It’s been awhile since I have specifically addressed the issue of covering in a blog. The reason for this is simple: my best-selling book to date, “Ministry School Boot Camp: Training For Helps Ministries, Appointments, And Beyond” (Righteous Pen Publications, 2013) and my newest release, “Awakening Christian Ministry: The Call To Serve Others As We Serve Jesus Christ” (Righteous Pen Publications, 2014) both cover the subject of covering extensively. I highly recommend both books for those who are interested in learning about covering – what a covering does, how one interacts with a covering, and the relationship between the two (they are available on Amazon and through Barnes and Noble) – and those who are interested in helping those they train understand these issues, as well. So, I will admit, when it came to the topic, I thought I’d said enough on it specifically. I last blogged on the issue over a year ago, and wasn’t planning on blogging on it again. Then it came to light that the issue of leaders and their people, especially in the context of an apostle with those they cover, is an understanding that continues to evolve. It has only been a relatively short period of time since we began acknowledging the need for apostles in our modern times, and that means what it means to be a covering who specifically leads other leaders is an idea that we need to get right. Some recent discussions made me realize some new ways that we haven’t got it right yet, and thus, the need to discuss them.
1) Everyone is not going to like you all the time – In an earlier note, I addressed the issue that coverings don’t always like the people they cover. It doesn’t mean they don’t love these people, but it does mean that sometimes we will cover people who screw up, make mistakes, fail as ministers, or generally do things they are not supposed to do. It’s also possible that general personalities will clash. God has all sorts of reasons for assigning us to different people, and we need to realize that just as sometimes we don’t like the people we cover, the people we cover don’t always like us. Nobody likes discipline, nobody likes feeling like they have disappointed someone important in life, and still sometimes they just won’t always like all the decisions we make or our different aspects of our personalities. It’s important to remain strong, and rather than feel offended or hurt, to realize that if God has truly assigned someone to our care, issues of dislike will work themselves out.
2) Don’t air out all your internal ministry business – In years gone by, we used to have “in-house meetings” in our local congregations (or sometimes associations) to discuss matters that were going on in the church. It was clarified that the issues discussed in these meetings were not to be discussed outside of that meeting again, and they were under no circumstances to be discussed with people who were not members of that congregation or association. The same applied on a regular basis with leadership meetings or in-organization discussions among prelates, board members, or people in authority within the group. Enter social media, and it seems impossible for people to keep anything a secret. Things that used to be in-house issues are now aired out by offended leaders on Facebook, sometimes calling out names, posting private information, and violating an organization’s sanctity. Leaders…I do not agree that people have the right to air out all your business because they get themselves out of joint over something. I agree that sometimes the issues people get annoyed about are unjustified, and the way that they behave is often inappropriate…but the solution isn’t to behave inappropriately in return. As leaders, we need to learn to stand upon confidence in our decisions rather than running to Facebook and relying on strangers online to validate the stands that we make. Just because someone clicks “like” on a status doesn’t mean they are thinking God knows what about what you are posting and doesn’t mean that they really support the things you are saying. Beyond this, some things just don’t belong online. I know there’s a push to be “transparent” today, but I think there’s a difference between being transparent (open and honest as a person) and having what we used to call “diarrhea of the mouth” online. If you are having a problem with someone, you need to go address that person, talk to your own covering, talk to a trusted friend – not slugging people left and right from online statuses or angry tweets.
3) Don’t “micro-manage” your people – The role of a covering is to lead, protect, guide, and instruct. It is not to take over everyone’s ministries and lives and treat them as if they are children. No matter what level of study, ministry development, or instruction someone is on, the ministry they have and the ministry vision they have for the future should be respected and honored. Rather than behave as if they are all “beneath” you, it’s better to remember they are here from God and are God’s people first – and their visions need support, not dictation.
4) Keep confidences; be trustworthy – The worst thing a covering can do is break the confidences of their people. If someone comes and speaks to you about a private matter, you are bound by the stipulations of ordination and ministerial licensing to keep that matter confidential. Breaking that confidence is akin to ministry career suicide, and teaches your people – all your people – that you are not trustworthy with the important things.
5) No training = no ordination – In my over seventeen years of ministry, I’ve had more people come to me wanting to be the exception to ordination training than I can count. Many people come wanting papers and nothing else for a variety of reasons: they feel they have experience, they don’t do well with book learning, they think it’s all unnecessary. These people are very disappointed when they are told training is the rule, and there are no exceptions to this rule. Every good leader should have a set program for ministry training prior to any form of ordination, instructing in matters pertaining to the office, general ministry protocol and guidelines, and some Biblical study and Christian history. It does not have to be as formal as the seminary training I provide for the people under this ministry, but every leader needs to have something to provide to those who desire to receive formal ordination and licensing. If you, as a leader, are unable to provide this to your people, you should work in cooperation with a ministry that can train these people for you prior to an issuing of papers or ceremony.
6) Don’t take papers for no reason – In seventeen years, I have done more ordinations than I care to remember. Among those ordinations, I have pulled papers a total of three times. All three times, the individuals in question not only disgraced their offices, they sought to destroy other people’s lives with vindictive behavior, gossip, or slander. These are the only instances I have ever done such, because pulling papers is not something that should be done lightly. I do not believe that pulling papers removed the gifts on the lives of these individuals; quite to the contrary, I believe that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. Pulling papers was an issue of order; the individuals in question knew better than to behave as they did, they had been trained better by myself; and if they were going to act that way, they were not going to do so with my authorization on their ordination papers. If they wanted papers, they would have to find them from someone else who was willing to authorize their behavior. As leaders, we need to be very careful before authorizing papers. We need to see it as a long-term commitment, something that should have the ability to last an individual for many years in their ministerial work. While there are some circumstances that authorize a revocation of papers, these instances are rare and do not include a person leaves the ministry (if done in decency and order) or someone just starts moving in a different direction (given the direction is not Satanism or some other obvious rebellion). Taking papers to be mean or vindictive shows control, not order.
7) Pray for your people – We know those we cover are supposed to pray for their leader, but as their covering, you should be praying for them, too! Never underestimate the power of prayer. As a covering, you most likely know many of the most intimate issues, details, and challenges those you cover are facing. Never forget to pray for your people, because prayer is a powerful form of love.
8) Be there – Leaders are infamous “doers,” and we often feel like we don’t do enough because we may not always be able to be somewhere in person, provide finances or other resources, or do the things we might like to do to help out. Just as prayer is important, never underestimate the power of being there for the people you cover. It does a lot to be there via phone, Skype, go out for coffee, meet for an appointment, and just listen.
9) Treat the leaders you cover as their own organization (because they are your ministry if you are an apostle), with their own events – We’ve merged the idea of apostles and pastors, thus merging congregations and leaders together, often treating them as one entity. If you are covering leaders, you need to treat the leaders you are covering differently from non-leaders in a congregation. They have separate needs, separate issues, and yes, separate callings. Leaders should be trained for their offices or appointments, encouraged to work in the ministries God has for them, and should have the opportunity for leadership retreats or convocations. Never treat leaders or leaders-in-training as if they are just another member of a church congregation.
(c) 2014 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.