Psst….you…hey, yeah you! If you seek to be ordained or elevated in church position, I have a message for you! There are many times we think we are ready to do something or to step out into something and our leader, for some reason, doesn’t agree with us. Why does this happen? Sometimes leaders do reference specific things, but a lot of times, leaders don’t give much explanation. The general summation is often, it isn’t the “right time.” This might feel unfair, especially if you feel you feel you are gifted, anointed, and ready to be of service. “It’s not the right time” can make you to feel like you are being held back. What are things your leader looks for if you seek promotion?
When a leader says that it’s not the right time, it’s probably not just one thing causing the timing to be off. There are probably many little things that make up the work and purpose of ministry that they’re not seeing right now. Successful ministry work brings many things together at once. If a leader doesn’t see these things working together within you, odds are good they probably think things should stay where they are for a little longer. There are certain spiritual and personal qualities a leader needs to see in order to elevate you to the next level of ministry.
So, consider this part one of your official “cheat sheet” (the Cliff Notes version) of practical things a leader looks for if you seek promotion. Honestly review them and use these points as talking points to gain a better perspective of just what’s needed for your “next.”
1. The ability to handle correction
Universal scrutiny is one of the hardest things about ministry. Ministers are judged by everyone: the people they lead, general society, the media (for being too Christian or not Christian enough), critics, and definitely, their enemies. If things aren’t measuring up in your life and those issues are obvious – improper attire, bad attitude, offensive personal behaviors, inability to handle personal or familial issues, easily offense, defensive, vindictive, chronically angry, rude, unseemly, or negative attitude toward authority – those issues are going to raise judgment. If you’re in leadership, the ministry you’re part of will also come under scrutiny or bad reputation.
Handling correction shows you are mature enough to recognize two major things. The first is that everything you do isn’t always right. Every one of us has areas where we can improve, and ministry demands we make those improvement. The second is that those you’ve chosen to rule over you (in a ministry sense) are there to help you see things within yourself that merit connection. Instead of retaliating or turning on your leaders, it’s better to self-examine and address those issues.
2. Attendance and participation at ministry functions
T his is one thing in particular your leader looks at if you seek promotion. If you seek greater responsibility, showing up is a must. We all acknowledge sometimes things come up, but there’s a huge difference between an occasional absence and being chronically late or absent. Ministries of all sorts already deal with the complications of limited staff and volunteers. It’s not a secret that getting people to show up is already an issue. The last thing a leader needs as part of their daily responsibilities is explaining away why someone who should be present isn’t there, especially if there’s no good reason for it.
It’s not a huge secret that ministry leaders are busier than ever. We struggle to maintain our spiritual call while meeting practical needs. This means senior leaders rely on their secondary leaders to follow through, both in participation and assignment.
Churches function on trust. Your leadership needs to know you are trustworthy. This becomes an even bigger issue when you are assigned to handle something in their absence. If you are out of church more than you’re in church, have endless reasons why you’re not present at service, Bible study, classes, or meetings, or are sporadic in attendance, don’t expect promotion.
3. Bringing visitors/guests to the church
If you’re promoted, you take a bigger part in your immediate ministry. This means you must consider this work as more than just your leader’s vision. You need to prove you are a part of the vision, on board with it, excited about it, and willing to share it. If you have been in the ministry for ages and you never bring a visitor, recommend a guest, or are part of getting new members, then you aren’t participating in the vision enough to have more responsibility within its parameters. If you seek promotion, your leader looks to see you believe in this work. Nothing proves it more than getting others involved.
4. Taking initiative when it comes to assignments and projects
If someone desires promotion, one of the biggest things I consider is their personal initiative on assignments and projects. When someone is assigned a project or they tell me they want to do something, I expect they will complete it. If it’s left incomplete or half-finished in favor of something else, I know that’s how they will approach other ministry responsibilities.
As a leader who leads other leaders, I know my perspective on this isn’t unique. If someone doesn’t have a lot of experience with projects, they often think it’ll be different if they have more responsibility. There’s a reason the Bible advises us to embrace small things; those things matter. If you want greater responsibility, you must be faithful to complete all assignments, even if they might be less exciting tasks (such as assisting in something or maintaining a small assignment).
5. Personal giving, including tithes and offerings
If the Bible teaches us, Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21), that gives us insight into priorities. Where we spend or give our money shows what’s most important to us in our lives….regardless of what we say is most important. It gives us away every time. Giving is one of the things the things a leader looks at if you seek promotion.
I’ve known people who always have money for vacations, hair and nails, elaborate parties, huge holiday celebrations, new cars, and bigger and better things for themselves, but always said they didn’t have money to give to church or ministry. They wanted free education, training, and the opportunity to move up, but didn’t feel financial participation was a ministry requirement.
There’s nothing wrong with vacation, personal care, parties, a new car, or doing something great for yourself. I think it’s great for us to do things that will help us recharge and better our lives. The issue I raise here is that we can’t do those things to the exclusion of financial giving; we must find a way to do both. If you consistently prioritize personal pleasures over spiritual growth, that tells your leadership your priority isn’t with the ministry.
