I want a bigger sandbox! How to NOT get stuck in maintenance ministry
One of the easiest and saddest states to fall into in ministry is maintenance.Your passion is dry. Your heart is no longer in it. Ministry has become routine. It is more like taking your turn in the schedule, filling in your spot, than it is about fulfilling a dream. You wonder what difference it is truly making. You push through the motions.
This can happen whether you’re paid in ministry or a volunteer. I’ve been through seasons of maintenance. It’s awful. Instead of the joy that can come from being a part of what God is doing in the world, it feels life draining. Yet, we can get stuck in maintenance. We can even get comfortable there, because it makes everything predictable. We fulfill our duty, but we miss our purpose.
We were created for so much more. Maintenance feels so wrong because it is wrong. To quote Horst Schulze from the 2015 Leadership Summit “It is immoral to hire (or call) people to fill a function. Hire (call) for dreams, to be part of a purpose.” We all desire to be a part of a purpose that is bigger than ourselves.
When you start falling into maintenance in your volunteer role or ministry role, how do you begin moving back to a sense of purpose? How do you get unstuck?
This will NOT solve everything but I want to share one question and one tool that can be a part of the conversations to get you out of maintenance.
The one question –What positive change are you passionate about bringing where you are? This helps move us out of maintenance to consider the change God wants you to bring. You are where you are for “such a time as this”. How can you be a part of bringing change that would help the larger vision? How can you be a part of bringing the change that God wants for your organization/church/ministry/camp?
The one tool – The Sandbox. This is a tool I picked up from John McAuley at Muskoka Woods. After you’ve been in any ministry role for a while it is very normal to start wanting a bigger sandbox! It’s natural to want to be stretched a little and try some new ideas, new areas of ministry or new projects. In other words, it’s natural to not want to get stuck it maintenance. It’s natural to want to make sure you don’t fall into just fulfilling a function in the ministry and instead are allowed to keep experimenting and pushing towards a larger purpose. It’s natural to want a bigger sandbox. I’ve seen this especially be true for Youth Pastors and Associate Pastors after a few years in a role.
The challenge is how to have a fruitful conversation with your supervisor or whoever you’re responsible to (deacons, key volunteer, staff person, boss…) that will help you understand if they are ready to let you take on something new, more or give you permission to significantly change something.
Have the sand box conversation.
The Sand Box
Explain how you are feeling ready to try something new and more. Show them this sandbox and invite them into a conversation about these four areas to see if they are ready to trust you.
Track record – have you proven you are trustworthy in what you have been given so far? Is your track record one that shows you are a faithful and good worker?
Responsibility – have you taken responsibility for what is already in your portfolio and done it well? Have you taken responsibility for both successes and failures in your ministries?
Experience – do you have some experience in this “new” area?
Training – do you have training in this “new” area? Or are you teachable and ready to learn?
What having the sandbox conversation can do is either:
1. Help you and your supervisor see you really are ready for more. You are ready to try this new idea. This will be the case if each of the 4 areas of the sandbox are answered positively.
2. Help you and your supervisor see where you still need to prove yourself, grow and learn to be ready for more. At least now you have a focus, an area to grow! I have found even this has helped me stay out of maintenance as then I have an area to focus on for growth in my leadership and service.
You were made to be part of a purpose. You were made to be a part of God’s purposes in the world. Don’t waste time fulfilling a function. Don’t waste too long in maintenance mode. Find your bigger sandbox.
I truly believe God is up to a bigger purpose in Atlantic Canada. I truly believe God is inviting us to be a part of what He is doing to change Atlantic Canada one neighbourhood at a time. I invite you to be a part of fulfilling that purpose.