Never Start a Ministry Without a Minister

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“Everything rises and falls on leadership” John Maxwell.

Leadership is key to any ministry.

Never start a ministry without a leader!

In the last 8 years of serving orphans, I have tried to start new projects (ministries) that I thought would improve the lives of  the orphans we serve and miserably failed several times. Here are some of the times we have failed:
– We tried to start a pig farm to provide food and money for the orphans at our orphanage. We bought five piglets and built fences to keep the pigs. Three died within two months. Two grew older. The first gave birth to premature piglets. They all died. The second gave birth to piglets and then caught a disease that spread and wiped all of them. All of them died and we have no pigs now. We lost money and time. The kids got involved and spent hours cutting grass to feed the pigs. We got nothing out of that.
– We tried to raise a poultry farm to help provide chicken for the kids at the orphanage so that they don’t have to go for too long without any meat. That failed too and we lost money and time.
– We started a guinea pig farm. Guinea pigs generally do well and multiply quickly because they give birth so quickly. Ours never multiplied. Instead, they died. So we lost there too.
– We tried to start a bakery where older orphans can help work with staff to make their own bread. That failed too.
– We tried to expand our evangelism and discipleship program to include hundreds of other children we were sponsoring. Our staff pastor refused to go and teach these kids because they lived too far for him even though our organization covered the transport costs. We fired him and that effort failed.
– We started a plantain farm and other farms so that our kids could be involved in farming. We wanted them to work hard like other kids in their communities. These farms also failed because our current staff members don’t like to do farm work. They prefer for us to buy food from the market to feed the orphans so that they don’t have to go to the farm with them.
– We started a tailoring shop to make uniforms for the kids so that we wouldn’t have to pay so much to buy their uniforms from someone else. We hoped that with good machines and a good  tailoring staff, this salaried staff could do work for others when there was no work for the orphans to do. If that happened, we could turn a profit that could go back to help the orphans. That failed and the machines are sitting at the orphanage unused.

All these things happened within a two year period. I can name many other things we attempted to do that failed. All of them were good things. Since I grew up in poverty and knew that these things would benefit the kids, I thought that all the staff would rally around them and they would work. I was always praying about them that they should work. But they did not.

Why did I fail? I started ministries without a minister! That is a terrible idea! I’m a physician by training who has medicine in the United States to serve orphans as I believe God has called me. I’m very dedicated and would do anything to serve these kids. But I’m only one person and because I run our organization in the U.S, many times I’m not on the ground with the kids. I have to rely on others to do the work on the ground while I am away working with our team in the U.S.When these failures were happening, sometimes I got so disappointed. It was as if nothing was working. For a moment, I felt that there was some kind of “curse” on us. There I was, I’d quit everything that I had to serve orphans and nothing was working. I was depressed!

What should I have done?

I needed to wait and seek God until he provided someone to lead the ministry or project before we launched it. Very often, we are driven to start these projects because we think they are important. We may be right that they are important. God knows that too. We can do nothing without Christ. So we must continue to pray until he sends the right person. Running to do things without him can result in harm to ourselves and those we seek to serve. I’m sure my strings of failed projects didn’t help the kids but probably hurt their faith in God.

Here are some points to learn.

  • Never create a ministry position and then fill it. That’s doing things backwards. Pray and wait on God to provide the leader first who will lead the ministry. Then let him or her start it.
  • Having the right leader is more critical to a ministry’s success than having the right vision for a ministry. Vision is important but the leader is more important.
  • Wait on God until he gives the right leader. Don’t move without God providing the right leader.
  • The vision should be a sign for you to pray for the provision of the right leader, not a sign for you to start the ministry or project, unless you are that right leader.
  • Don’t push people into ministry. When I assigned those projects to our local staff who weren’t the leaders God prepared for such ministries, the projects failed. They weren’t motivated to do the projects. They only did them because their paycheck depended on it. You need a lot more than that for a ministry to succeed.

Listen to what pastor Rick Warren says about this*:

Never create a ministry position and then fill it. It’s backwards. Your most critical component to a new ministry isn’t the idea to start it—it’s the leadership of the ministry. Every ministry rises and falls on leadership. Without the right leader, a ministry will just stumble along. It may even do more harm than good. I could tell you some horror stories about poorly-led ministries. Be patient and trust God’s timing. Don’t try to outrun or out-think Him. The staff at Saddleback* never starts new ministries. We may suggest an idea but we let the idea percolate until God provides the right person to lead it.

Don’t push people into ministry either. It’s not about you finding the right person to start your dream ministry. It’s about God raising up the right person. If you push people into ministry spots, you’ll be stuck with a motivation problem for the life of the ministry.

…Pray and wait for God to bring you the person best shaped to lead it, then let them start the ministry. If there’s no interest in a particular ministry, don’t worry about it.

Study the book of Acts and you’ll discover that any organization always followed what the Holy Spirit was doing first. Not once in Acts do you find people organizing a ministry and then praying, “Now God please bless our idea.”  God would begin moving in peoples’ hearts, a ministry would spontaneously spring up in a small way, and, as it grew larger, they would add some structure to it.

Follow the model of the early church!

* Saddleback is Pastor Rick Warren’s church in California. Pastor Rick’s article can be found at http://pastors.com/never-start-a-ministry-without-a-minister/

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