June 3, 2019

10 Steps to Fruitful Ministry

It all begins with a willingness to say "Yes, Lord",

Amy Cummings

If you had told me a few years ago that I would be helping to facilitate small-group discussions, I would have soundly rejected the notion. If you’d added that some of those people would be teenagers, I would have questioned your grasp of reality. If you’d then said I’d be a 37-year-old mom picking up a new musical instrument, I would have secretly felt a little giddy on the inside. Then if you’d mentioned that I’d also be playing it on stage, I’d have run away screaming.

But when God has plans for an insecure, spiritually hungry introvert, the unlikely happens. It took years, but God meandered with me to the foot of grace and helped me come to terms with the reality that if I truly believe in and trust Him, I have to “go all in.”

God then showed me that the people I’d surrounded myself with were safe people, people like me who want to do right by Him and each other. God grew a passion inside my heart to see others experience the healing of living inside His grace and love. But I was terrified of what it might require of me to do something about it.

The Bible says that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). God’s tender handling of me through people in my life began to steadily drive back the fear of trying my voice, of connecting with people, of exploring interests, of being seen and known. Now, as I do my work as a “body part,” I find it’s sometimes deliciously challenging, and sometimes just hard work. But it’s rewarding in all its forms.

When I let God draw me closer to Him, He showed me how He sees me. When God says you’re valuable simply because you exist, that’s the way it is. When God says He made a church body a vessel of His perfect love on earth and that you’re a necessary part of it, who can argue? (See 1 Cor. 12:27.)

You and I are bound together in holy ministry. Our primary purpose is to function as the body of Christ. It is who we are and what we do.

Steps to Ministry

So, how does being a “body part” play out in real life? God’s work in each individual is unique and far too big for a flowchart, but here are 10 steps to encourage you in discovering what you can do to make a difference and have a fruitful ministry.

Give up. We strive to make life secure and livable for ourselves, but we end up drained and frustrated. Surrender it all to God—every moment of it. Immerse yourself in God’s Word, and practice gratitude for the big and small things God blesses you with. Trust in God’s guidance.

Keep moving. Not sure what to do? Then pick the first of current options! Prayerfully follow your interests. A moving vehicle is easier to redirect than a stalled one. God can use even mistakes, if for no other reason than to show you where you don’t want to be.

Take risks. Trying something new can be fun, and your bravery will be inspiring and contagious. Remember who you are in God, and your identity won’t accidentally get tied up in what you do. You are free to discover. If it doesn’t work out after a good effort, try something else. Romans 8:11 reminds us that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead also is in us. With the power of God that defeated death at work in us, what do we have to fear?

Think “trashy.” Many of the most appreciated jobs in church aren’t glamorous, but the results are! Check the trash cans. Scan the floors. Help move chairs. Wipe down tables. Set up a refreshments cart. A heart for service doesn’t necessarily have to take a lot of time.

Level up. “Too many leaders and not enough followers?” Au contraire! Good leadership isn’t about knowing the most, being powerful, or dazzling others with charisma. Leading means that you care and are willing to stand up and make sure valuable experiences happen. More leaders means less burden per leader, which means everyone thrives. More leaders means that pastors have time and energy for their primary mission of nurturing the flock. Children’s Sabbath School classes are precious and rewarding and always in need of more help. Events need leaders and organizational skills. There are opportunities of all kinds, and yes, you can! You might be surprised by how many people are simply waiting for someone to lead the way.

Say “No.” As you get to know yourself better, it is important to learn how to say “No” to the things that drain you, so you have the capacity to say “Yes!” to that which energizes you.

Be dependable. What you do matters. What you unexpectedly don’t do matters too. “It” still has to be done by somebody who wasn’t planning to do it. Check your calendars. Set reminders. Find your replacements. When people know you can be counted on, they are more apt to be part of the team and feel less braced for a stressful or irritating salvage operation. More helpers and happier helpers is always a good thing!

Treasure hunt. Get to know somebody new to you. Build relationships. Discover the hidden abilities in others. Appreciate each other. Not many people see themselves and their abilities the way you see them; nudge those gems to the surface!

Nourish. A lot of people around you are struggling with something. Sometimes we can barely lift our heads up out of the water long enough to catch a breath, never mind having the capacity to rescue other swimmers. Encourage others. Listen to them. Pray with them. Find out what they need. Some friends simply need a brotherly or sisterly “kick in the pants” (avoid cleats). Suggest that they join you in a service opportunity, and they might remember how good it feels.

Own it. As Mahatma Gandhi reportedly said, “Be the change you wish to see.” Be the “someone else” who will do it. God + you + me + them = the church. It’s your church. It’s my church. We are the body. You are part of God’s equation, and God’s math never fails.

There are no “mystery committees” that make a lot of these things happen; mostly, it’s just too few people standing up to do too much work. That’s a recipe for disaster. We have to get this done, together, through the power of Christ. When we work together with God, there is victory.

Amy Cummings delights in Jesus, her husband, Brian, and their three homeschooled sons. She’s thrilled to be involved in her Georgia church community with youth, small-group, and outreach ministries.