My first full-time position in ministry was as the Children’s Director at a large church in a small town. At the Age of 20, I had no experience in children’s ministry, but I had the confidence of a veteran. The ministry I inherited was more than substantial for the small town it was located in and I had plans.

Big plans.

Unfortunately, I was fooled into thinking that I knew a thing or two about change. My first order of business was to draft a 20-point document that I presented to my staff of 6.  This plan was going to revolutionize our ministry and make things “better.” I was amazed by how they didn’t see the critically needed changes their ministry as well as I did.

I came into my first team meeting equipped with personal copies of my 20-point plan for each staff member. Looking back, I don’t know if it was my immaturity or inexperience, or just plain stupidity that was my motivation. Maybe it was all three. But as you can imagine my 20-point plan flew as high as a lead balloon. Watching their faces and reactions to my amazing plan was incredibly humbling and somewhat confusing. In retrospect, it was obvious that my plan (which was basically full of criticism of my new staff) was not the way to go about change.

What I learned the weeks that followed, stuck with me and changed the way I approached ministry. Hopefully, I can save others from an embarrassing and humbling situation. Change for the sake of change is not a good enough reason to make changes. Also, rushing into change isn’t always wise.

So before you start drafting your thesis on change in your ministry, think about these four points:

  1. Never assume anything. Ask questions and listen to the answers. I’ve made a lot of decisions based on assumptions. I assumed others were on board or agreed with my plan when they weren’t. Make sure you ask and listen.
  2. Never say things that start with, “At my last church…” Let’s make one thing clear. No one cares how big of an event you did at your last church, or how successful you were with this program or that program. You start with zero points and you still have to hustle and earn your way.
  3. Relationship Equity. People will follow someone that loves and cares for them. Make sure you spend time getting to know everyone and building relationships. If you care for people and build relationships, you will build relationship equity. Then decisions and changes you make will be a lot easier to pull off because you will have people in your corner.
  4. Remember…the program or idea that you think is outdated and bad, it was once a good idea to someone. More than likely it was someone on your team. So…keep that in mind when you start to change things, don’t throw something away when you have no idea what effort or thought went into it. More than likely your next amazing idea will be a bad idea to someone at some point. Be kind.

This was a tremendous lesson for me in ministry and they were learned from my mistakes. Perhaps you’ve made some of them yourself. But if you haven’t yet, consider yourself lucky and continue asking questions first before taking any action. Love first, lead second, but always do both.