What Is Your Ministry Leadership Style?

Are You Stylin'?

There are some who are convinced that a person’s basic personality is clear, if not essentially formed, shortly, if not immediately, upon exit from their mother’s womb.

It is a scientific fact of life that water seeks its own level.

In thinking about how pastors and musicians work together, the two previ­ous sentences have enormous bearing, because a person’s personality has a significant impact upon their comfort level with any given style of ministry.

Let’s explore our first sentence a bit before we move on. If you have had the joy of having children, think about the relationship between your child’s personality when they first arrived in your life, and whether that personality changed significantly as the child grew. If you have more than one child, were their personalities “the same” at the beginning of their lives? I’ll give you a moment to think about this a bit.

Ready to go on to our second sen­tence? Have you ever seen water, in liquid form, look like a staircase? That was a bit easier to accept, right?

Whether you are called to church ministry, or have a church job, the fact is that worship, as it is now practiced in most Christian churches, requires at least two roles during any service: pastor and musician. These roles can be, and in a small church often are, filled by one per­son, but most churches have a lead pastor and a lead musician. Let’s look at four different personal­ity styles of any given worship ministry.

This discussion is not about formal training (including degrees), titles, or job descriptions. Instead this is about the realities of a ministry style, and how those realities are affected by the people who lead the ministry.

Four Ministry Styles

Let’s be clear: the word style, as it is used here, has nothing to do with musical content. In fact all of these ministry styles can be found in churches with disparate musical styles. Style, here, is shorthand for personality, perspective, point of view, and process. A pastor’s ministry style can be compatible with a musician’s in each of these areas, some, or none. A person’s ministry style can be compatible with a church’s in each of these areas, some, or none. Stylistic compatibility has a significant impact upon whether a pastor and musician work well together or not, and whether a church feels a clear direction or not.

The four styles discussed here are not hierarchical – there is no “best” or “worst” style. At the same time, in the best working relationships, ministry styles are compli­mentary, or inter-connected. Different ministry style is one of the areas that can be a battleground, while shared ministry style can lead to a long period of peace.

In the descriptions below, please re­member that the choices are not black and white. Some extremes are presented for purposes of illustration. Every person, ministry team, and church will find itself at a particular place on a continuum in each of these areas. Indeed, a small shift in one of these areas can have a big impact on the way a person, ministry, or church is viewed by the congregation and com­munity. Before we discuss the first style, prepare your hearts and minds, because this is a long article...

Professional or Relational

Another way to identify this style choice is Good Job or Good Guy.

Mr. Good Job

Mr. Good Job is the kind of person that has lots of musical training. He will frequently have a masters degree, and of­ten a doctoral degree in one of the music performance area: voice, keyboard, an instrument, or conducting. To Mr. Good Job, the primary focus is upon the quality of the music, both in the selection process and in the delivery thereof.

With Mr. Good Job in charge, the fo­cus is generally on the choir, which sings every week. The choir’s repertoire draws regularly, if not heavily from the “master­works” of music. Mr. Good Job likes to work in a sanctuary that naturally draws attention to God’s transcendence. He pre­fers a pipe organ to an “appliance,” and when the choir performs extended works, they are generally written by the “Great Composers” – and often accompanied by an orchestra of period instruments.

The choir Mr. Good Job directs is generally well balanced numerically in and between each vocal section. It is not uncommon for a singer to have to audition to be a part of Mr. Good Job’s choir, and when that singer comes to rehearsal, a significant amount of time is spent developing the choir’s tone and musicianship. Many of Mr. Good Job’s singers take private voice lessons, and his choir often has paid section leaders or so­loists. His choir may not be large – often in the 20-50 person range – but they are good, which presents an initial barrier to participation.

With Mr. Good Job in charge, the musical reputation of the church is well-known in the community, and perhaps even in the region. People come to the service to “hear the music,” and some­times only to do so.

