Just the other day I had a vehement discussion with an individual I have covered for over a year. I have spent time with her, listened to her, helped her, taught her, and cared about her. As her covering, it has been my deepest desire to see her develop in ministry. The Lord has gifted her, yet she will not settle down within herself and focus on His calling. She is always all over the place, running here and there, undisciplined and disordered. I have worked hard with her in a loving way to try and bring her to the realization she needs, but she just won’t play by the rules. In this state, I can’t have her minister for me – gifts or not. When I confronted her, her answer to me was, If I was really her covering, I’d be calling to see how she was and I would know she was busy with her own ministry assignments.
This wasn’t her first complaint. Prior it was she didn’t like what I was teaching on and felt it was negative. Before that, it was that she didn’t think I was doing something right. Now her complaint is that because I confronted her about not participating with us, that leaders don’t have the right to act like we “own people.”
Opinions, opinions, opinions…I don’t want to hear any more opinions. I am tired of such rude defiance.
It is times like this when I hate covering people. We live in a world immersed with self-esteem and concepts about self-worth, and the church now thinks a gift entitles them to be mouthy, rude, disrespectful, and in the pulpit all at once. It’s obvious she doesn’t realize she doesn’t have a ministry yet. She has the gifts and potential, but she doesn’t have the structure and the order. I can’t place her in a position of ministry because she isn’t ready to handle it. At this point in time, her place is not in the pulpit, it’s in the pew, learning the disciplines and ins and outs of ministry. She isn’t a leader yet and doesn’t yet have the ability to be one. That is something developed with time, and yet she doesn’t want to deal with that development. She wants to be all that, and some, and I am just supposed to sway with her as she blows toward the next thing she feels is her “ministry.”
One of my friends, who is also an apostle, has told me of her old-school leader who, years ago, used to tell people – “You and your gifts, sit down. You may be anointed, but you’re nasty.” He recognized order within ministry and the disciplining of the self to be an asset to the body of Christ. In a different time and place, the disciplines of leadership seemed to mean more. Nowadays people just mouth off in disrespect to their leaders, holding nothing back, bringing ancient history up, and find another leader who will allow them to do whatever it is they feel they want to do. People throw tantrums, act in all sorts of denial and irresponsibility, and truly expect us to just sit back and not say anything about it.
I’ve had good and bad leaders in my life. I am so appreciative of the covering I now have, but that wasn’t always the case. I have submitted and been faithful to good and bad leaders alike, trusting God to lead me out of a situation when it was time. I’ve had leaders make unreasonable demands, reasonable demands, ask too much of me, take up all my time, and lord abuse and control over me. There have been lots of days when I knew I was more advanced in an area than my leader was, but because I wasn’t advanced in other areas, it was my job to keep my mouth shut and learn. Now that I am the leader, I remember so many of those days so well – but find such vastly different results in the responses of the people I cover. Everyone seems to be so busy thinking they are so wonderful that they fail to realize covering is just as difficult as being covered. It’s a balance that takes time and effort. Now there’s a lot out there on being a good covering, but not much about how to be good to your covering. It’s not unquestioning obedience, but basic respect and consideration. There are so many things I wish people who are covered would realize about their covering, about the process, and about the purpose in covering.
We should never be covering people to meet our own unmet needs or to meet other people’s unmet needs. This isn’t about taking the place of a deceased or absent caregiver; it’s about training for the Kingdom and empowering those under us for that purpose. It’s not an easy or enviable process, and I know that in covering, there is growth, pain, and discipline that must come forth. That having been said, we all need to remember a few things when covered about our covering and the process they are working for our good within us.
