Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources

10 Helpful Things I Wish I Knew Before Launching a Ministry

  • Donna Jones Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2019 28 Jan
10 Helpful Things I Wish I Knew Before Launching a Ministry

I never intended to start a ministry. But once I did, I knew immediately I was in over my head. I spent years groping in the dark, learning mostly from trial and error. Maybe that’s why I’m always game to help others who say “yes” to God’s prompting and launch a new thing for His kingdom.

I’d never really thought about all the new ministries I’ve helped start in the last two and half decades until I sat down to write this article. I’ve launched Bible studies, a campus ministry, a women’s ministry, a parenting ministry, my own personal speaking and writing ministry, a discipleship ministry, and my biggest leap of faith: planting a church alongside my husband.

Each of these experiences taught me something new about God. About myself. About people. About ministry. I’ve done some things right, and some things wrong. Over the years I’ve learned a thing or two I wish I known at the start.

So, whether your new ministry is big or small, local or worldwide, private or public, here are 10 things I wish someone had told me about starting a new ministry.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock/DesignPics

  • 1. Pray. And Don’t Stop.

    1. Pray. And Don’t Stop.

    If you’re like most ministry entrepreneurs you’re tempted to stop reading here and move on to the next tip. That would be a mistake. Trust me on this: Any success you experience in ministry will only come as a result of following God’s continual leading.

    Too many ministries start strong with prayer, but quickly move on to the nuts and bolts of running the ministry. If you want a ministry that stands the test of time, you must remember the same God who led you to begin is the same God who must lead as you continue.

    Prayer provides God’s direction, but prayer also provides God’s protection--sometimes in ways we might not even know we need. Without dependent prayer it’s easy to function like the ministry is ours, not God’s. This is where ministries – and the people who lead them – get way off course.

    Prayer is God’s protection against the false perception that our ministry is ours.

    Ask yourself:  How often do I pray for God’s direction for this ministry? Is there any part of me that is tempted to believe or act as if this ministry is mine?

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Rawpixel

  • 1. Pray. And Don’t Stop.

    2. Have a Clear Mission Statement

    Before you begin a ministry, know what you want to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it. A well-defined mission brings clarity and provides boundaries. Your mission statement will be the litmus test to determine what you do, and what you don’t do.

    Jesus had a clear mission statement: “I came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Everything Jesus did fit in line with his mission. His healings, his sermons, his discipleship, his service, his prayers, his example, his death, and his resurrection all advanced his clear mission to seek people and save people.

    Conversely, the simple clarity of Christ’s mission allowed him to filter out things he didn’t do, like become embroiled in political debates, reform religious institutions, or stay in one place for any length of time. These things aren’t bad – they just didn’t fit with Christ’s mission to save people eternally.

    Ask Yourself:  What is the mission for this ministry? Who are we trying to serve? How will we do it? What do I consider a “win”?

    Photo Credit: Unsplash/Jan Kahanek

  • 1. Pray. And Don’t Stop.

    3. Serve with a Team

    Ministry is a team sport. Jesus had 12 disciples. When Christ sent his disciples to minister without him, he sent them two by two (Mark 6:7). The apostle Paul had his traveling companions, as did the early missionary, Barnabas.

    Even if your ministry is small, like a home Bible study for instance, it’s wise to have at least one other person as your teammate. For larger ministries, a team is essential. Serving alongside others has practical benefits: you can share responsibilities, each person is able to operate out of his or her giftedness, there’s a common commitment to the ministry.

    But serving with others has emotional and spiritual benefits, too. You can pray for one another, you can bounce ideas off each other, and you can support one another when ministry becomes challenging (and it will).

    Ask Yourself: Who are my teammates? Are we operating according to our giftedness as much as we can, given the size/age of our ministry?

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock

  • 1. Pray. And Don’t Stop.

    4. Expect Ministry to be Challenging (and Sometimes Even Hard)

    In our social media driven culture, this isn’t something people in ministry like to talk about. We’d much rather post a picture of a large crowd, happy faces, or our efforts to relieve the needy.

    Just in case no one has told you, let me whisper a truth you desperately need to hear if you intend to run a ministry marathon, instead of a sprint: There will be days you wonder why you started the ministry. There will be moments you want to quit. You will battle discouragement. You will face opposition. You will feel inadequate. There may even be seasons of downright hard.

    Please don’t misunderstand. There is nothing more fulfilling that co-laboring with Jesus. But never forget that spiritual work invites spiritual battle, and spiritual battle plays itself out in earthly ways.

    Photo Credit: Unsplash/Jaclyn Moy

  • 1. Pray. And Don’t Stop.

    So what do you do when ministry stops being fun?

    First: Acknowledge that your situation is normal (and likely, so are you).

    Second: Make absolutely sure you abide in Jesus and He remains your focal point. This is more than spiritual jargon--this will save your life someday. Never focus more on your service than on your Savior.

    Third: If something’s broken, fix it, whether that “something” is you, your schedule, or your organization.

    Fourth: Don’t quit just because times get tough. Perseverance is a precious commodity in ministry.

    Ask Yourself:  Do I have realistic expectations about ministry? What will I do when I face opposition, discouragement, or feelings of inadequacy?