But with Mr. Good Job you can also get an attitude. Mr. Good Job knows what is best for the music program, and is sensitive when someone else has an opinion that differs from his. He can be resistant to change, and, when a new pastor arrives, Mr. Good Job is inclined to let the pastor know how much (or more than the pastor) he knows about “proper” worship. Indeed, he may be taking classes in historical worship trends at a local seminary. He can be a “music first” voice in a staff meeting, and consciously or subconsciously constructs an “em­pire” centered around the choir loft.

In Mr. Good Job’s church, the congregation may spend more time listening to music than singing it. He is the protector and defender of excellence, and, while the people in his ministry often put up with his attitude, most are very loyal to the ide­als that he represents.

Mr. Good Job often doesn’t care what the Scripture or sermon is about on a given Sunday. He schedules his anthems independently, and may even phone in the music selections. When he discusses his position with his musical colleagues, he describes what he does as a “church job.” Indeed, when he is in his office he is most likely to be studying a musical score, or practicing his instrument.

Mr. Good Job is most often found in churches that have a “tradition” or his­tory, that belong to “mainline” denomi­nations, and which tend toward “high church” liturgy. He is a direct descendant to the “golden age of choral music” that extends back at least to the middle of the twentieth century, and, in some cases as far back as the sixteenth century. Mr. Good Job is expensive, both salary-wise and in terms of program budget, but he’s worth every penny.

Mr. Good Guy

Then there is Mr. Good Guy. The cen­tral focus of his ministry is “his people.” He is much more relational than Good Job, and the people in Mr. Good Guy’s ministry are fiercely loyal to him – and devastated if he leaves for any reason.

Mr. Good Guy often has less musical expertise than Good Job down the street. In many cases his degree, if he has one, is in a field not related to music, or from a seminary rather than a conservatory. He is more likely to be “called” to his ministry from a background as a singer or a player. He is most often found in churches that have a “passion” to reach the unchurched, that are non-denomina­tional, and which tend toward “contem­porary” worship design.

Mr. Good Guy considers himself a pastor who is also a musician. The core musical ensemble in his ministry is generally the worship team. If there is a choir, they may not lead in worship on a weekly basis, and may only appear to present large “musicals” – extended works that are more “popu­lar” in musical vocabulary, have been written recently, and published by one of the “evangelical” publishing companies.

In Mr. Good Guy’s rehearsals, more time may be spent in prayer and Bible study than working on the notes. While his worship band may be professional, his singers are generally volunteers, and there are lots of them. Mr. Good Guy’s choir is generally at least 50 strong, often sits at 100 in number, and can be as large as several hundred. There is no audition to join his choir, but he imposes a mandatory interview before one can participate, and a covenant to sign which covers such topics as proper lifestyle, a dress code, and a community service component.

In many cases a prospective choir member is placed on a waiting list because there is no room on the platform, or not enough robes to accomodate more people. The new choir member may serve an “interim” period where he or she is evaluated to make sure there is a good fit with the existing ministry team.

On the platform, Mr. Good Guy’s music can exhibit a certain bi-polar quality. The worship team can look and sound as if it was just on television last Sunday leading a famous televangelists’ worship, and could go on the road and be wildly successful, while the choir may sing enthusiastically in just one or two parts, without much musical depth, either in performance or repertoire. Part of the reason for that is that Mr. Good Guy may be leading the choir from in front of the church orchestra, which is large enough that for the choir to be heard, they need to sing less complicated music, and/or shout to be heard. Everyone on the platform, however, has a “professional” smile, and understands the dramatic im­pact of their role in worship. Their goal is to win hearts, not impress with expertise.

Among the staff, Mr. Good Guy is less concerned with protecting his turf; instead he wants to make sure to com­municate prayer requests. In his office, he is just as likely to be studying the Bible as writing a thank you note to one of his “flock.” He spends a lot of time reading the Scriptures for an upcoming service, and in prayer. He wants to make sure that the music is worshipful, if not themati­cally united to the pastor’s text and topic.

A service at Mr. Good Guy’s church often begins with an extended time of worship music – generally at least twenty minutes, and perhaps as much as 45 minutes. Whereas Mr. Good Job is a “face in” platform presence – his back to the congregation as he plays the organ or piano, and directs the choir – Mr. Good Guy is “face out.” He considers himself a worship leader more than a musician, and it is not unusual for him to pray between hymns or introduce a worship chorus with a bit of Scripture. He is fully engaged with the congregation from the beginning of the service until the end.