We’ve been there. – I didn’t roll out of bed one morning and wake up where I am now in ministry. What I did do is spend a number of years walking through problems and working things out. I have spent every minute of every year learning, growing, and developing the things I needed to in order to be where I am in ministry. I know what it’s like to be under a leader who doesn’t feel you are ready yet, when you feel you are ready. At the time, I thought they were wrong. Now in hindsight, I don’t think they were. Whatever their reason for not allowing me to do whatever it was I wanted to do, I wasn’t allowed to do it because God knew I wasn’t ready for it. I’ve dealt with the frustration, the pain of having to face myself and the choices I’ve made, the difficulty in healing hurts and wounds, confronting my life, and confronting who I was. I still deal with things, still go through revelations and areas that need improvement, and I know all too well how difficult it is to realize a leader doesn’t think we are right for something or ready for something. Any good covering has walked the walk they now lead someone through and knows the pain in the process.
The accountability we seek to instill within you is only the beginning. – Every one of us in the church should have someone to whom we are accountable to. Some people call it a covering, some people call it a leader, some people call the person by their first name. It doesn’t matter what you call the person – all of us are accountable to someone. Accountability to a leader is key to learning and developing the different areas of accountability we face as leaders. Being a leader means you are accountable to everyone who hears your words, to other leaders in different events, to different people for different projects, and yes, accountable to God. When issues come up with a reasonable leader, don’t dodge your responsibility because that just proves you aren’t ready for greater leadership and greater accountability; it shows you need to sit down and shut up some more.
We don’t ask a lot of you. – I have met some coverings who really do ask a lot of the people they cover: everything from doing the leader’s housework to putting on shoes and babysitting kids. I can honestly say I have found this to be the exception and not the rule, which does give me some restored hope in today’s leadership. Unless you’re being asked to be a virtual slave or do something truly immoral or inappropriate, it is not a lot for your leader to expect you to be present at a meeting, a teleconference call, a worship service, or get yourself together and be present for something. If your leader has called you to be there, that is your ministry assignment for that time, not something else. While there are exceptions to this, of course, like having to work, or preach, or something of that nature, your leader is not asking too much of you to expect you to show up and behave like an adult. If a meeting is called and your presence is expected, it is because you are not only needed there, but because you also need to gain something from being there. Don’t act like every time a leader needs you to do something that you’re being sent to the gas chamber in a concentration camp. If you can’t make a meeting over and over again, that is showing you don’t follow through on commitments, and aren’t ready to be a leader. Also: don’t be late. I know we sometimes have circumstances that cause us to be later than we would like, and sometimes we just don’t make it on time, but don’t think showing up late repeatedly counts as being committed because it shows disrespect.
We aren’t good leaders if we don’t correct. – If something is going on, a good leader has to bring it to your attention. It is a sign of a bad leader to just let things slide all the time. This means we won’t always be tickling your ears and making you feel good emotionally. Sometimes it means you will just get a kick in the pants as gently as we can give it to you. Good parents discipline their children. Good spiritual parents/coverings also discipline those under them, knowing it is for their own good. Also consider the fact that if a leader is correcting you on something, this probably isn’t the first time the issue has come up, nor is it the first issue that has come up. We try to give you the benefit of the doubt and allow you the space to work things out on your own, so by the time we say something in correction, the issue isn’t something you haven’t had a chance to work out on your own.
We enjoy correction as much as you do…in other words, not at all. – While a good covering recognizes discipline is necessary, I have yet to meet a dedicated, concerned, caring covering who enjoys correcting those they cover. With the current situation in the church being tantrums, finding new people, and never talking things out or being responsible, most coverings know speaking up about a situation will cause those they cover to leave their covering and find someone who doesn’t speak up so much. Then we have the avenue that people being so rude and mouthy these days means the person they have invested time, love, and teaching in will not only speak rudely or lash out at them, but will badmouth them to others as well. Correction is probably needed now more than ever, and coverings are afraid to correct because they don’t know the outcome. Want to make the process easier on you both? Listen and keep yourself in check, and realize your covering is just as uncomfortable with the process as you are.
