Sometimes there’s no other way to describe it…change, followed by transition, can be hard. When it comes to ministry, transition can be a delicate process that requires kid gloves in dealing with the people and relationships involved. We often feel excitement for the upcoming change, but dread for the process of steering people and programs through the new, and possibly, unknown. Looking back over the past 20+ years, there are three places of ministry that have left the greatest impact on me. Each has been a “place of transition.” I learned important lessons through these experiences that I now use regularly in coaching leadership teams through their own periods of change, or through initiating their ministries, as these principles are best laid down during the framework of new beginnings.
“This is not my baby”
God has designed us as women to be nurturers. As mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and friends, we care and protect those who are under our care. This is a beautiful thing! It encourages us to be sensitive to the needs of those around us, we can empathize with another’s pain, and extend compassion where we see a need for it. However, like a battery with both positive and negative ends, our beautiful instinct to nurture can turn ugly if we do not balance it with an ability to let go.
The first of the aforementioned places of ministry was as the Youth President in my young adult years. We had just lost our youth pastor and our church board asked me to step in. Since I knew God had called me to youth ministry, I said yes! I loved that experience…I loved planning and organizing, having meetings, leading, sharing, and loving the young people. I gave my whole heart to serving the Lord in this capacity. Then, a year into my service, the youth were due to choose their leaders for the following year. I was not elected for a second year. I was hurt.
However…in the midst of the hurt the Lord opened my eyes to see, “This is not your baby. This is mine.” In other words, do not hold on to the ministry God gives you with a white-knuckle grip. Yes - nurture, serve and enjoy every minute, but remember…we get to do what we do. Not because we are well-equipped, but because He wants us to serve Him in the capacity He has places us in. As a result, we need to be willing to let go at all times. When this is our perspective, the weight of the responsibility of the ministry falls on the shoulders of the appropriate Leader: the Lord.
Sounds easy enough, right? Not when things aren’t going our way, or when we don’t agree with our authority or fellow team leaders. So, let’s go back to the definition of respect. Often we think of respecting those we serve with as taking their perspectives into consideration along with our own. The truth is — that’s a small piece of the picture. Respect means “an attitude of deference, admiration, or esteem; regard,” www.thefreedictionary.com. Philippians 2:3 (NIV) would define it as, “In humility value others above yourselves.”
In the last couple years of college, I worked as a church secretary. We had an interim pastor who worked a full-time job as the Church Board worked to find a permanent pastor for our church. I spent most of my days managing the church office alone. To be honest, I didn’t always agree with the decisions I saw from the people I worked with. At times I had to fight with my judgmental thoughts, the way I would do this or that, and work towards choosing to respect the leaders I was serving. However, I also realized how difficult it is to lead in the midst of everyday life stresses and people who don’t want to be led.
Last year, I saw this pastor I had worked for and still deeply respect. I gave him a big hug and said thank you. Because of those years in that office and because this man led as he did, flaws and all, a solid foundation for leadership development was laid down in my life that laid the groundwork for what was to come.
Teamwork Littered with Grace
In our modern-day parenting culture of carting kids to sports and activities, most of us are familiar with the idea of teamwork. (You might be wondering what teamwork has to do with leadership.) Well, as women, we usually lead in one of two styles: relationally or positionally. Relational leadership walks shoulder to shoulder with the people we serve implying, “I am no different than you and here’s how…” Positional leadership focuses on the positions or titles the different leaders hold. I suggest that as women, because God made us to be relational, a relational leadership style works best in women’s ministry. Here’s why: just like sports, over-identifying with our positions or levels produces an imbalance in a group which trains or works together, giving room for either insecurity or pride among the team members.
Two months after the birth of my first-born I joined my local MOPS group. I was struggling in my new role as “mom.” Almost right away in this new circle of fellowship I realized that my struggle had a purpose…to identify with and help other women with their own struggles in motherhood. I decided to serve the following year as a Discussion Group Leader. Soon after, a suggestion for starting a Couples’ Date Night led to my stumbling onto the Leadership Team where I served for the following 8 years.
These years were some of the most memorable years of my life. Both the Leadership Team and the different ladies who came and went over these years were different. We came from different denominations, backgrounds, personalities, and held different gifts; but we shared the same passion for supporting and encouraging women. Rarely did any of these women resent another team member when something in her life limited her from doing her job. Instead, we learned to adjust and to fill each other’s gaps. By the grace of God, and because our mentor set the example first, we saw our positions as our responsibilities, and our leadership team experience as an opportunity to serve each other first and our moms second. As a result, the ministry was built on relationships…and women, saved and unsaved, found a place where they could come as they were to find Christ.
Places of transition, as intimidating as they sometimes feel, are truly just opportunities. Opportunities to remind ourselves, and those we lead with, that what we do has less to do with us and everything to do with who He is, what He is doing, and the people that are around us as we serve. The secret to the art of transition is that God sovereignly places us, and others, in the places He wants us to be in order to accomplish the bigger picture that only He fully sees.