But with Mr. Good Guy you can often get an attitude too. Mr. Good Guy knows what God wants for the church and the music ministry, and is sensitive when someone else has an opinion that differs from his. He can be resistant to change, and, when a new pastor arrives, Mr. Good Guy is inclined to let the pastor know how much (or more than the pastor) he knows about “God-centered” worship. He can be easily swayed by the next “big thing” marketed to him by a large publishing company, and consciously or subcon­sciously wants to be “with it.”

In Mr. Good Guy’s church, the con­gregation may spend more time listening to music than singing it because worship is platform-centric. He can be unaware of whether the congregation is participating because everyone in the worship team is completely given over to worshipping themselves. He is the protector and de­fender of worship that highlights God’s immanence, and wants total control of the technical aspects of worship – au­dio and video, for instance – in order to ensure that the “look and feel” of worship is “right.”

With Mr. Good Guy in charge, the worship style of the church is well-known in the community, and perhaps even in the region. People come to the service to “experience the worship,” and sometimes only to do so. When he discusses his position with his worship colleagues, he describes what he does as “leading worship.”

Worship or Program

Another way to identify this style choice is Vertical or Horizontal. Ms. Worship’s ministry, not surprisingly, looks a lot like Mr. Good Guy’s. But not always.

Ms. Worship

Ms. Worship’s ministry is focused on Scripture and the three persons of God. Ms. Worship spends a lot of time in (and out of) rehearsal turning people’s eyes upward in awe and wonder, and down­ward in penitence and prayer. Partici­pants in her ministry know something (or a lot) about the Biblical foundations and practices of worship. She believes that her calling is to move her congregation, during worship, from a worldly plane to realign their focus on the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

Ms. Worship recognizes that every person who arrives for worship has been or is dealing with or distracted by the God-distancing pull of living “in the world.” Her worship structure will intentionally lead people from the world into the outer court of the temple, thence to the inner court, and finally to the Holy of Holies, where they can meet the living God face to (covered) face.

When people leave worship at Ms. Worship’s church, they are generally talking about how wonderful it was to be in the presence of God, about how they were filled up to be able to deal with the stresses and strains of the coming week. She does a great job of reminding people of their relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and reinforcing the ben­efits of that relational connection away from the sanctuary. She tends to attract to her ministry people from within the congregation who want to more deeply experience the relational connection to God or more deeply explore the practice of worship.

Ms. Program

Ms. Program, on the other hand, is proud of the high percentage of con­gregants who participate in the musical and artistic groups under her leadership and/or supervision: adult and children; choirs, handbells, bands and other instrumental groups; dance, drama, ensembles, and soloists. Her goal is to get everyone involved in music in order to “pray twice.”

In Ms. Program’s rehearsals more time is spent upon developing the skill and craft of the art than in establishing the context for the appearance of that artistic expression in the worship service. Hers is a Christian Musical Education based ministry, and her passion is to develop the whole person through artistic expression.

Which is not to say there is no Scriptural emphasis or God focus in her rehearsals. Most of this ground, however, is covered through the explora­tion of the texts of the anthems, hymns, and other music that is scheduled. Ms. Program, when the opportunity arises, will generally choose music that moves her participants ahead on the artistic appreciation/expression continuum over music that is “popular” or “crowd pleas­ing.” Her musical choices more often are time-tested “standards” rather than drawn from the repertoire of the “church of what’s happening now.”

At Ms. Program’s church, you will of­ten find a graded choir program, whether it is called by that name or not. Partici­pants in her program know something (or a lot) about the stylistic authenticity of that week’s music. In her rehearsals she spends a lot of time keeping people’s eyes (and ears) in a horizontal position by reminding them to hold up their music so they can see her, and to listen to each other in order to improve the quality of their sound.

