway. Only through operational clarity will the Pastor be able to see this. Operational clarity is the ability to rise above the situation, think of the ministry as a whole, and the circumstances in light of this bigger picture. Here a few ways to develop your operational clarity:

  • Map out your ministry based upon programming and outcomes
  • Overlay the church’s vision and mission to the ministry map
  • Walk through as many scenarios as possible that impact the ministry, vision, and mission
  • Work with other staff and key leaders to sharpen everyone’s understanding of these elements

Situational Intelligence

The second element you must develop to increase your ministry agility is situational intelligence. While operational clarity is about seeing the big picture clearly, situational intelligence is knowing how to respond to the individual circumstance with biblical maturity and wisdom. Using the same example as before, the group leader is calling and saying he needs to stop leading. Without situational intelligence, the Groups Pastor might focus on group preservation, loss of numbers if the group dissolves, or his own success or failure as a leader. With situational intelligence, the Groups Pastor connects with the leader as a minister who first and foremost wants to equip this saint to do the work of the ministry. In this situation, the group leader clearly needs to either take an extended break, stop leading, or change his role as a leader. Situational intelligence helps the Groups Pastor guide this leader toward a time of rest, reflection, and restoration as a leader in some capacity. Here a few ways to develop your situational intelligence:

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  • Put people before ministry objectives
  • Think about how you would feel in the same position they are in
  • Frequently evaluate all that you are asking lay people to do – remember their schedules are not the same as minister’s schedules
  • Start with prayer and God’s Word when you begin to respond to a specific scenario
  • Remember that putting Christ first does not always mean putting your ministry objective first

In this scenario, the outcomes would look different based upon the ministry agility of the Pastor. By increasing his operational clarity and his situational intelligence, he will be able to respond effectively. These two basic ingredients for ministry agility are simply the bare minimum. You must have them, but there is much more to ministry agility, and we will cover that in the weeks to follow

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