It didn’t take me too long to realize that working in ministry is not an easy job. To start with, we are responsible to help people grow in the most important ways–their relationship with God. That’s a giant role that I am glad really falls upon God, but still, He chooses to use you and me. On top of that, we are also in a career that I’ll define as “people-helping.” Other jobs like this are doctors, teachers, customer service, counselors, social workers, attorneys, etc. And what these jobs mean, among many things, is that those people we work with are all different, bringing different issues, and bringing different ideas.
I believe a large portion of our job as ministers is to equip and empower the church to do the work of God. Again, this is ultimately God working, but we are to help make it happen. All of the work of the church cannot ride solely on the paid staff. So as we are discipling, recruiting, training, and then equipping and empowering others to do the same, we will create a culture of ownership. This in and of itself is a great thing! Nonetheless, it also comes with its potential dark sides. Suddenly, you will realize that people have lots of ideas and suggestions. They will begin bringing those to you, very often just before you’re ready to step on stage to preach, when you’re ready to head home to be with your family, or at some other inopportune moment.
I struggled with this for a while. In our modern “instant” culture, I had this self-imposed expectation that I should be ready to respond right then and there anytime someone brought an idea to me. What happened, though, was that I was rarely in a place to seriously consider the idea, think through its implications, and have a solid conversation about it. Over the years, this has led to me making some hasty decisions that I regretted and had to then work harder to back up and address later.
Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’m guessing that others have also struggled with it. Perhaps you’ve found yourself in this same position. If so, I want to suggest a simple plan of action that has helped me.
A while back, I was sharing some of these struggles with a friend in ministry, and he told me about what he calls the “24-Hour Rule.” He said that he used to struggle with similar things but after he began putting this into practice, he was able to take some big strides in handling situations and confronting where necessary.
The rule is simple. When you find yourself in a situation like I described earlier, let the person know that you will get back to them in a day after you’ve had some time to think about it.
If you have time, hear them out right then. And then thank them for their input and suggestions, highlight some things you liked about what they said, and then tell them you’ll get back with them in a day or so after you’ve thought about it.
If you don’t have the time, you could also suggest a time in the near future when you can get together again and dedicate some time to really hearing them out and discussing it together.
The goal is the same, no matter the circumstance: Give yourself the boundary of time. Don’t feel like you have you answer a request or respond to a suggestion right when it comes to you. After you’ve taken 24 hours to think about it, you will often find yourself thinking more clearly and able to process it much better than you were before.
Please note that I’m not suggesting you simply dismiss them. In doing that, you could possibly do more damage. So make sure you actually follow up with them again. You could also put the ball back into their court by asking them to contact you about a time when you can discuss this more. Either way, make sure you don’t ignore them. Even if it is an idea you don’t think will work, we need to show people respect and let them know we appreciate them. Maybe you will even get a chance to brainstorm a better idea with them at that point.
The more we raise up leaders, the more they will want to lead. That is a good thing, but we also need to make sure we are doing it right for the sake of our organization, ministry, and/or other people. So if you struggle with this too, maybe it’s time to try implementing this rule too.
If you have other practices that have worked for you, I’d love to hear them. I’d also love to hear if this has worked for you.