6. Finish the things you start
We all have a few projects scattered over the years that we didn’t complete. There are those, however, who consistently start things and never finish them. This becomes problematic, as it can be a serious issue in church. We typically see it when someone is promoted before they’ve proven faithful to see things through.
Vision is great. Everyone called to ministry, in any capacity, has some level of vision. We like to talk about vision and ideas, but we often forget visions don’t come to pass on their own. The Bible tells us to write vision and run with it, not talk about it forever (Habakkuk 2:2). Visions don’t come to pass on their own; they require action. To bring vision to pass, we spend a lot of time “in between”: doing boring tasks, disciplining ourselves, recovering from setbacks, and maintaining things, day in and day out.
If you want more responsibility, you have to finish what you start rather than jumping from thing to thing. Completing tasks shows you have the ability to plan, think things through, problem solve, and handle the boredom that sometimes comes from project commitment.
7. How’s your accountability?
“Accountability” is a big word that sometimes makes us uncomfortable. It literally means that one is able to be responsible. Whether for personal issues or tasks, accountability is an important ministry principle. It relates to the way we connect with others and then work as a team to make sure we stay true to our course. Whether it’s as simple as making sure we drink water every day or something more involved (like following through on projects or being honest about our actions), accountability starts when we embrace community in our lives.
If we view accountability in this way, it helps us step up when bigger issues arise. In every ministry, there will be at least one time (and, more than likely, several) when accountability will come front and center in a situation. When such arises, we should never, ever blame someone else for where we are (or are not) in ministry. Honesty starts with ourselves; not everyone else. When something comes up, (hopefully) everyone involved in a situation is grown; acting accordingly is paramount. Throwing temper tantrums and fits when a leader addresses a matter is both unseemly and unproductive. Self-examination, apologies when wrong, not “right fighting” all the time, being courteous, and maintaining good attitude are all essential. Such proves accountability is a priority and self-improvement isn’t beneath you.
8. Seeing with right vision
There are many sincere people in church who believe they’ve heard from God. They might claim to have had a dream, vision, or some sort of word that validates their own position. Without getting into too many technicalities, it is possible some of these people haven’t heard from God. The situations might involve counterfeit spirits, personal opinions, thoughts or observations, but they aren’t all always from God.
I mention this because every one of us should work to develop our spiritual gifts with discernment. I believe spiritual gifts are amazing, but we must temper them with a certain amount of maturity. We should never use spiritual gifts to make a name for ourselves or randomly or haphazardly exercise them. By participating in church (especially if we have a good leader), we are able to learn more about our gifts and how to best use them for God’s glory.
If you desire greater leadership, you must display accuracy in vision. This means you know how to handle your gifts in different situations. Working your gifts should also produce spiritual fruit, as well.
9. Displaying spiritual fruit
Related to the last point: if you seek higher leadership, you should also display spiritual fruit. As a believer, you are, most likely, very excited about ministry. As part of such, you are eager to share your gifts – and their abilities – with others. This is a part of spiritual process, because it’s all new and different. God has most likely shown you where you will be one day in the future…if you stick with it and learn both obedience and honor along with development of your spiritual gifts.
Your leader, however, most likely has a different view of spiritual gifts. They aren’t that interested in what you see happening down the line. You’re probably not the first person who thinks they are very gifted, a future best-selling author, “called to the nations,” or set apart for great things. Believe it or not, it’s very common for leaders to hear these same ideas. Unfortunately, we don’t see many people achieve these things. Why? Not many are willing to discipline themselves to the point where their gifts display spiritual fruit. If you claim to have gifts, your leader wants to see those develop fruit, not personal boasts.
We develop spiritual fruit by disciplining our gifts. This starts as we embrace wise counsel, remain humble and teachable, and submit ourselves to a community of faith. When we grow, we find our gifts expand and benefit others, with more opportunities to use them.
10. Ability to act and self-start
Leaders like initiative. Many people talk; some people even talk about great things. Ideas are wonderful, but as discussed earlier, ideas need action. I speak for all leaders when I say there is nothing wrong with initiative. You never need permission to do something good for someone else. Permission is required for church events or projects that utilize the ministry name and/or ministry space. You don’t have to ask for permission to do every little thing. Go ahead and give someone a ride to church, volunteer for a new church ministry, do something in the community, invite someone to service, or talk about the ministry you’re part of online or among friends. Likewise, you don’t need permission to do things like study, intercede, pray, pray with friends, take classes, or better yourself.
If anything, leaders like seeing people take steps toward goals and both spiritual and personal self-betterment. It inspires us when you decide to do something of value and you step out to do it. Motivation is an essential thing a leader looks for if you seek promotion.
Stay tuned for part 2 in the next column
In our next column I will cover the second half of “‘ 20 Things Your Leader Looks for if You Seek Promotion”… so stay tuned! Want to read more? Check out my book Ministry School Boot Camp: Training for Ministry, Appointments, Helps and Beyond!