Ministry is Messy
A friend recently reminded me of something that I have often said: “Ministry can be very messy because ministry has people in it.” My good friend and advisor, Pastor Freddy Johnson, used to say, “Kris, I would like to find a pastor position without having to deal with people...so that it would be...well...easy!” When he would say this, we would both just laugh because that position doesn't exist. If you are going to do any kind of work where people are involved, it will be difficult at times.
So then, how do you keep from wanting to quit and change careers? How do you prevent your frustration with people from affecting your work, your calling and your ministry? Here are some practical alternatives to consider:
1. Learn the skill of not responding to people when you first feel attacked, bothered or aggravated. Listen, affirm that you are listening and then pray for how God would have you respond. Sometimes people just want to be heard, to be validated. Sometimes the Lord may tell you to say nothing at all.
2. Pray ahead of time for the people who are more challenging, knowing you will have to work with them, minister alongside them, etc. Pray, asking the Lord to show you how to handle things, how to communicate, how to respond, so that you build bridges rather than walls.
3. Confirm that when the Lord does tell you to say nothing, affirm whether it's for that moment or forever. There are people that God will take out of your life and vice versa (for His purpose) as you go about His work. Also, not every battle is your battle. You could be brought into a situation that is really someone else's to deal with. Allow the other person to hear from God and then offer your support as needed. Ultimately, the battle belongs to the Lord anyway.
4. Learn how to handle the “messy.” Maybe it's taking baby steps in dealing with the situation; maybe you need to get additional advice or support; maybe you need to put boundaries in place. Perhaps God has placed you in the situation to grow and prepare you for the even bigger challenges that are coming.
The bottom line is that ministry is messy but maybe God has chosen you to help declutter, to add organization and clarity--pointing everyone and everything to Christ because He’s truly the only one who can clean it up and keep it clean!
1 Cor 14:40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
Kris Swiatocho, www.FromHisHands.com and www.TheSinglesNetwork.org
Successful Singles Ministry: Men Growing Men
As a leader and teacher of single adult ministry for the last 25 years, I get asked over and over again how to start a singles ministry. At least 8 out of 10 of those asking are women. Women who have a passion and heart to reach singles. Women who themselves see the need in the church. Women who often get tired of waiting for their pastors to start something. Women who are headed for failure because they lack the one crucial part
that is needed for success. Besides consistent prayer, church support and the ability to build leaders, successful
singles ministry, I have found, has the best success rate when co-led by male and female leaders. I mean, if you want to have a single adult women's ministry, then praise the Lord. But if you want it to be co-ed, then you must find a man to help.
"Men leaders can grow men and women, men and women leaders can grow men and women but only women leaders grow women." Now please, don't start sending me feedback saying the opposite. I know there are some very successful ministries led by women (I have led several ones myself), but I also found with these ministries that there was a huge support system—a system with male leaders and pastors ready to help as needed. A system that most single adults viewed as a partnership of leadership versus just one lady leading things. Great women leaders know the value of placing men and women of various backgrounds and giftings under them. They know we need men to reach other men.
The last church I was on staff at had a male pastor over me who would assist me in anything I needed from teaching to prayer to handling issues to attending events. People viewed him as a co-partnership of the singles ministry even though he didn't attend everything we did.
So why is this? Why can't women grow single adult ministries like a man? Well, please know it’s nothing we as women have done wrong. It's simply what God designed in us as male and female. In order for a male to grow to be the man God wants him to be, he needs to be led by another male. I am not saying women can't
teach a man or offer insight or some wisdom of truth. I am just saying that our role as women should be to encourage, support, pray and honor the role God has given men directly. The same is true for women, too.
Men can only disciple women to a point. There comes a time when it's not safe for a single male leader to be alone with a single lady. There are things in life that only another woman can understand. So when there are only women leading a ministry, they tend to draw only other women (and the occasional unhealthy male).
Please know, as our single adults get older, we already have more women coming than men. So this makes it that much more important to have a male co-leader to help reach those men that aren't coming.
So what is the co-leader's role? Most women seem to be doing all the roles with what appears to be success. Well, not really. If you were that successful, you would have more men coming. So when you do find this man, then what is his role so that you can get a more balanced ministry?
I personally like to get men up in front as much as possible. They can open in prayer, make announcements, and so on at first with the goal to get them to facilitate a small group or other study. This can eventually lead to them teaching a small group or Sunday school class or even leading the ministry.
I also ask men to call/e-mail/text other men to invite them to our events and studies. I often put men into small groups when discussing questions during our Sunday school class or events to give them time to bond. As women, we bond in the restroom.
I encourage men to hang out separately from the women. I try and get one man to be willing to be the point person for a ball game, dinner at a sports restaurant, camping or fishing trip. If he is the point person once, he may do it again. I value their contribution of ideas and input for the ministry. I encourage their help. I do less and ask them to do more. I talk less and allow them to talk more. I celebrate even the tiniest of things they do in hopes it will encourage them to do more.
You see ladies, men know we will do it all because we have done it all. So in order to allow them to lead, we have to often let some things go. When men visit our ministries and see other men that look and appear like them, they are more likely to return. But if these men only see a group of cackling women—or worse case,
attacking cackling women—they will turn and run. Please know it all takes time. But if you commit this to prayer and start encouraging the existing men to help in various areas that give them visibility, you will be on the right path. And you can't ever give up, ever.
