Have you ever noticed how one blog will tell you that your whole ministry should be based around one thing and then another blog will say the only thing you shouldn’t do is the thing that the first blog suggested? On a ministry website I recently read one article that talked about the value of Sunday morning small groups and then a second article on why Sunday morning small groups would never work. In student ministry one article tells you to have fun as a value and another article will tell you that real Christians find studying a catechism from the 1600s to be all the fun anyone should need.
If you spend more than a few minutes on various ministry blogs or read a few books on ministry models, no doubt will you experience this tension. If we are not careful, it will lead to some very schizophrenic ministries.
So how do you navigate all of the choices and advice that is given? Here are three suggestions:
1. Consider the source. Let’s be honest, the ease of publishing advice on blogs and online articles means that there is a lot junk out there that you need to sort through. Take some time to understand the person giving the advice and how they came to their conclusions. Are they experienced enough to have these opinions? Are their opinions generalized from one experience? Do their ideas work for them? I once read a blog post suggesting that we never use curriculum for small groups, just let them flow. The author’s credibility was a little weakened when it turns out that he had been fired by several churches because of his “laid back” approach.
2. Consider your context. I love that an idea worked for someone, but I also know that it may not work for me–for a ton of reasons. Keep in mind that they had different people, different leaders, different culture, different timing, different history, and different resources. Every church and ministry is unique and that means that not all ideas will work equally well anywhere. Early in my ministry career I chased several success stories. I created a mentor program, prayer partnerships, and tried to do a year with 52 mission projects. Each one of these ideas had incredible success somewhere, but for me they bombed out because my circumstances and context was different. Know your people. Know your culture and history. It doesn’t mean that you can’t use other people’s advice, but it does mean that you cannot simply take someone else’s playbook and make it work for you.
3. Consider your calling. Knowing what you are trying to do is so important because it narrows down what you will do in order to execute your purpose. Ministries that lack identity are typically the first to fall into the advice trap, chasing every success story and trying to find purpose and identity in someone else’s calling. When you know your calling, you are better able to navigate the tensions of advice flowing your way. What this comes down to is really narrowing down what you want to do. You can only do so much with your resources. You can’t do it all, even if an idea comes along that you absolutely love. If it doesn’t fit with your overall mission, let someone else pick it up and make a difference in the Kingdom.