She believes that her call­ing is to edify her participants and her congregation through exposure to and experience with divine inspiration and God as Creator. She tends to attract to her program people in the congregation who have experience in an artistic endeavor, or who want to learn or develop their skills in an artistic endeavor. She is gener­ally well-known in the community or region as doing “great music.”

Local or Regional

Which leads us naturally to our next personality trait: Local or Regional. This is fairly obvious, but bears exploration nonetheless. And, if we want to be com­pletely accurate, there is a third, “super-regional” category here, which can be considered: global.

More than any other personality style we deal with here, this continuum can be a “chicken or egg” situation. If a church considers its mission or has evolved into being locally or regionally focused, then the worship leader or pastor may have been drawn in that direction with the church, or may have been hired or called because of that focus. Let’s focus for the moment, however, on what these styles might look like.

Mr. Local

Everybody likes Mr. Local. He knows everyone’s name in the church, what they do, what their prayer needs are, and their daily or weekly struggles. Mr. Local often was born in the town where he serves, but certainly has put down deep roots since he has been there. He goes to volleyball games to support the girls in his high school choir, and Rotary Club meetings because all of his church business friends are there too. He and his wife lead a Bible Study at their home, and he’s the first one to volunteer to go on a mission trip. He was responsible for starting the bicycle fellowship that rides together once a month or he had a hand in organizing the community garden in the back corner of the campus that wasn’t being used anyway.

Mr. Local regularly has the local high school band or choir appear in worship, and because of his connections, when the Dixieland Festival comes to town, the church has a special jazz service that weekend. He sings or directs at least one local community choir or band, and he probably plays in a dance band each weekend. You’ll see him at the Lions Club popcorn booth on homecoming weekend, or at the ball park coaching a youth T-ball team.

Mr. Local could be called Mr. Fellow­ship. He thinks his town is the best place to raise children, has the best climate on earth, and wouldn’t want to live any­where else. Mr. Local is one of the best ambassadors for the church in his com­munity. He’s an all around great guy.

But Mr. Local brings with him some issues as well. He would rather have a high schooler play in his orchestra on Christmas Eve, at the risk of a wrong note here or there, than use a professional. He wants the child to grow and feel included. Mr. Local often has no idea of what the current state of “church” or church music is. He doesn’t go to conferences because he is too busy with his “other” job – selling insurance – and he can’t take the time off. After all, he already gives up his vacation to be at the all church retreat every year.

Mr. Local’s musical offerings seem to be influenced by one of two things: stuff he already knows, and the choir has learned, or tunes he hears on the radio or gets delivered to him by the publishing companies who do mass marketing. He either doesn’t read music (not that you’d know that) or is so busy that he selects his “new” anthems by listening to a demo recording. Mr. Local often doesn’t have enough time in the day to plan ahead, be­cause he is so busy with his involvement in every aspect of the life of the church he serves: he’s on the finance committee, his wife is a deacon, he’s at every work day, and he helps clean up the kitchen after worship every Sunday. Besides, he’s got his hands full directing the adult, youth, and two children’s choirs, the two handbell groups, the worship band, the orchestra, and the new dance group.

Mr. Local’s phone directory has everyone in the church on speed dial, and the flurry of handwritten notes to people who have done a “good job” and emails to his joke distribution list are legion. In a word, he’s connected.

Ms. Regional

Ms. Regional, on the other hand, gen­erally is gone once a quarter to a confer­ence, often in another part of the country. Her cel phone directory is filled with the contact information of colleagues across the country, and her email cor­respondence links her to people all over the planet. Ms. Regional is more likely to know the Music Ministers on the other side of the county, as the people in the recent new members class. You don’t see her at meetings of the Lady Elks, because she is busy texting a friend in Australia to find a new piece of music for that special healing service planned next fall.

Ms. Regional knows the advantage of thinking about worship as it translates to a radio or television ministry, and, if there isn’t one already, is working to put the pieces in place to make it happen. She was the first one in her area to start a Taize service, and she knows how to do that service authentically because she’s visited the community in France.

