7 principles Practice #7 – Work on it

Set aside some quality time to step back evaluate what you are doing and how effective you are being. ALL of us work IN our ministry. That’s what we do. But are we consistently carving out time to work ON our ministries? It is essential to work ON your ministry not just IN your ministry.

Everyone needs training and practice, even the best and most talented people. Without it, the fundamentals start to break down. It isn’t enough to play the game; you have to work on your game too. It’s the same with ministry. No matter how long we’ve served or how successful we’ve been – if we are not consistently evaluating both our performance and our strategies, at some point we will begin to become ineffective.

Self-evaluation is not a new concept. Even God took time at the end of each day during the week of creation to evaluate his won work (Gen.1:31). He also later evaluated Adam’s situation and saw that it was not good for man to be alone. We are all grateful that God took time to work on the system that day. The point is, no matter how good something may seem to be, a consistent time of evaluation can produce tremendous benefits.

Confronting the Facts

It is amazing how honest evaluation can lead to some pretty ugly observations. There are always areas that need improvement. It could be as simple as improving performance or as complex as creating more effective systems. Either way, you have to face what Jim Collins calls “the brutal facts.” It is important that there be no sacred cows or sacred programs and that everyone is encouraged to make suggestions and take suggestions. Everything must be up for debate and must be defended against your mission and values. This is the only way to stay aligned with your core purpose. Hopefully, at the end of the day you have asked the tough questions and arrived at the right answers. For all of this to work, there has to be an environment of trust.


In order for this to happen, we have to create margin in our lives. Margin does not happen accidentally or automatically. Margin has to be pursued.  

For most of us, our margin is what is left over after we’ve finished doing everything we have to do. It’s an afterthought. But for margin to be effective, it has to be an integral part of our overall plan. At the outset, you have to schedule consistent times to break away from the battle and assess your plan as well as your performance. No matter how hard you try, it simply can’t be done as you go. You can’t evaluate something if you stay in the middle of it for too long. You can’t help but miss some things. Things you’ve seen for so long that you just don’t see them anymore.

Make evaluation part of your weekly routine. Make time to ‘work on it.’ Take time to review, as well as to plan ahead. Celebrate where you have been fruitful and learn from your failures, so you don’t repeat them.

Make evaluation a quarterly and then an annual activity. Just like a car, a ministry can go out of alignment. These subtle shifts of direction are difficult to see when you’re heading down the road at top speed; but by scheduling an extended downtime, the leadership can put the ministry up on the rack and check it out thoroughly.  

You will discover that by creating margin you will also get some of your best ideas. You will be able to solve some of your most complex problems and refocus your energies in a way that makes a huge difference in your future ministry.

Celebrating the Stories

It isn’t enough to evaluate; you also have to celebrate. Take time to celebrate your progress and the victories along the way. Don’t lose your passion for God, people and your ministry. One of the best ways to celebrate is to share stories of God at work through your efforts. Publicly acknowledge and thank members of your team who’ve played a pivotal role in making a great story happen. These stories are why we do what we do. 

If you want a behavior to be repeated then you need to reward it.  Few things are more rewarding that for a team member to hear his or her name shared as part of someone’s life-changing story.

Some Practical Suggestions and Discussion Questions

  1. Does your present weekly schedule allow time for review, for evaluation and for sharing learning experiences?
  2. In his book The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge coined the term “the learning organization.” One of the primary aspects of “working on it” is to continue to learn as a church and ministry area. What are some things that you and your team could do together to keep learning?
  3. How would you rate the level of trust in your team? Are people free to “speak the truth in love?”
  4. Make a list off issues that your team needs to discuss that don’t directly impact what happens in your weekly ministries. Set aside some time in the next term to discuss and address these.
  5. How could you schedule more quality margin time for more effective evaluation and for improving your overall ministry?
  6. Identify a specific ‘win’ or good news story that you could celebrate with your team. What would the celebration look like? Go ahead and put it in your calendar!

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