Leadership Development

Is Your Ministry Overwhelmed?!

Is your ministry overwhelmed?

It’s a fair question, but one I think we often feel guilty asking.

The picture above is of a Bradford pear tree — that has split in two.

This picture captures the beautiful blossoms that grace this particular kind of tree every spring — which is why so many people choose to put them in their yards.

If you’ve ever driven down a road, lined with Bradford pears in full bloom, then you know what I’m talking about. It’s like driving through a path of gigantic Q-Tips that have been cut in two and shoved into the ground.

They are magnificent!

And it was a major selling point for us, on the home we purchased just a few years ago, as our driveway is lined with these trees on both sides.

But as the image above eludes to — there’s a problem with these trees that I did not have prior knowledge of.

While Bradford’s are known for producing beautiful blooms, being one of the first trees to bloom in the spring and lose its leaves in the fall, and for its fast growth — It’s also known for growing so fast that it becomes overwhelmed.

That’s right.

It grows so fast, and in many ways becomes top-heavy (or branch-saturated), that it can eventually split under the smallest of stresses.

So, for the past year and a half or so, I’ve been trying to figure how and when to prune these trees back — because the writing is on the wall — and if I don’t take the time to prune these trees, what’s pictured above will eventually happen to one or more of these beautiful trees.

And what will be left will be a mangled mess of a tree in my yard.

So why am I sharing this you might wonder?

Well, it’s because some of our ministries fit this scenario (and potential consequences) to a “T.”

As our ministries grow and develop — rapidly, or much more modestly — we need to be mindful of a need for pruning.

We need to regularly assess what’s going on, how and where things are growing and developing, and asking honest questions about the systems and structures that are in place to support it all.

Sure, we’re often asked to “do more with less,” but I don’t think this means that we’re simply supposed to continue to add new ministry initiatives and experiences to our plate without consideration for what can (or should) be taken off.

We might feel compelled to provide more programming, without more money or resources.

We might feel compelled to provide more diverse experiences, without more staffing.

We might feel compelled to give more of ourselves to the people we’ve been charged to lead, without allowing ourselves necessary margin for personal health and wellness.

Many of us attempt to lead lives, and hold schedules, that are increasingly full — without the belief that we could eventually wind up like the mangled mess displayed above.

And for those who have experienced the kind of mangled mess pictured above — whether in tree form, or personal life —  then you know that it can take years before things (tree or life) come back a more “normal” shape.

When we fail to prune things back to a size and shape that is more healthy and manageable, splits and disfigurement will happen in ugly and inconvenient places, that will take a long time to recover from.

And who wants that?

So again, I ask, is your ministry overwhelmed?

Are there areas you need to prune in order to make life more manageable? Or in order to create space for something new and healthy to thrive in?

Are the systems and support structures you have in place within your ministry sufficient for the load they bear?

What’s one step you can take towards becoming more healthy and balanced today?