We don’t set up regulations because we want to control you. – The people under my ministry have certain regulations they must follow to remain under the ministry covering. These regulations aren’t there because I want to control anyone. On the contrary, covering isn’t my favorite part of ministry as I have found most people I’ve covered to be a huge and tremendous headache. While everyone hasn’t been a problem, I have found a lot of the people I’ve covered to be uncommitted, difficult, and so enamored with their gifts, they don’t have room enough in their hearts or heads to actually develop ministry discipline. I’m not real tolerant of temper tantrums and mudslinging, not to mention the expectation that I am available to them 24/7 only to have them throw any requirements I have for covering back up in my face. The regulations are in place so I can help those I cover develop into what God has placed within them. The process and regulations are more work for me, not less – and I don’t benefit in the least from them. The same is true for your covering – the instructions and directives are put into place, not because they want to control your ministry, but because they want to help you to actually have one.
If you’re not ready to minister…we can’t let you. – I venture maybe 1/3 of all people who claim to be called to leadership really are. Some people are strongly anointed for leadership, and some just are not. Some people are on the path to being leaders or public ministers, and some just are not. I think we all need to step back and consider our own purpose to the Body and recognize it may not be to be in control and have power. The person who considers this is our covering. They may be seeing something in us that we don’t see or are unopened to recognize from the Lord. While a person under a covering may see the glory side of ministry, the covering intimately knows the work behind the public side of ministry. They know better whether you are displaying the ability to handle the deep and intense downs and responsibilities of ministry than you are. Just because you aren’t able to do it now doesn’t mean you will never be able to do it, but it does mean that a covering has the responsibility to prohibit you from ministering on account of their accountability before the souls that will hear you and before God….plus, if you step out and do something before you are ready, you can incur consequences you are unable to handle.
You are either in order…or you are not. – Order is kind of like being pregnant: you either are pregnant or you are not pregnant; there is no being “a little pregnant.” Either you are in order or not in order – you can’t be a “little in order.” Coming into God’s order is a process, and I recognize it doesn’t happen all at once. Order is also a condition of the heart. A good leader can tell when you are working toward order, and when you are just being mouthy, rude, or insubordinate. If you are out of order and we call you on it, you’re out of order. We raise the issue out of concern for whatever is to come or where such disorder will take you. FYI: how you treat your covering, how you speak to your covering, and the attitude you have toward your covering are clear displays of your level of order.
We don’t have time to call you every day. – My dear friend in ministry who I mentioned earlier has also noted a major shift in covering over the years. In days gone by, a covering paid for everything in someone’s ministry; now those who are under a covering dump all over that covering. Both extremes are incorrect, but display the intense expectations those who are covered by someone have of their covering. I’ve gotten everything, from texts at 2 AM from people expecting me to get up and talk to them, to people who expect me to pay for everything they need AND be their garbage cans, to those who think covering means I use them in all my events without question or investigation. Most often I find people want me to meet their emotional needs, listen to their problems and talk them through it all…day after day after day. I don’t have time to call every day and hear about the same issues you didn’t resolve from yesterday. Coverings are in ministry; they have multiple administrations, lives, and issues to deal with. While we intend to be there for you as best we can, we can’t be there to hold your hand through every little problem and trial you encounter. Never forget that you are supposed to be growing in God, and that means you don’t need so much hand-holding all the time.
You are not the only person we cover. – Most people who cover someone also cover several other people at one time. I question a leader with thousands of “spiritual children,” but most coverings work hard to maintain the balance between a reasonable number of people under their covering and other ministry duties. While your problems, issues, thoughts, feelings, challenges, difficulties, etc. are the most relevant things in your life, they are probably issues that your covering has seen before not once or twice, but over and over again. Your covering has the foresight to recognize you will either get over your issues or you won’t, and that these things you think are really relevant…in actuality…are not that relevant. We are not here to be all about you and your issues; we are here to develop your ministry and help you grow to be all God has appointed for you to be. You are a part of the ministry we have, but you are not all of it.
We don’t need to hear all the details of your private life. – There are some things I just don’t wonder about people. I do not picture people having sex, I don’t need to know about whose bedroom you sleep in, and I don’t want to know about all your familial struggles. I am here to help you grow, so if talking about something will help that process, great; but I don’t need to know all the gory details. Telling a covering too much crosses a line and makes it hard for that covering to make proper leadership decisions as pertain to you and your walk. Sometimes we know you just need to talk; sometimes you want to talk too much. If a covering cuts you off, don’t think it’s because they don’t care about what you have to say; they are just trying to maintain a certain objectivity in their walk with you.
