It’s been said that it’s lonely at the top. I can vouch to this myself. I have been in leadership for many, many years (more than I care to remember) and I can honestly say that as ministry has changed, as I have receive more authority and responsibility as pertains to ministry, and as I have changed as a person and a minister, the more exclusive the circle around you becomes. This isn’t because ministry is some sort of luxury yacht. It is simply because the more we do, the fewer people are who are qualified to give advice or assistance where they are. There is nothing wrong with where anyone is (unless they are there out of disobedience), but we need to stop acting like everyone and everything in the Kingdom is exactly the same and functioning on the same level. Nobody is better than anyone else, nobody is “God’s favorite,” but we are not all appointed to have the same function as everyone else. Some people are called to be leaders, and their job in the Kingdom is different than those who are not called to be leaders, and that’s it. Even among leaders we find different callings and purposes, and that means not all leaders are the same, either. In keeping with our spiritual call to maturity, we need to recognize that being a leader is an extraordinarily difficult task in our church today. People are frustrating, problems are rampant, and it often feels like you are drowning in a sea of crazy people. Even the leader with the best people in the world (which I do have!!!) has someone who rebels, disobeys, or causes them constant headaches. In a church where you barely make ends meet and have a hard time preparing or planning for life – let alone events or the ministry’s future – we all need to know that people are there for us.
Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes the support of many people to encourage a good leader. Good leaders might be born with the gifts to lead, but their ministry abilities are developed within them as they have the right people to educate and encourage them in their work. Here we are going to look at people every leader needs in their life – and why these people are so important.
1. A Qualified Leader/Covering
“If you desire wisdom with all your heart, you will know what good leadership is.” – Wisdom of Solomon 6:20 (CEB)
One of my biggest mistakes as a minister earlier on in my walk was assuming that having a leader who barely handled her ministry well and was not pursuing it properly was a suitable covering for me because she offered to do it. At the time, she was someone who handed me papers and let me go on my merry way. I was more established than she was in ministry (I had almost eleven years to her four) and had a much larger scope in what I was doing than she did. Was I qualified to have the paperwork she issued – yes, I was. But that didn’t change the fact that I was more qualified to be her leader than she was to be mine. This became more and more relevant as time went on and she failed to conduct herself as she should, both as a minister and as my covering.
On the few occasions I needed her to be there for me, she was never able to do so. There was always a reason, a situation, a problem or just a general attitude of not caring for what I was going through. She was not able to advise me properly and, on more than one occasion, she attacked me and my integrity wrongly in defense of her own inadequacies instead of rising up and seeing what was going on. What was going on was she was not able to understand what I was going through because she herself was not called to nor operating in ministry on the same level.
What I did not realize at the time was that when I needed her to be there for me, she was not able to do so because she didn’t have the competency for it. She might have been a great leader for someone else who was not as experienced nor operating at the level of ministry I was, but she was not adequate for me.
We need to, first of all, address the fact that leaders need other leaders. We need someone in our lives and involved in our ministries that is objective and who is there to help us in our ministry process. It does not mean they need to be perfect, that they need to have our same level of education or our same exact ministry experiences, that their ministries need to be exactly like ours, or that we need to hold them to impossible standards by which to live. I do not subscribe to the belief that it is acceptable for leaders to operate ministry without being accountable themselves to another leader or organization. We learn how to be accountable as leaders first to our own leaders. I do believe every leader’s needs are different, and that a good, qualified leader recognizes and ascribes to meet the unique needs that we have in ministry. We also need a leader who can help to guide us as we do what we are called to do in ministry. It’s great to have friends, but a leader’s purpose is to be more than just our friend or more than just somebody who backs us up because they like us as a person. A leader’s job is to help discern things spiritually and provide the guidance and direction needed as we walk into all God has for us to become.
When we talk about a “qualified leader,” we are talking about someone who is both legally licensed and ordained to practice ministry and has enough ministry experience and their ministry reflects the claims they make about ministry and that they are not afraid to implement the necessary structure and discipline to make ministry work. Yes, we are all figuring things out and trying to see what works best for us at times, but a qualified minister knows that balance between purpose and has the ability and fruit to exemplify the office to which they claim to be called.
We also need to recognize that one of the most important things you can do for your covering is, as Apostle Yolanda Davis puts it – “cover” your leader. Leaders are human beings who are subject to people’s judgments, attacks, and attitudes, and leaders should be covered by your prayers, your integrity when someone tries to attack them, and the defense of their right to a personal life and privacy, without the scrutiny of others.
