A good friend who used to be on staff with us, recently transitioned into the “workforce.” He shaved, got some nice, professional clothes, and went to work at a job where if he screws up it will cost his company money and clients and (God forbid) worse.
I love my job, and I love being able to wear flip-flops and shorts to work, but if there is one thing that bothers me about ministry it is that a lot of people don’t treat it like “regular work”, for lack of a better term.
I saw this tweeted the other day:
“Be professional. Arrive on time. Actually be early. And be organized. @bradlomenick#LeadershipReminder“
I offer up a wholehearted AMEN to that tweet. (Turns out the source is one of Brad’s articles, which you can read here, and it is very good).
I don’t know a lot of people who treat ministry with the professional mindset. In fact, there is almost an anti-professionalism that permeates a lot of Christian leadership. There are some good reasons for this. No one wants to be cold, distant, or a dictator.
What’s interesting to me is that many other non-traditional professions seem to revel in professionalism. I see this a lot in the writing/blogging world. You can read any number of posts and articles on the beauty of discipline, structure, and professionalism.
Why haven’t more ministry leaders adopted this mindset?
Some like to argue against my point by throwing the “in the world, not of the world” mantra back. And while I do think there are some ways in which we should think about ministry in different categories than the world (money comes immediately to mind), there are other ways (like being a pro) that should be held at an even higher standard than the regular workforce.
The other day our staff team was working on crafting content for our small groups this fall. We are going to talk about parables, and the parable of the Shrewd Manager came up in the conversation. It is a weird parable, and one that many people (myself included) struggle to understand.
In Luke 16:8 Jesus says: “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.”
I think this has direct application to ministry and work and professionalism.
We, in vocational ministry, should be just as shrewd (read: professional) in our work and craft as those who are in other vocational callings.
In addition to Brad’s list (I especially like 4, 5, 6, and 14, although I will print out the whole list and put it in my planner today), I would suggest 3 simple things to improve your professionalism:
- Write Stuff Down: in our technological world there are so many ways to store and keep track of things. I find that people who rely too heavily on the digital world tend to be more scatterbrained, forget more meetings, and lose things more often than those who write things down. This is not scientific data, but there’s something about putting pen to paper that, in my experience, seems to improve memory, demonstrate care, and produce results (like showing up, and showing up on time).
- Prepare: write stuff down before you go to a meeting, or a one on one. Prepare for those moments the way you would prepare for a talk in front of 50 people. And write stuff down afterwards so you don’t forget! (There’s a theme here).
- Act Like You Care: this means that sometimes you wear a shirt with a collar. Sometimes you call AND leave a voice mail (instead of texting). Sometimes you choose your words carefully (and you don’t use certain words you might use in other contexts). Sometimes you over follow-up. I could go on.
I am one of the more informal people you will ever meet, but I have found (sometimes from painful experience) that I want to err on the side of being a pro. It demonstrates care, it demonstrates a strong ethic of work, and it enhances (rather than diminishes) the legitimacy of what I do as a pastor.
Practice your craft, be a pro, and get a pen so you can write some stuff down!