Over the past 18 years that I have been in ministry (10 of which have been at Passion Conferences), I’ve been a part of events that changed generations and moments tailored for individual families.
Throughout those times, I’ve adopted a few attitudes and patterns along the way that I believe have been foundational for anyone looking to sustain longevity in their career. These ways of living and leading have been learned through high seasons and challenging ones, and my prayer is that they blow fresh wind into your heart as you work day by day in the lane God has called you to. So, without further ado, here are ten lessons for longevity:
1. Choose to trust
In any relationship working or personal, there will at times be a gap in information or understanding about why something is being done or has happened. It is up to us to CHOOSE what we fill that gap with; trust or doubt. If you find yourself wondering why something has not been clearly communicated to you, decide to trust your supervisor or manager. It may just be that details are not final yet, or they are not at liberty to share information right away. It won’t always be easy, but filling the gap with suppositions and assumptions never helps the relationship between you and the other person or the situation at hand. Real lasting damage and denigration can happen when we try to work alongside someone we spend our time doubting. Conversely, choosing to trust your team will strengthen your relationships and organization as a whole. Choosing trust over suspicion is a vital principle to remind yourself of in working relationships and friendships alike.
2. Keep short accounts
These words have been gold and apply to our professional and personal relationships. Don’t let hurt feelings, bitterness or misunderstandings grow and remain unaddressed. When you know you have hurt someone or acted poorly, take ownership of the moment and apologize. You will gain so much respect for recognizing this moment. Similarly – when you have been hurt, in love, go to the person who hurt you. Starting this difficult conversation with a chance for reconciliation can change the whole direction of the interaction. Try opening with, “when you did/said ____, it made me feel _____, and there may be a chance you may not have realized that.” Creating an inviting opportunity for conversation and reconciliation is hard, but it’s the hallmark of a healthy Christian.
3. Negatives up, Positives down
Never go sideways with gossip or complaints. To keep a healthy team, this is a must. We never solve anything when we start to turn to our left and right to complain. This passing on of ‘information” is gossip. When you are frustrated, take it to your supervisor. This is being solution-minded and keeps your team/organization moving in a healthy direction. Allowing the negatives to go down or sideways is like fertilizing a garden with something toxic. It never solves a problem and only builds frustration. The other side of this coin is the passing on positive information or even the praise of an accomplished goal. Choosing to share the good and not keep it all for yourself ensures you contribute to and help grow a team’s healthy culture.
4. Don’t miss out on moments
In ministry, it is REALLY easy to fall into the execution mindset and step away from experiencing Jesus. Missing out on those Holy moments is also the fastest road to burnout. If you work on Sundays, make it a non-negotiable to attend a gathering to worship and listen. We cannot stop growing and being fed by the Word of God just because we are part of bringing it to other people. Working for a church or ministry is a fantastic privilege, but the exerted effort is meant to be a wringing out of what God is doing within us. When we are running on empty, we have nothing to give. Satan would like nothing more than burned out, dry believers to be the ones leading the Church!
5. You are responsible for your own leadership and development
This principle applies to all areas – professional, spiritual, emotional and physical. It is easy to understand this with our physical development – no one will get you into shape other than you. You have to work out; you have to eat the right things. This principle can be harder to see in the different areas of our development, but it’s just as important. It is not solely your supervisor’s or your organization’s responsibility to develop you. If you are not taking ownership of yourself, then their efforts may end up wasted. Find a mentor, read books on different subjects, listen to podcasts, take someone to coffee or lunch who you want to learn from, and ask specific and better questions. When it comes to emotional development, stay in tune with your heart. Pay attention when anger, bitterness, jealousy and other emotions are creeping in. Much like a physical trainer helps you learn to learn healthy patterns, a counselor can help you learn healthy habits for your emotions – this is often the best investment you can make in yourself and will be a gift you give to your future or current spouse or children.
6. Breaks / Margin / Sabbath
Just as we are responsible for our growth, we are also responsible for our rest. You are the one who determines when you take breaks, how you create margin and how and when you Sabbath. All are critical for longevity and emotional, mental and spiritual rest (and they each look different). A break is a short time where we step away for a deep breath and fresh perspective. Margins are determining what we allow in our lives. Sabbath is where we find our refreshment in Jesus. Failing to prioritize each of these will expedite our burnout and exhaustion. Keeping a healthy heart and perspective in ministry is the only way forward if you desire longevity.
7. Be the thermostat, not the thermometer
Take ownership for setting the tone on your team. Whether you are an intern or you lead the team, you can do this. Where a thermometer does a fantastic job of reporting the current temperature, what your team needs is someone who, like a thermostat, is willing to set the atmosphere of any given room. Rise above what already is. When you come with energy, encouragement, positivity and expectation, you will begin to shift the atmosphere around you and change your team’s tone.
8. Position is never equal to power
No matter how far you advance in your career, title or position, we never win if we equate that with power. Leading with a servant’s posture will always lead to an increase in influence. Humility as a leader models for those following you that a leadership position is not to be used as leverage for the leader’s benefit. This kind of humility isn’t about thinking less of yourself; it’s about thinking about yourself less. It is possible to be humble AND demonstrate excellence simultaneously.
9. Build your tool belt
Often we may be tempted to turn down a job or opportunity that doesn’t fit our plan. Small opportunities may be God’s way of equipping you for a larger one to come. Prayerfully consider the open doors. Don’t discredit the small and humble opportunities. Most likely, God is giving you the chance to develop a skill you will need for a future, more significant opportunity. For me, this looked like serving as a cook at a summer camp and cooking for 100 campers and staff. Little did I realize that in learning how to do this, I learned how to project-manage, a skill that would prepare me for my future of planning, leading, and executing events. After all, if all the parts of dinner are not ready to eat simultaneously, you can’t have dinner. Successfully pulling off events as large as Passion in an arena or a LIFT Collective with 30 breakouts requires a similar project-management mindset.
10. Responsibility over authority
Your responsibility should always exceed your authority. Thinking that something is “not my responsibility” leads to a competitive culture. Having an ownership mentality gives you the desire to make your organization better. Seeing an organizational issue but not feeling responsible leads to unhealthy competition and aggressive competition between teams. Be FOR each other in all areas! You can change so much by changing something small. Often in an organization, people gravitate towards the large or showy tasks because they come with the most recognition, but in truth, it’s the people who take ownership of the details who end up having an impact that exceeds themselves.
These are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned over my almost two decades in ministry, and while I experienced them in that setting, I pray that they help you wherever you work. These principles are ones I carry in my profession and personal life and help me to always keep Jesus on display no matter what situation I find myself in. I hope they are helpful to you as you move through your career, and I’m cheering you on as you run your race!
For more leadership content from Passion City Church check out Pastor Louie’s article: Leading Through Crisis
You can watch all the session from past LIFT Collectives with Passion Digital All Access: Subscribe today!
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