Speak to us and about us with some respect. – I believe a good covering becomes a friend to those they cover, with certain limitations. A covering can be a friend in that they are someone you can talk to, someone who wants to help you develop your work, someone you can trust in your life to be for your good. Some people spend a lot of time with their coverings; others do not. There are limits to that friendship, however. Your covering is still an authority in your life, and is called to discipline and correct. There are certain ways in which a covering should never be spoken to. A covering’s work, accomplishments, and achievements should be respected, not scoffed at. A covering should never be talked about behind their back. Just because you don’t get your way about something doesn’t mean you have the right to speak to a covering however you please. This confirms the covering is correct in whatever they said and you are an immature baby. If you want to be elevated, treat your leader with respect. Personally I elevate nobody who acts like a big baby. I don’t have time for people who tell me how gifted they are for leadership, but act like spoiled children.
You take a lot of my time, whether you think so or not – and you don’t give me back much for it. – Most of the people I know in ministry have a hard time wrangling tithes and offerings out of the people they cover. Considering the fact that coverings often extend extensive help to those they cover in conversation, counseling, consultation, intervention, teaching, study, private assistance, and help their coverings develop in other areas of their lives, including business or writing, the amount of money someone gives to their covering is meager and insulting when measured with what they receive. Even though you may not think you take up that much of your covering’s time, you probably take up more than you consider – especially if you count the time they spend working on teaching, preaching, and lessons as part of teaching you receive. The offering you send every now and then when you’ve committed to help your leader every week is not very much at all, in this light. Considering this, a THANK YOU, a note or gesture of appreciation, and an apology when you’ve behaved badly instead of mouthy disrespect all go a very long way in the eyes and relationship one has with their leader.
Please…don’t tell me what you think about “ministry leaders.” – Most of us who have been in ministry more than a few years – let’s say ten years or more – have seen more leaders come and go than we have seen come and stay. It is our sincere prayer that, if you are called to leadership, you won’t become one of these fly-by-night leaders. Yes, we all know there are bad leaders out there, but calling you on something you are doing wrong doesn’t make us one of them. I am sure you have lots of opinions about leadership, what everyone is doing wrong, and how you can make it all better because you are the only one who has it right…but to be honest, your covering really doesn’t want to hear it. I had plenty of opinions about what everyone did wrong in days gone by and now in many circumstances, I find myself understanding their positions. It’s not easy to be a leader, and until you have been one as long as your leader…keep your opinions to yourself.
We are of far more benefit to you than you are to us. – Don’t go thinking about all you do for your leader when you aren’t even doing anything for them. Money is great, but it only goes so far, and it’s often considered to be an unspoken string. Just because you send your leader money doesn’t mean they owe you. You are giving to God through that ministry so you’re just doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Nobody owes you a thing. You take time, energy, teaching, training, and a whole lot of patience out of your leader. Stop thinking you own them because you sent them an offering at some point in time. Believe me, the way ministry is today and with the expense of things, your offering was gone to cover something to help continue the work of God a long time ago.
Don’t compare us to your former covering. – One of the biggest misconceptions in today’s church is that all covering is alike. Apostolic covering is different than pastoral covering because it has a different purpose. The way I cover as an apostle is markedly different from the way someone who is a pastor will cover someone. Why is this? As an apostle, I am working with future or current leaders rather than new believers or people who do not have a call to church leadership. The people I cover have different needs than a new Christian or a person not called to ministry leadership. Don’t tell me how you wish I would do this or that like someone else. You’re not under them now, which means you don’t need what they had in your life anymore. If this is where God has called you to be, suck it up and accept the new level of accountability, discipline, and responsibility so you can move up higher in Him!
Your covering is not your enemy. If something is really and genuinely wrong, it’s time to move on; but your covering is not in the wrong because they don’t entertain you when you’re not in the right!
(c) 2011 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.