Tuesday, January 31, 2012

One-Man Band

Much earlier in my youth ministry career, I was a one-man band. I did it all: teaching, worship leading, newsletter publishing, event planning, counseling, game leading, retreat pastoring, t-shirt designing, MC.

I thought that's what I was supposed to do. After all, I was gifted, talented, and full of personality. I was the guy. How wrong I was.

I was sitting at a national youth ministry conference (I'm sure looking down my nose at the thousands of other youth pastors who didn't have my charisma), and the speaker said these words: Find the one or two things you are really good at, and build a team to do the rest.

At first I struggled with those words on two levels: First, my arrogance prevented me from seeing the one or two things that I was really good at. I thought I was really good at everything. Second, I wasn't sure I could let go of some of the things I did as a youth pastor and trust them in the hands of others.

But I was determined to be an even better youth pastor, and I respected the speaker who said those words, so I went home from the event with a new resolve: Build a team, and multiply ministry effectiveness.

That was many years ago, and I am grateful I learned that truth back then. Here are some of the values I learned:
  • There are people who can do things much better than I can. Our student ministry newsletters (this was before the internet and web publishing) took on an entire new dimension when a gifted writer/creative took it over. I actually had leaders who were funnier than I was in front of crowds, who made me look boring.
  • There is huge value in building a team. The event (worship service, retreat, camp, service project, etc.) will be better when planned and executed by a team. But better than that, the team will be greater because of the time spent praying, planning, and working together.
  • Having a team allows me to pour myself into others and mentor them. By doing everything myself, I was not teaching others how to do ministry. By allowing others to take on ministry responsibilities, I was helping them build their skills, develop their giftings, and exercise their callings.
  • My effectiveness multiplied. As I poured into a team, they in turn could pour into others (adults and students), thus extending ministry effectiveness well beyond my personal ability. Simple math.
  • It doesn't all depend on me. Years ago I had scheduled a retreat with our middle school students. I was going to do it all: worship leading, games, teachings, small group discussion leading, everything. The night before we were to leave for the retreat my wife went into labor with our first child. I couldn't go on the retreat. And there was no team to pick up the slack on the one or two things I was scheduled to do. I was going to do it all. It was disaster in the making. (A colleaugue on our staff led the retreat in my place. I am still grateful to him for salvaging my poor leadership.)
I am grateful that I began to learn that powerful truth (lie) of the one-man band when I did. Conducting the orchestra seems to suit me more. Plus it sounds a whole lot better...

Question: What other values can be achieved by not being a one-man band? Share your thoughts below in comments.

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