Ms. Regional brings in an outside expert once a year to work with the participants in her ministry – an inspiring musician, a published author on worship, or a friend who happens to be the leading expert on how to revitalize the annual Singing Christmas Tree. She takes the high school choir on tour on a four year regular rotation: a regional trip, a national trip to participate in a massed choir or other festival event, a non-singing mis­sion trip, and an international tour.

When Ms. Regional married and her name became Mrs. Global, she brought back from her honeymoon a whole raft of African music from her stay in Uganda. Because of her husband’s business, she has become an expert on broadcast satell­ite technology. When she needs to make a new staff hire for her team, she searches nationwide to find just the right person, which is maddening in a way, because it is always more expensive, but you’ve learned that she knows everyone, has a great perspective on what her ministry team needs, and the person who joins the team is a “perfect fit.”

She is involved at your church’s denominational level, and often leads worship for regional or national events. She also writes music, and frequently is asked to attend conferences to teach or illuminate a body of repertoire. You don’t see her around town much, but when she’s at a staff meeting, she’s always bringing in a resource that is brand new. You’ve learned that not all of the things she finds and recommends will work at your church, but she has more hits than misses. Everybody respects Mrs. Global, because she’s connected.

Compete or Coalesce

We might identify this style choice as All for One (AFO) or One for All (OFA).


Mr. AFO is often heard asking the question: “What is your job?” Whether the hearer is a choir, a band, a roomful of staff associates, the tech crew, or his assistant, the expected answer is always: “To make you look good.”

Most of the time, Mr. AFO will admit that his job is to “make my pastor look good,” but, after a number of years at “his” church, Mr. AFO sometimes gets confused. He wonders why the pastor doesn’t recognize that all the attention on Mr. AFO is really just a reflection of his pastor’s ministry. In other words, all the love coming Mr. AFO’s way sure feels good, doesn’t it, pastor?

Mr. AFO is extraordinarily good at what he does, but he is most often identi­fied by the size of his staff, be it volunteer or professional. He needs more and more people to carry out the growing demands of the ministry – and not just because he can’t do it all himself – because his job, in part, is to always be out there selling the next step the ministry needs to take. Anybody that works for (never “with”) Mr. AFO is bound to be either talented, inspiring, or both. Money is no object when it comes to people and program. He is fond of identifying hot new talent and luring them away from their current church to do “real ministry” in Mr. AFO’s bigger setting.

You can generally find Mr. AFO in a church with a worship attendance of at least 1000 per week, although he is much happier if that number is closer to five, or even ten thousand. If his church doesn’t have a broadcast media ministry, it needs one, and will soon have it, if he has any­thing to do about it.

He has the experience, background, and visibility in his position that he is always fielding calls from churches who want new leadership. Generally they are asking him to recommend someone, but in many cases they are sniffing around to see if Mr. AFO is interested in a “better” opportunity. He is tempted sometimes, but why would he leave? He’s got a great situation where he is, and, besides, every­body loves him.

Mr. AFO generally is a “big picture” guy. He has a clear vision of where his program and ministry is going, and what it should look like when it gets there. His repertoire, too, tends to be “big” – large productions with elaborate costumes and sets. His tech team is just that, with multiple cameras (one just for closeups!) and the latest flat screen panels for video projection in the sanctuary. At the same time, he doesn’t miss the small details, often over-ruling a section of a particu­lar week’s worship service dub down because the camera angle wasn’t flatter­ing, or the audio/video sync wasn’t quite right. A “Get it right” sign hangs on the wall in the edit bay, and everybody knows this is not just a simple platitude.

Mr. AFO is the consumate networker, and his style is MBWA (management by wandering around). Addicted to his cel phone (actually, it is probably an iphone), he wears his Bluetooth at most meetings, and he texts like a champ. He knows almost everyone who attends every service, no matter their demographic, be­cause a friend of AFO is a friend indeed.

His church network means that find­ing the money for current and future ministry needs isn’t much of a problem. The church, for instance, has a “Friends of Music” organization that raises dona­tions for Mr. AFO’s program(s), and manages those funds independently of the church’s general budget. In fact, the FoM recently became an official 501(3)c not for profit organization, because the church’s financial “bean counters” were casting eyes covetously on the nice ac­cumulation of funds in the FoM coffers. And, for Mr. AFO, every day, every wor­ship service, and every program or inter­national tour, is better than the one that preceded it. The church is justifiably proud that AFO works there, because his high profile in the community is a natural draw on the weekend.

