I was a big fan of pro wrestling when I was a kid…Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, etc. I made one of my grade-school buddies cry after putting the Figure-Four Leglock on him. I thought he was joking, but he was really in pain. Sorry, Chris.
One bizarre thing about pro wrestling is the idea of championships and win-loss records. For the most part, they don’t exist. Characters have matches to advance a storyline, not necessarily win a championship. You never see an irrelevant guy become champion because story, TV ratings, and popularity define success, not championships. The championship means almost nothing because it changes hands so quickly and in pro-wrestling…THERE’S NO OFF-SEASON. There will be no “2012 Pro Wrestling Champion”.
Because there’s no off-season in ministry, our successes can become like a pro-wrestling championship: meaningless. Ministry can easily slip into increasing ratings, i.e. the constant pressure to draw attendees, meet financial goals, and create buzz. Because there’s no off-season, staff and volunteers jump from one project to the next. “Vision meetings” become a euphemism for “this quarter’s to-do list”.
Baseball players play from April to October with a clear World Series champion. Football players have training camp, a season, the Super Bowl, and then unplug. Conversely, pro wrestlers live on the road 52 weeks a year. If they miss one show, the writers cut them out of the script and they may never get on TV again. They don’t travel as a team and they’re individually responsible to pay their own travel, food, and lodging to make the telecasts. No wonder so many of these guys die young…they live at an unsustainable pace and pump their bodies full of supplements to maintain their appearance to draw ratings. No one cares about the last match they won because all that matters is the next show. This sounds too much like people in ministry! Burnout, anyone?
Sure, hard work is necessary. But leaders shouldn’t woo volunteers into serving when they haven’t built infrastructure that develops people vs. using them. If you’re a leader, please don’t make droves of people suffer because you neglected to build a sustainable ministry culture. It’s disingenuous, inconsiderate, and dangerous. So:
- If 20% of the people truly do 80% of the work, train more people.
- Cut out that sacred-cow event in your church calendar that is essentially a Pyrrhic victory: one that costs you more than the prize attained.
- Force people to take a break from ministry before they get burned out.
- Put a back-end date on commitments so there are no hard feelings on either side.
In the middle of my busiest ministry seasons, keeping “in step with the Spirit” meant learning when to accelerate and decelerate. God gives grace for the pace…when He is the One determining the pace instead of us.
So here I am blogging during my off-season, haha. But I’m trying to enjoy my downtime and hope you find some of your own. A saying that has helped me every now and then: Jesus died for the church so you don’t have to. Again, I’m not against working hard. I work hard, and so did my teams. Nothing that is significant will be built without sacrifice and dedication. But learn to build in an off-season. Your championships will mean a lot more.