Sunday, February 14, 2016

Finding Your Sweet Spot in Ministry

The “sweet spot” is a term often used in spots to describe the location at which an object being struck absorbs the maximum amount of the available forward momentum and rebounds away from the racket, bat, club, etc. with a greater velocity than if struck at any other point on the racket, bat or club. What that means in simple terms is that an athlete gets the maximum amount of response for the effort applied. My experience with hitting the sweet spot is limited to golf, tennis and a little bit of softball. Although I have not hit the sweet spot often, when I have, the feeling is as if you have not hit the ball at all. Indeed, that is the fundamental experience of hitting the sweet spot: the bat, or club or racket does the work.

When I talk with young pastors I encourage them to find a “sweet spot” of sorts to experience the maximum amount of joy and effectiveness in ministry. In my estimation, a person’s sweet spot in ministry (or most any profession) is the place where three primary components overlap. Those components are the individual’s gifts/skills/passion, the culture of the church (or organization) and the needs of the community (or market). This particular article will focus on ministry-related work, but is applicable to many other marketplace professions.

First, I encourage young pastors to discover their God-giving gifts, skills, and passions. Indeed, I have written a book on that very issue! Yet, it is surprising the number of young pastors / ministry professionals who think they know what they are supposed to be, but do not know who they really are. Too many pastors have adopted a ministry identity that is rooted in their experiences of previous pastors or mentors rather than one that has been birthed in the unique gifts, skills, and passion that God has placed within them. So, ask yourself: What energizes me in ministry? What brings me joy? What do I get up looking forward to? The answers to questions like these will give you an idea as to your gifts, skills, and passion.

Second, I encourage young pastors to discover the culture of the church they are serving. Every church has a culture and it is vital to understand that culture. As Peter Drucker is reported to have quipped to Mark Fields at Ford Motor Company, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It is no different in the church. A pastor can have the best seminary training, a big vision, and a well planned strategy, but it will be difficult (if not impossible) if it is counter the church’s culture. That is not to crush the hopes and dreams of idealistic pastors; it is to remind them to consider the church’s culture when implementing vision and strategy. Ask yourself: What are the historical markers in this church? How are decisions made in this church, and why? What do the people in this church unequivocally and enthusiastically support? The answers to questions like these will give you an idea as to the church’s culture.

Finally, the third component is the needs of the community. By this, I am not simply asking about the general needs of the community, but what needs are not being met by another organization or faith community? This is a crucial area for a pastor to consider. His vision must take into account the genuine needs in his own community that are not being met by a gospel-centered ministry. Not only ask what needs are not being met, but who are the people who are overlooked by other ministries? What is not being done that should be, for the sake of God’s kingdom? Answering these kinds of questions will help determine the needs of the community.

At this point it will be helpful to imagine a Venn diagram – three circles with an overlap where each of the circles intersects – to discover the “sweet spot” in ministry. Each of the three components described above is represented by one of the circles. The sweet spot, naturally, is the place where the answers to the aforementioned questions overlap – the place where a pastor’s gifts, the church’s culture, and the community’s needs intersect. When a pastor discovers and can function within this sweet spot, ministry becomes a joy and tremendously more effective.

Are you serving in your sweet spot?

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