I’m the new women’s ministry leader at my church, and while I’ve done several things to begin the process of assessing the needs of women, no one prepares you for one of your most important “first” assignments—cleaning out the ministry closet. You know the one—various Bible studies that haven’t been touched in years, plastic flowers bought in 1985, along with a variety of tablecloths, napkins, cups, and tea candles. Yesterday I got my first look at my ministry closet, and while tackling the task, the Lord reminded me of some important leadership principles.
First, a leader has to take responsibility for keeping things organized. I was pleasantly surprised to find a small closet that was fairly tidy. I could easily identify where things were placed, and because of its size, it was a manageable task. Good leaders need to develop systems and organizations that make sense to anyone. Clarity of vision and processes that are easily followed are leadership principles that translate from one person to the next. Transferable leadership is a skill that makes transitions go smoother, so make an effort to keep your work organized.
Second, a leader has to prioritize what stays and what goes. I quickly noticed some Bible studies that are no longer relevant (can someone say VHS?), hardened paint, and a box of coffee mugs once given at an event. Just as I would do in my closet at home, I made some quick assessments—what should stay, what should be thrown out, and what could be given away. I found several things that I don’t plan to personally use, but they were perfect for our children’s ministry. The coffee mugs? They will be given to women who attend my kick-off meeting next week. The outdated artificial flowers, plastic containers, and dried paint? They quickly went in a large garbage bag. I probably could have cleaned out more, but I was conservative in my approach. Even so, good leaders must constantly evaluate what is relevant in ministry and what needs to change—or even go away. If you can’t take an honest look at your ministry, ask someone else to help you think through next steps.
Third, a leader makes it a habit to revisit the first and second points. Keeping the closet cleaned out isn’t a one-time event. It will be a continual process of determining what can stay and what must go. In my last ministry assignment, I had several rows of shelves in a storage area that were in constant need of cleaning. Whenever I had 30 minutes (or longer), I would revisit the shelves and evaluate what could stay and what could be thrown away. In order to keep your ministry running smoothly, don’t finish one project and run to the next before carefully evaluating your processes. What can be improved? How can things be more organized? What needs to stay and what must go? This should be a natural part of your leadership process, and it must be revisited on a consistent basis.
Finally, a leader isn’t above taking out the trash. After spending an hour cleaning the women’s ministry closet, I knew it was my responsibility to finish the job—including taking out the trash. Too often I’ve seen leaders make big changes, throw out things they deem unnecessary, but then they leave the remains for someone else to deal with. Good leaders are those who are humble enough to know there is no job beneath them, and they stay until the last person leaves. This may literally involve taking out the trash at the end of an event or finalizing the last details of a project. Ministry is all about people, but sometimes it involves moving boxes and taking out the trash. Good leaders understand this concept and finish the task with the attitude of a servant. Jesus reminded His disciples, James and John, of this in Matthew 20:26-28, “It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Kelly King is the Women’s Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources and oversees the YOU Lead events. Join her this year and get to know her heart for ministry leaders. Follow her on Twitter @kellydking.