If you look beyond Mr. AFO’s office, however, out into the corridors and rehearsal rooms of the rest of the campus, there can be some “dark corners” – places where staff or congregants gather and ask the question: “Did you hear what he did today?” If you look closely during staff meetings, there are very subtle signs that when Mr. AFO has the floor, not every­body is convinced that the train is moving in the right direction. Perhaps that is why Mr. AFO’s professional staff is populated either by long-term loyalists, or new hires – seldom do you find a “5 year man,” unless he is in the process of interview­ing for another position, with or without AFO’s blessing.

Mr. AFO is generally genuinely caught by surprise when he is called into his pastor’s office for “the talk.” He can’t understand why the pastor would be threatened by all the good work and ministry going on. And, while Mr. AFO doesn’t have a problem finding another position, it is hard for him emotionally to accept that the church he is leaving “didn’t love him enough” to see through the pastor’s “real agenda.”

When AFO goes to a new church, he brings as many of his staff with him as he can, and those who are left behind find it difficult to adjust to working with his replacement, because “it’s just not the same.” It is a bit of a struggle for Mr. AFO initially as well, because it takes time to build up a new network, to establish a new corporate culture, and for people to catch his vision for what the new church can be. He is helped by his reputation, however, and there is generally a long honeymoon. Unfortunately, Mr. AFO, after being jilted, can carry some bag­gage into his relationship with his new church bride.

A subset of Mr. AFO’s situation can occur when one of his middle-term staff leaves for a new position. The good news for MTS is that working for Mr. AFO opens a lot of doors, and gives people a feeling that the AFO program can be replicated. Often, however, when MTS arrives on the new campus, people figure out that because Mr. AFO never gave MTS any real mentoring, what MTS knows about implementing the AFO program is not always the entire picture, and it is one that is colored by MTS’s not completely buying in to the program in the first place. MTS is sure that AFO’s program can be done better, but, sadly, MTS is not able to deliver when push comes to shove.


In contrast, Ms. OFA is a superlative attention deflector. She is fond of saying “it’s not about me,” in as many different guises as possible. She sees as one of her ministry goals, like Ms. Worship, to make sure everybody is reminded to “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus.”

She mentors, and encourages her volunteer and professional staff, giving them room to fail, and room to grow. In meetings, she credits them, if ap­propriate, for the success of an event or a worship design, and then is sure to tell the associate about the affirmation by others. Her staff knows that the ministry is about serving the church’s vision, the congregation’s needs, and the pastor’s plans. She is a great role model.

Her program grows differently than Mr. AFO’s. It can exhibit fits and starts, but it is people-centric, rather than event-driven. People want to work with her because they feel valued, and valuable in the overall scheme of things. Staff meetings often generate considerable discussion about a proposal before any decision is made – and Ms. OFA’s origi­nal idea is not always the consensus plan that emerges. Everyone feels that they have input, even if they aren't in agreement, because no one’s input is more valuable than anyone else’s.

If Ms. OFA has a fault, it is that her programs, events, and worship tend to circle back around themselves rather than moving steadily toward a visionary goal. She can be susceptible to the excitement a staff member or congregant brings to a discussion of something that person has experienced or read about as being suc­cessful somewhere else.
Because Ms. OFA is always about building the team, process is more im­portant than the product. Her rehearsals can, at times, seem more like pep rallies or social events...or, for a trained musician, crushingly boring. Team building exercises are regularly scheduled, and taken seri­ously. Ironically she is not that great a networker. But it doesn’t matter, because so many of her team are recruiting new people to be a part of her program.

Her repertoire, too, trends toward the mean rather than the memorable. She doesn’t believe in featuring soloists, be­cause that would treat some people better than others. Besides, she doesn’t have the time and talent (or eye for it) to train those soloists. As a consequence, everybody in her ministry sings and plays everything. When a solo line is called for, she has the entire section of the choir, or the whole band double the line so that nobody is left out. She likes to do a lot of world music, because it is more participational. Indeed, her congregation sings well, and often, because she believes that the most important musical group in the church is the “congregational choir.”

