Mentoring Leadership

People Over Programs

5.1As a Ministry Consultant, I repeatedly get asked for ideas for events, connection groups, and other programs, particularly for women’s ministries. I don’t have a “go-to” list; I really prefer to listen to the needs of the women, the history of the ministry, and the specific goals and overall vision. I love brainstorming with women, then later helping them problem-solve and debrief, preparing themselves and the ministry for what’s next. Yet I find all too often that all someone wants is a “plug-in program.” They want something that will be fun, fresh, significant, life-changing, unexpected…(fill in with any other word to describe what the leadership team wants). There’s certainly nothing wrong with any of those things as long as the focus doesn’t become on the program itself. Because if the program itself becomes the focus, people will be left behind. Lives will not be as impacted. Connections will not be made.

Ministry, after all, is about people.

Doing ministry by programs is easier than doing ministry with and for people. In fact, we rationalize the programs are with and for people, and we really want them to be. We intend them to be. Yet we so often don’t execute the programs with a people-focus. We start off well, but along the process, we get caught up in the details. We get distracted by checking off the what-to-do and who-will-do-it. The more we structure, the less flexible we often become. I’m certainly not suggesting a lack of organization. (After all, I’m a recovering control freak!) I’m not suggesting we toss all programs aside. They’re often our means to building relationships and reaching people.

Yet we must keep the focus on people and approach programs as secondary.

We can live with the program getting a bit blurred around the edges because the clarifying focus is on people, but we can’t be content with people getting blurred.

I will continue to work with ministries, walking alongside them as they work through their mission and goals, then letting God lead through the discerning process of the bigger picture of ministry and the smaller picture of ministry. God will give us the fun, fresh, significant, life-changing, unexpected, and so on. He knows what’s needed. He knows what will take our reliance on him instead of us being able to take control and accomplish something in our own creativity, effort, and strength.

We need to do it God’s way. If it means we forged forward in a direction that seems a bit odd, unexpected, and even a bit frightening and daunting, we follow God in faith. If it means it’s inconvenient to us, we follow God in faith. If it means it’s not what we prefer, we follow God in faith. When God’s will becomes more important than anything else to us in ministry and in our everyday lives, we follow in faith no matter what. It’s no different whether we’re doing life with others through a structured ministry or we’re doing life with a friend next door.

Two people are better than one,because they get more done by working together. If one falls down,the other can help him up. But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls,because no one is there to help.If two lie down together, they will be warm,   but a person alone will not be warm.An enemy might defeat one person,but two people together can defend themselves; a rope that is woven of three strings is hard to break. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Mentoring and ministry includes weaving strings together, strengthening the bonds of our relationships of faith. We don’t just bump into people. We don’t just tolerate people. We don’t just provide programs for people. We give ourselves. We let God do the weaving. His strength in our connections and relationships provides us and others with structure we need for a life of faith.

Reach out to someone today.

4 thoughts on “People Over Programs”

  1. I love you Susan Lawrence!! Speak loud, speak long, and may The Lord himself empower your message for the so many you still need to be set free by Jesus love! Blessings!

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