Beyond Adequate: Why Self-Development in Ministry is Critical

In his classic work, Managing the Nonprofit Organization: Principles and Practices, Peter Drucker wrote:

You can’t be satisfied in non-profit organizations with doing adequately as a leader. (17)

Now, we shouldn’t try and argue our way out of this theologically [i.e. it’s okay because God’s got me covered…] simply because we’re engaging in leadership in the Church. Grace builds upon nature. From the “nature” side of things, we shouldn’t settle for adequate–especially when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the needs around us.

So how to grow beyond “adequate”?

Let’s face it, professional development budgets for paid ministers are pretty small (or non-existent). And, most of us (including myself) are ministry volunteers, not church-staff.

But getting beyond adequate isn’t something someone else does for us. It starts with our own vision. As Drucker explained:

From the chief executive…[to] volunteers, the person with the most responsibility for an individual’s development is the person himself–not the boss. Everyone must be encouraged to ask themselves: What should I focus on so that, if it’s done really well, it will make a difference both to the organization and to me? (190-191)

Then, hold yourself accountable.

To be accountable, you must take the job seriously enough to recognize: I’ve got to grow up to the job…You ask: What do I have to learn and what do I have to do to make a difference? (193)

Self-development then involves skills, capacity, and experience–but also growing the self-respect and self-confidence to actually make the difference only you can make.

As a Christian, this advice for “managing oneself” is quite compatible with how we understand gifted-ness and spiritual gifts within the Body of Christ. All of the baptized are endowed with spiritual gifts. Plus, each of us has a “nature” that grace builds upon. God knows each of us by name. What should you focus on, so that if it’s done really well, it will make a difference to the Body of Christ and you? What is it that the Holy Spirit is asking you to do? Discover this, and you’ll never settle for “adequate” again when it comes to self-development.

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