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Stock Eye

  • 1. Pray. And Don’t Stop.

    5. Seek Godly Advice

    Recently, I mentored a new Women’s Director at a large church. She is a godly gal with gifts of leadership and a heart for people. However, much of the day to day responsibilities of ministry were foreign to her. When she asked me to review a program timeline for an event she planned, my first thought (honestly) was, “This is going to be a train wreck.”

    Fortunately, she is a humble leader, eager to learn, and open to suggestions. I walked her through the “hows” and the “whys” of programming. Later, she would tell me the hardest part about being new in ministry is not knowing which questions to ask. In her words, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” 

    Like my friend, when you launch a new ministry, you don’t know what you don’t know. But that’s OK; someone a step ahead of you does. So seek godly advise.

    Ask Yourself: Who has ministry experience I don’t have? How will I seek their advice?

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock

  • 1. Pray. And Don’t Stop.

    6. Realize Ministries are Only as Healthy as Their Leaders

    If you want a spiritually and relationally healthy ministry, you must be a spiritually and relationally healthy leader. Atmosphere is created at the top. No ministry is healthier than its leaders.

    This doesn’t mean you must be perfect in order to lead; only Jesus met that qualification. However, it does mean you must be mindful of your own strengths and weaknesses. It means you must continue to grow as a leader, as a person, and as a Christ-follower.

    Ask Yourself: Am I in an emotionally and spiritually healthy place? Are all my relationships in good health? Is there any area where I need to strengthen myself emotionally, relationally, spiritually, or physically, so God can use me to my fullest potential?

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock

  • 1. Pray. And Don’t Stop.

    7. Strategy Matters as Much Mission

    It’s easy to come up with a meaningful mission; it’s not quite as easy to turn the mission into a reality. This is where clear strategy comes into play. A mission is what you want to do; a strategy is how you plan to do it.

    Like his clear mission, Jesus had a clear strategy. Jesus could have preached to as many people as possible, on as many occasions as possible, and hoped some of them would grasp His mission to seek and save the lost. Instead, Jesus focused His energy on equipping 12 disciples, and entrusted them with the mission of making more disciples until the whole world heard the good news of His saving grace and love.

    Christ’s mission? To save the world. Christ’s strategy? Discipleship.

    Ask Yourself: What is my tangible plan to fulfill my mission? What actions must I take to accomplish the mission?

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund

  • 1. Pray. And Don’t Stop.

    8. Get Pastoral Support

    If your new ministry is a sub-ministry of your church, you will need pastoral approval to proceed. But even if your ministry is not part of your local church, it’s helpful to gain pastoral support.

    Don’t be discouraged if local pastors aren’t as enthusiastic about your ministry as you are. Remember, they have their own responsibilities, passions, and calling. Their mission isn’t yours, and your mission isn’t theirs. And that’s OK. This is precisely why the whole body of Christ is necessary.

    This is also why it’s wise to help pastors envision how your ministry can be helpful to their ministry. Present your mission and vision in a way people outside your ministry will understand, but don’t expect everyone to jump on board. Sometimes people who aren’t initially enthusiastic about your ministry will later be some of your biggest cheerleaders.

    Ask Yourself:  Do I Need Pastoral Approval Before I Proceed? If Not, How Can I Be Wise About Gaining Pastoral Support or Encouragement?

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund

  • 1. Pray. And Don’t Stop.

    9. Assess Your Resources

    Every ministry needs resources to begin: Money. Volunteers. Facilities. Marketing. Access to office equipment. Legal or tax counsel (non-profit, anyone?). People, places, and things are vital to the ongoing functioning of ministry.

    Before you proceed, set up your ministry to succeed. Brainstorm what you need to begin. Make a list of resources you already possess. Make a plan to fill the gaps.

    Ask Yourself: What resources do we have right now? (Think: people, places, and things) What resources do we need?

    Photo Credit: Pixabay

  • 1. Pray. And Don’t Stop.

    10. Sometimes the Best Way to Learn is to Fail

    When I first began ministry, I failed at least as often as I succeeded. It was humbling and hard. But in retrospect, the lessons I gleaned through failure have stayed with me to this day. Some things have to be learned through experience.

    Wisdom comes through experience; experience comes equally through success and failure. Handled rightly, failure keeps us dependent upon God. Failure makes us teachable and humble. Frankly, failure matures us in ways success will not, and cannot.

    C.S. Lewis summed it up like this: “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God, do you learn.” 

    Ask Yourself:  Am I willing to learn from my failures? What have I learned from my failures, so far? Do my failures drive me to God or away from God?

    Donna Jones: More than a Bible teacher, Donna Jones is a Bible explainer, who’s shared God’s wisdom with folks in 20 states and on four continents. She’s a pastor’s wife and mom to three young adult kids, who frequently sit on her kitchen counter, just to chat. Donna is the author of several books including Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God, Taming Your Family Zoo, and the Bible Study series, Get Healthy: Family, Friendship, Confidence and Contentment. Find her books and resources at www.donnajones.org, on twitter @donnajonesspeak, or on Instagram @donnaajones.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock/STUDIOGRANDOUEST