2. People You Cover
Follow my example, just like I follow Christ’s. – 1 Corinthians 11:1 (CEB)
If you are an apostle or pastor, the people you cover should take the form of five-fold ministry leaders (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher) and appointments (bishops, elders, and deacons) for apostles and laity (non-ordained members) and appointments (elders and deacons) for pastors. Prophets should be covering other prophets and training them in the work of the prophetic. Evangelists are not a covering office, as neither are teachers. If you are in the office of apostle, pastor, or prophet, you should be covering people. If your ministry is new or restructuring and you are just starting out or reorganizing, then you should be working with your covering to get the necessary structure, education, and design in place to provide for those you will cover. I do feel, however, that it needs to be said – if you have no people – and you are not starting out or restructuring – you don’t have a ministry.
There are persons for companionship, but then there are friends who are more loyal than family. – Proverbs 18:24 (CEB)
I am the first one who can say that I have covered friends in my life and even do right now and we have an awesome time, without conflict or issue. Even if you are covering people who are your friends, you still need people who you don’t cover – who are not in any way under or a part of your ministry – to be your friends. The reason for this is simple: sometimes we just need people we can be ourselves with, to encourage and be encouraged by, and to share with.
Leaders have the notorious role of “being there” for everyone they cover. They fill many roles in people’s lives: the spiritual director, the mentor, the confidant, the counselor, the teacher, the disciplinarian, the comforter, the exhorter, the encourager…and this is often just to start. We are not considering the many roles leaders still play in their private lives, be they husband or wife, daughter or son, relative, or parent, each with their own unique set of responsibilities and demands. Even under the best of circumstances, leaders get tired of filling all these roles without receiving much in return. It’s great to say, “Jesus did it,” but leaders are not Jesus. We are not divine, we are people, and as people, we too need to know that we can trust others and can just have fun at times without having to worry about meeting the needs of many people.
We, as leaders, also tend to see the worst of humanity in our jobs. We not only hear and see the effects of betrayal on others as part of our work, we also experience it ourselves. People get angry, venomous, jealous, and lash out at leaders who did nothing but see to their needs and care for them. It is easy to assume the world is a dark, evil place, and nobody is to be trusted. If we adopt this mentality, ministry quickly becomes a personal and emotional burden. For this reason, we need to have people in our lives who are trustworthy and empowering to help balance out the negatives we often encounter in our ministries.
Friendship is something that takes many forms. Just like there is not just one way to be a leader, there is also not just one way to be someone’s friend. The most important part of this equation is that the relationship is based on trust and is equal in giving (i.e., when you need someone to be there for you, they are there, just as when they need you to be there for them, you are). Friends should be able to share and speak openly without judgment or criticism. Friends should also be available to have fun, a source of encouragement and people who can balance out that need when you just need a break from the rigors of ministry life.
I am not of the belief that every minister has to be married (neither male nor female) or that every minister should pursue such romantic avenues if they do not feel called to do so. I do believe, however, that every minister should have a “personal life” – one that is not all about ministry, all the time – and friends can provide that essential balance, even when one is single. In the balance of being human beings, we still need to enjoy things – go out to dinner every now and then, go shopping, watch a movie, enjoy a good meal at home, go to the movies – or even just hang out and talk with someone or a group that is encouraging and trustworthy.
4. Mentors/Advisory Counsel
How beautiful is wisdom in the aged and thought and counsel in those who are respectable! – Sirach 25:5 (CEB)
The role of the mentor or adviser is different than that of the covering. A mentor or adviser is someone who is of the same profession, calling, or work as you who is older and/or more experienced in the same work you are doing. The basic role of the mentor or adviser is to advise or encourage on specific issues that arise as you work to build up what you are doing based on the experiences of the mentors and advisers, present through their advice.
Mentors and advisers are very useful when it comes to creating corporate boards for ministers (required for every 501(c)(3) organization and every state incorporated body), for creating separate spheres of advice and mentoring from your board (as is the case within my ministry) and are also useful when changes and other issues come up as pertains to the field or aspect of ministry you are specifying within. A mentor or advisory council does not have a disciplinary role within a ministry body (such as a covering does), nor do they have the right to license or ordain behind a covering’s back, or to undermine the work of the covering in your ministry. Mentors and advisers are often not as involved as a covering is with our work, they do provide the important role of encouragement and information on necessary work and subject matter as it comes up.
