I had only been serving at Bell Shoals for a couple of weeks when Gary Payne, our current Executive Pastor, came into my office. He checked in to see how Rachel and I were adjusting to the constant state of sweat we now found ourselves in as new Floridians. We chatted about ministry for a while. And then he shared an illustration that hasn’t left me since that day. Here’s basically what he said:
“Have you ever been to the mall? Unless you visit often, you don’t always remember exactly where every store is located. So what do you do? You find the nearest map. And that map shows you a layout of every store in the mall. You find the store you want to go to and head for it. Right? No. After finding the store, you have to find a star that says, “You are here.” Then you see how you are going to get from where you are to where you want to go. Effectively leading your ministry requires you to ask three questions: Where are you now? Where are you going? How will you get there?”
Now Gary intended this illustration to guide me in leading my ministry. And it has. It’s an excellent exercise I regularly go through. But I don’t only use it for ministry. I’ve used it in many other areas of my life. You can too. Let’s break it down a bit.
Where Are You Now? Evaluation.
Maybe you are in the ideal place right now. But for most, there is some area of our lives that we would love to do better. The difficulty is that we love to make ourselves feel good about where we are. We’re good at justifying. We don’t want to admit we may be deficient because to do so we would have to own it and take some level of responsibility. And that’s hard. That hurts. Whether or not your current circumstances are outside of your control is irrelevant. There is something you and I could do to make it better. To start we have to get real. Get honest. Stop the excuses. Stop blaming others.
We will never get to the ideal place we desire if we aren’t honest about where we currently are. Because denial is an impediment to growth. So let’s get real. And get specific. It’s what’s best.
Maybe one or more of these is you:
-I’m 30 pounds overweight.
-I’m hanging out with the wrong crowd.
-I rarely if ever exercise or strive to eat healthier.
-I’m not currently on a budget.
-I struggle with watching porn.
-I don’t give regularly to the church.
-My ministry has lost 3 volunteers and 30 members in the last 6 months.
-I can’t remember the last time I prayed, read the Bible or went to church.
-I have very little satisfaction at my job.
-I’ve only spent 3 quality days with my family in the last 3 months.
-God has gifted me to___________.
Where Are You Going? Vision.
Where would you like to see yourself in 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 years? If you could do or be something and not fail, what would you go for? If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? What picture of the future would you like to see come to fruition in your life? What do you dream about becoming reality? These questions get at what milestones you want to accomplish. And once you have them, you have a preferred future to strive for. Here are some examples:
-I will one day be the leader of an organization.
-We will be the most accepting ministry environment anyone ever enters.
-I will run a marathon this year.
-I want to never look at porn again.
-I want to write a book.
-I will spend 1 day a week focused exclusively on my family.
-I will live by a financial budget and seek to raise my level of giving.
-I will tangibly serve others and lead my family to do so.
-I passionately love God and allow him to lead me in every area of my life.
-Our ministry will raise $100,000 to help feed impoverished children in our city.
How Will You Get There? Strategy.
Lots of people live their life without a plan. They think they will eventually end up where they need to be. Not true. People end up at less than ideal destinations every day wondering what happened. This is really the most important of the three steps. Without it you will be a miserable dreamer always wondering “why.” Develop a strategy that will take you from where you are to where you want to be. It’s going to consist of a lot of “start doings” and “stop doings.” It also requires discipline. So if you’re serious, then commit for the long-haul. It’s a journey.
-Throw away the junk food in your pantry. And go shopping for healthier options. Commit to only bringing healthy options into your home.
-Get new friends.
-Set your alarm earlier so you can exercise and spend time with God.
-Find someone who understands finances and can help you accomplish your goals. Create a budget and stick to it.
-If your current job is a bad fit, start looking for one that allows you to thrive.
-Upload software on your computer to prevent you from looking at porn.
-Go to college or pursue some other form of education.
-Regularly read and study business or ministry leaders to help you work towards your vision.
-Write out your plan, then tell someone and have them hold you accountable to it.
I may not know you or your story. But I do know that the people who made it to where they wanted to be didn’t accidentally arrive there. They evaluated where they were. Had a vision of where they wanted to go. And developed a strategy to get them there. You can too. Just remember the map at the mall.