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In life and in ministry, there will always be ebbs and flows to one’s feelings and impact. These ebbs and flows are sometimes due to innovation, missteps, or pure happenstance. I have found in my ministry and in conversation with others that there seem to be seasons of stagnation that come and go throughout one’s time in service. Sometimes stagnation is expressed as comfort or complacency. Either way, it doesn’t mean that an organization is experiencing outright failure. It is simply standing still.
One of my greatest seasons of stagnation was a season of incremental growth but I found myself frustrated with a lack of freshness. The best leaders are able to observe these trends promptly or even before they occur, in order to avoid them or mitigate the affects. I want to walk through five questions that can help any point person avoid or dig their way out of a stagnant season.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU KEPT EVERYTHING THE SAME?
The way you work and serve within your community and church not only affects others, it affects you! Are you excited, empowered, and anointed to take on your work week and next project? Could your ministry use an infusion of something new, different, or simply a recommitment to what you’re already doing?
I love doing NEW things, but sometimes my greatest challenge is to stay the course and complete what the Lord has directed me to. Maybe your greatest challenge is taking that risk that you’ve been contemplating for a few months or finding another way to bring a new wave of excitement to your small group culture.
IS YOUR PERSONAL DEVOTION TIME HELPING OR HURTING YOUR SERVICE?
The way you feel and function is vital to being affective in what you have been called to do, and being strong in your faith is the foundation to that. We have to work with conviction and calling. That being said, finding direction during personal devotion time is essential do doing so. My pastor consistently asks, Are you working with the ’arm of the flesh’ or are you serving with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit? We learn through scripture that we are empowered by God’s Spirit and by working in community with others. So, are you/we functioning to the fullest of our capability by serving as the Lord leads us?
WHEN IS THE LAST TIME YOU HAVE BEEN UNCOMFORTABLE ?
When was the last time you stepped outside of your comfort zone? When is the last time you have been overly aggressive in implementing new concepts, serving leaders, or providing a fresh wave of groups? Maybe there is a comfort level that your role holds and rocking the boat may bring unwanted attention, but isn’t someone’s growth within their faith in Christ worth it?
Playing a circumstance safely isn’t necessarily detrimental unless it hinders what God has called you to do. Being stagnant or comfortable isn’t entirely bad, but I do believe it is sinful if this comfort level prevents you from fully expressing God’s call in your life (see Matthew 25). Maybe fear is preventing this leap out of comfort. Take comfort in the answers you find in your devotion time. Take comfort in the uncomfortable nature of your calling.
IF YOU WERE JUST HIRED, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?
Pretend your first day on the job was tomorrow. What would you change? What element of ministry would be the first to be eliminated? What arm of serving your church are you currently missing and when can this begin? Having fresh eyes on an organization can always bring a new clarity, so look at your ministry (or have someone else observe) with some new lenses in order to find what is thriving and what could be better. Find a way to place more practices on the thriving side of the scale and find a new level of freedom.
HOW ARE YOU USING OR MISUSING YOUR GIFTINGS?
Only you, and maybe those closest to you, will know the answer to this question. This question requires the greatest level of focus and intentionality to discover the answer. How can you take your ability to recruit, teach, or develop and leverage them more?
It is possible that you have a specific gift that is not being used at all or being used in an inefficient way. There are times when this is just a reality and the season requires working outside of your strength, but this should not be an extended time. Working outside of your strength and calling will only bring fatigue, so determine how your strengths are being used.
What are some pitfalls that have led you to stagnation or a simple plateau? We’ve all been there or will find ourselves there at one point or another. I would urge you to ask these questions and more to minimize your time standing still and maximize your moments climbing upward.