5. Ministry Elders
The next day Moses sat as a judge for the people, while the people stood around Moses from morning until evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What’s this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people are standing around you from morning until evening?” Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When a conflict arises between them, they come to me and I judge between the two of them. I also teach them God’s regulations and instructions.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing isn’t good. You will end up totally wearing yourself out, both you and these people who are with you. The work is too difficult for you. You can’t do it alone. Now listen to me and let me give you some advice. And may God be with you! Your role should be to represent the people before God. You should bring their disputes before God yourself. Explain the regulations and instructions to them. Let them know the way they are supposed to go and the things they are supposed to do. But you should also look among all the people for capable persons who respect God. They should be trustworthy and not corrupt. Set these persons over the people as officers of groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Let them sit as judges for the people at all times. They should bring every major dispute to you, but they should decide all of the minor cases themselves. This will be much easier for you, and they will share your load. If you do this and God directs you, then you will be able to endure. And all these people will be able to go back to their homes much happier.” Moses listened to his father-in-law’s suggestions and did everything that he had said. Moses chose capable persons from all Israel and set them as leaders over the people, as officers over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They acted as judges for the people at all times. They would refer the hard cases to Moses, but all of the minor cases they decided themselves. Then Moses said good-bye to his father-in-law, and Jethro went back to his own country. (Exodus 18:13-27, CEB)
I am using the term “elders” here to refer to those individuals who have been with your ministry a long time and have proven they are competent and purposed to work alongside you in positions of authority within your ministry. When operating a ministry, especially an apostolic ministry (where the ministers you cover are frequently out of state or otherwise far away), every leader needs people to assist with state, regional, or national work on a regular basis. For example: someone in my ministry who lives in Texas can be in Louisiana a lot faster than I can be in the case of an emergency. If someone comes to the ministry and I am not sure as to whether or not they should join with our organization, it is the elders who are able to come together, pray, and discuss and advise on the matter. When disciplinary matters arise, the elders help stand as witnesses and also assist in disciplinary measures. Whether you call it a prelate system, an elder system, they are your board members, or just have people in your ministry that you trust administrative matters with that you do not give to everyone, your group of ministry elders help in the leadership jurisdiction of your work.
6. Financially Responsible and Reliable Contributors
Feasts are made for laughter, wine cheers the living, and money answers everything. – Ecclesiastes 10:19 (CEB)
We tend to over-spiritualize things in church today because we don’t want to address the fact that people are not only not doing right by the ministers of God, they are downright shameful in their attempts to get out of giving. Being a shepherd in the Old and New Testaments was a job, not a volunteer project. Shepherds didn’t hang out with the sheep because they believed in animal rights; they did it because they were compensated and made a living from it. I don’t know why we expect modern “shepherds” (leaders) to do ministry now as a volunteer project, and then blow off the difficulties of such in the process. It’s simple to say “God will provide,” but if person after person keeps saying that without giving, it’s obvious they do not understand that God provides through their giving. Hearing “God will make it happen” when your light bill needs to get paid, your phone is about to get shut off, you are facing eviction, or you can’t go to the store doesn’t just sound hallow and shallow, it is. It’s very hard being in ministry and trying to do ministry with no money. Ask me how I know. Ask the endless number of other ministries in existence how they know. People today think it’s glamorous to be an apostle, but you know what – it is probably one of the most difficult offices to serve in from a financial perspective. When you exclusively cover other leaders, you face the reality that they too are operating in similar if not the same type of work and are also encountering the financial blows that you are experiencing. Simply put…there is often just not enough money to go around. For this reason, every minister needs to know there are people they can count on financially. Whether it takes the form of business owners or professional people, other ministers or ministries, family members, corporate sponsorship, regular grant organizations, a congregation or group of people who are regularly tithing and offering, or somewhere else, ministers need to know they will be able to cover the financial needs of the ministry, their own lives, and the varied expenses that often come out-of-pocket for ministers in the process of doing ministry work. It’s also important to recognize creative ways to receive giving, if people do not want to just outright send a check: have them take care of your mortgage payment or a bill you have, your car note or various expenses or purchasing needed for the ministry, gift cards for places of your choosing, or other ways that people can see to it to tend to ministry needs beyond the typical concept of “offering.”
(c) 2014 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.