What if you don't have any men who could step up? Well, sometimes our ministries only have unhealthy men or men who are simply not able to lead in any way (even after years of encouraging and training). These men either do not have the calling or are not mature yet themselves. So sometimes I will ask a married man to help out—either a pastor, deacon/elder or other church leader. Sometimes there is a really good teacher who is
married that could come in and co-teach the class with the agreement to help grow the men. This could be a temporary situation. I have also gone to my church leaders to ask for help and prayer. If there is an assigned pastor to this ministry, I will ask that pastor to come in and be a visible man in the ministry. I have also asked this pastor to attend some of our events, again to show visibility and support to the ministry. At one church where I was on staff, they actually assigned a deacon and his wife to each of our Sunday school classes (whole church) for one Sunday a month. I asked this couple if they would be willing to teach that one Sunday, as well as help with following up with men. I also asked them to attend some of our events to help them be more visible to other men. Boy, what a difference it made.
Bottom line, in order to get healthier men in your singles ministry, you have to reach them and grow them through other healthy men. We as women can help. We can pray for our men, value how God has placed them in our churches and ministries to lead and foremost, step down in certain areas to allow men to step up. Ladies, I know you are willing to do whatever God wants you to do, but you will never know how much greater ministry is when it’s co-led by a male. So put it to prayer and wait on God. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts (Acts 11:23).
Note: I know there are several male-led ministries that aren't growing. All ministries directed by women or men still need to be able to lead and grow other leaders so that the ministry will grow. Just because a ministry has a male leader or co-leader does not mean guaranteed success. Co-leadership is simply the best design to reach all singles for Christ.
Click here to request a FREE "How to Start a Single Adult Ministry" guide.
Pray for a Mate™
About Pray for a Mate™...In my 25 years of ministering to single adults, I have found one major thing common to 99.9% of them—the desire to be married or married again. From conferences to retreats, articles and interviews, the subject continuously comes up.
I hear questions like:
“Do you think I am meant to be married?”
“Is there such a thing as ‘the one’?”
“Why hasn’t God brought me the man/woman of my dreams?”
As with all of these questions, I can only send them to the one source who knows the answers and that is Jesus Christ. But saying this doesn’t always communicate to an action or a direction.
Okay, so you go to the Lord but then what? Well, they would say they have gone to the Lord but what I found was they would gripe, cry and fuss at Him. Few were serious in their purpose when it came to praying. Few were serious when it came to listening and as a result, changing.
THE CHURCH AND SINGLENESS
For the last two decades, I and many of my fellow ministers to singles have seen the decline of the church’s efforts to minister to single adults. While the singles population is now over 52 percent in the United States, with most being never-marrieds, churches are not making the effort to the reach us. The focus more than ever seems to be on the family.
But what churches don’t understand is the family starts with two single adults. If the church would spend time reaching singles, helping them in their identity in Christ, in their personal growth and developing healthy friendships, as well as by offering Bible studies and counseling for marriage, then the greater success of our future marriages and families will be.
We can’t keep hiding behind youth programs and a pro-family focus and hope healthy marriages will just happen. The church needs to help single adults meet each other in a healthy way, directing them toward godly friendships and teaching them the principles of courtship and marriage preparation. Otherwise, they will find other ways to find a spouse, often outside the church and, possibly, with someone who isn’t a believer.
Although not all single adults will get married, many due to their own fears and issues, I do believe in marriage and I believe God still brings people together. With that in mind, I have been praying for a solution to bring singles ministry back into the church.
Singles ministry in general takes a lot of work. You have to build a team of leaders, offer training, meet regularly, plan, pray, and do. Because of the work involved and due to so many pastors being fearful that members might “hook-up,” churches have stopped having a singles ministry.
Also, we are still seeing more women than men in church. As a result, most singles ministries are started by women. Unfortunately, groups led solely by women only grow other women. The team has to include men. Without this pairing of the sexes, your ministry will often fail. In addition, we are seeing a lot of singles ministries focused on social events rather than on teaching the Word of God.
Another problem comes when leaders who don’t find a team to share the responsibilities with gets burned out, resulting in a failed ministry.
So, what do we do? How do we bring a singles ministry back into the church and have it be successful? And how can we do it if we are limited in finding men to help? What about resources and support?
SOLUTION: Pray for a Mate™
While spending time in the United Kingdom doing ministry, I came upon a wonderful lady who shared with me something amazing. She had gone to her pastor and asked about doing a singles ministry at her church. Again, due to past experiences of what singles ministries could become, he said no. She then prayed and went back and asked if she could have a “prayer group for those who wanted to be married.” (Remember, 99.9 percent of all singles want to be married—maybe not this minute but eventually). She didn’t say anything about singles or ministry, but she did use two key words that most churches care about: marriage and prayer. They agreed and even offered her the space to meet.
She quickly gathered her team of friends—some married and some single—and they started meeting to pray, not sure what God would do. That small group turned into a larger one and before long they were meeting each month. From the start they only allowed women to come as they had enough men. They also created a structure that appealed mainly to serious prayer warriors.
The results were amazing. They saw lives changed, individuals found healing, some developed amazing friendships and others even got married. It’s now been over year and they are up to eighty men and eighty women. And it hit me—with a few slight changes, this could work in the U.S.
I realize not all singles would want to come to church to pray for a mate. Some might even get upset if this was the only activity their church offered singles. But if a church only has this, it’s still better than nothing. This program has the potential to lead to something. It’s certainly worth trying and making the investment. And the result? Healthier people who become healthier followers of Christ.
How to get started!
1. Go to our contact page and fill out the registration form.
3. Once we receive your registration, you will be given a password to access the other pages where you will learn how Pray for a Mate™ works including the structure and the prayer themes.