It is common at her church for hymns or choruses to be accompanied by what may seem like an odd assortment of players – three flutes, a viola, two guitars, a sax, and a trombone player, for instance. It doesn’t seem to matter, though, because it all works out in the end, and “isn’t it great that we have so much talent in this church?” Besides, there is a box of percussion instruments by the door to the sanctuary for anyone who is inclined, and so many of the con­gregation are playing along anyway.

At the same time, Ms. OFA continual­ly reminds her people that, as a team, she is not their leader, but rather their “desig­nated inspirer” on behalf of the kingdom. Never one to rock the boat, her attitude is “whatever the pastor wants is good for our department,” even if it means stifling visions of her own.

She is proud of the fact that her team regularly volunteers, as a group, to serve at the local mission, soup kitchen, or the church’s thrift store. When a natural di­saster hits, it is not unusual for a number of her team to be gone for an extended pe­riod of time in order to be “on the ground” helping, and doing ministry. The worship ministry may suffer as a result, but the bigger picture makes it all worthwhile.

You will most often find her serving at a church with more liberal politics; one with a wide open door to all of God’s children, be they homeless, people of color, have a disability, or emotionally needy. There is no dress code in her ministry, or, indeed, at the worship service. Ms. OFA would never consider leaving “her” church – why would she want to leave her great team? As time goes on, however, if the quality level of the ministry stays as humble as she is, there may be a vague unease about her professional qualifica­tions. You hear it in statements such as: “Ms. OFA is great. She doesn’t have the best education, but people love her. She is always giving, and it seems like she lives here at the church sometimes.”

Mr. AFO and Ms. OFA are, at some level, both needy. He gets his satisfaction from receiving adoration, she gets it from giving it. She resembles Mr. Local in that respect, while Mr. AFO’s “big picture” outlook has much in common with Ms. Regional and Mrs. Global. Ms. OFA has a lot in common with Ms. Worship, Mr. Local, and Mr. Good Guy, while Ms. Program and Mr. AFO are often in conversation with Ms. Regional and Mr. Good Job.

So What?

These style models are general, and are synthesized from observation and study of a large number of ministry colleagues. What can you do as an individual when you find yourself wanting to change or rejuvenate your ministry style?

Changing your min­istry style can be more like trying to change the spots on a leopard. The better ques­tion is what might you do if you find your­self or your ministry style in conflict with your pastor, worship leader, or governing elder? Here the advice does sound simple, but it may take some effort to carry out:

Spend time with your ministry col­league. There is no substitute for getting to know each other better, and not just in a professional setting. If you are not meeting with your colleague on a regular basis, it is unlikely that your ministry styles will ever find common ground. The more you understand each other’s min­istry style, what the benefits of it are, and why it works for your colleague, the more chance you have of being collaborative, and connected in your shared ministry.

If you genuinely find yourself reflecting some of the negative ministry style attributes described in this article, however, the best course may be to take some time to think about what resonates with you positively. Changing habits is difficult, and generally is only possible if you genuinely want or are externally motivated to do so. As the “Anonymous” programs have taught us, it is a process, and having someone whom you trust hold you accountable is quite valuable.

Look around your community or region for someone who has a ministry style that you would like to emulate. Ask if they would be willing to mentor you, or let you shadow them for a day, a week, or regularly over the course of a year. Learning by watching is often the first step toward learning by doing, which, if repeated regularly becomes a new habit.

Finally, if you find yourself want­ing or needing to change your specific ministry location, realize that with a new start comes new opportunities. This is a bit tricky, because if you are open about your desire to chart a new ministry style path, you may become less interesting to the search committee or pastor. If you are not open about it, and you suddenly are a different person “on the job” than you were in the previous ministry, there is the possibility that the cultural whiplash of unfulfilled expectations will cause long-term problems. Hobson’s choice.

Whatever your ministry style, I pray that God will bless it.

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