Ask any professional athlete, and they’ll tell you that championships are won because of discipline, sheer talent and also because of 99.9% of what happens in the off-season. Victory begins at training camp, summer workouts, sweat, and pushing yourself when the lights and cameras are off, and the crowd isn’t paying attention. This method of winning has a significant crossover to the world of ministry.
Many ministries often struggle with defining the win. How do you know that you’re being effective at reaching kids with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What kind of metrics does your church use to determine if they are faithful and effective disciple-makers? Is it numerical? Is it cultural? We can go back and forth with all kinds of key performance indicators. However, I’d like to suggest that defining the win in your ministry always begins on a much smaller level. It’s in the heart of each person that’s on your team and the individual growth in their relationship with Jesus Christ. So, I’d like to suggest that you ask a crucial question before the last leader checks out: What are you going to do in the off-season to prepare for a massive movement of God this coming fall?
As believers, instead of sheer talent, you have the Holy Spirit working alongside and equipping you to know, love, and serve your kids and students. So, what does your off-season look like for you? Here are three things you can do now to help prepare for ministry and help define the win.
1. Do you have a workout plan? No professional athlete wanders into a gym and maybe thinks about touching the weights. You’ll never hear a star running back say, “Oh, I just didn’t have time for it Coach.” When it comes to reading your Bible or engaging in any of the spiritual disciplines, do you have a workout plan? Not, do you have someone else’s workout plan? But instead, do you have your specific and unique workout plan? Spend some time putting together a reading and study plan that is personal for you this summer. You know your physical and mental limits, and you can adjust your plan to stretch your mind and heart and increase the duration in small increments over the course of the next couple of months. You’ll be amazed when those verses you read turn into chapters read. And how does this help define the win in your ministry? Engagement! Engagement around God’s Word and spending time with Him. As you move toward ministry this fall, how will your ministry help engage kids with God’s word? Kid’s engaged in God’s Word always equal a win.
2. Do something challenging and unfamiliar. Defining the win has everything to do with our willingness to encounter our limitations. And most of our limitations often exist in our mental space. But seriously, do something that will assault your fears and stretch your mental abilities. Coaches always push their players to the edge because they need to know where it [the edge] is for each one of them. So, is there a fear that currently is your prison? Write out your fears and think of one that you can address over the next several weeks or months. At the least, you’ll have some fascinating stories to share with your kids and students as you inspire them to confront their fears and trust Christ more as a pathway to long-term spiritual growth.
3. Make healthy decisions. Every pre-season there is a story about a player who didn’t work out. Didn’t go to training camp. Decided to play a pickup game and then breaks a small bone in his or her foot and cannot walk. The choices and decisions you’re making now will impact what your kids and students receive from you this fall. Think about that for a moment. Many times, we think defining the win has everything to do with game time and when the lights go on or the rooms are filled with kids. Hardly. Defining the win begins with the decisions you’re making right now. Your kids and students will be impacted by those decisions and choices that you’re currently making several months from now. Don’t skip spiritual workouts. Don’t miss spiritual meals. Don’t ignore the advice of your coaches and spiritual trainers. It’s foolish to think you’ll show up this fall and jump right into ministry. Many do that, and they just don’t last. They get burnt out, used up, and might never come back. No athlete thinks like that, and no follower of Christ should think like that either. Prepare now. Make healthy spiritual decisions.
So, how do you define the win in your ministry? What does your off-season look like as you train to become a more effective child disciple-maker? We’d love to hear some of the things you’re considering or some of the stories of what God is doing in your life and ministry.