Psst….you…hey, yeah you…you over there who wants to be ordained or elevated in your position in the church…I got a message for you! There are many times when we think we are ready to do something or to step out into something and we have a leader who, for some reason, just doesn’t seem to budge or agree with us that we should receive a higher or elevated position in the ministry. Why? Sometimes leaders reference specific things, but a lot of times, leaders don’t explain a lot of why they aren’t promoting someone except to say that it isn’t the right time. This might seem like an unfair reply, especially if you feel that you are very gifted and anointed and that your abilities could be better used with a promotional elevation.
When a leader says that it doesn’t seem like the right time, the truth is that it’s probably not just one thing they are seeing within you that’s not right; it’s probably several little things that make up the work and purpose of ministry that they are hoping to see or are not seeing within you at any given time. Successful ministry work is many things coming together at once and if a leader isn’t seeing a good number of these things at work within you, odds are good they are properly assessing you aren’t ready for what’s next. While there is no question that different ministries have different requirements, there are certain spiritual and personal qualities a leader needs to see in you make and effort in doing in order to elevate you to the next level of ministry.
So consider this a bit of a “cheat sheet,” the Cliff Notes version of things a leader is looking for when it comes to promotion. Go over them and esteem yourself honestly before inquiring deeper into promotion from your leader, and if you are honestly not seeing development in some of these areas…work on them without accusing your leader of being unfair or partial.
1. An ability to handle correction. – One of the hardest things about ministry is the way that ministers are universally scrutinized. Ministers are judged by the people under their ministries, they are judged by society and the media for being too Christian or not Christian enough, they are judged by their critics, and they are most certainly judged by their enemies. If you aren’t doing things properly in your life and those improprieties are obvious – personal attire, nasty attitude, personal behaviors, inability to handle personal or familial issues, easily offended, defensive, petty, vindictive, chronically angry, rude, unseemly, or improper attitude toward authority – those issues are going to rate judgment and are therefore going to bring a bad name to the ministry. Handling correction properly means that you are mature enough to recognize that those you have chosen to have rule over you are there to see things within you that need correcting and that you handle those issues through prayer and self-discipline rather than turning on your leadership.
2. Attendance and participation at ministry functions. – If you want to be ordained or promoted, especially within the context of handling things within a church or ministry structure, your leadership needs to know they can trust you will be present at things in their absence. If you are out of church more than you are in church, have an endless parade of reasons why you are not at church services, Bible studies, classes, or meetings, or are sporadic in your attendance, don’t expect to get promoted.
3. Bringing visitors/guests to the church. – Being promoted means taking a bigger part in the ministry where you are, and that means you need to consider the ministry you are a part of as more than just your leader’s vision. You need to prove that you are a part of that vision, on board with it, excited about it, and willing to share it. If you have been in the church for ages and you never bring a visitor, recommend a guest, or are a part of getting new members, then you aren’t on board enough with the vision to take on more of it.
4. Taking initiative when it comes to assignments and projects. – One of the biggest things I look at when someone is sniffing around me for a promotion is their level of initiative when it comes to an assignment or a project. If I assign someone a project or they come and tell me they want to take one on but they never complete it or leave it half-finished to do something else, that’s how they are going to approach other ministry responsibilities, as well. I don’t know why we think we’ll be different when we get what we think we want. If you can’t step up and do what needs doing now, you will just fail to do what needs doing with different things later.
5. Personal giving, including tithes and offerings. – I have long taught that if the Bible teaches us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be, also, that is telling us clearly that where we spend or give our money shows what’s really important to us in our lives. To clarify: if you have money to go on vacation, or get your hair done and nails done, or to throw a big party, or to have a big holiday celebration, but you skimp on your personal giving to the church or skip tithes because you want to do something else, that tells your leaders that your heart is simply not with the ministry.
6. An ability to finish the things you start. – Some people chronically start things but don’t finish them. This is a serious problem in the church and a serious problem in ministries where people have been promoted before they can prove they will follow through and see projects through from beginning to end. If you are taking on a project, a work, an idea, or something of that magnitude, seeing it through from start to finish shows an ability to plan, think things through, problem solve, and commit to something thoroughly.
7. Having a proper attitude. – The proper attitude relates largely to a big word that we often use in church, and that word is accountability. Rather than blaming everyone else for where you are or are not, you need to be willing to be honest and say that you know who you are, what you’ve done or are doing, and step up with maturity to do what is right. Thus: If you throw temper tantrums when other people get something you think you deserve…if you get nasty and petty when it’s time for correction and self-examination…if you can never apologize…if you always have to be right…if you are constantly trying to usurp authority…If you are critical of the way your leader runs their ministry…If you are nasty when you get caught doing wrong…If you are just waiting for an opportunity to get out…If you feel you are “owed” a promotion for sticking around…If you think you are more qualified than your leader…then you need to sit yourself down somewhere for a good, long time. You can be as gifted as you want but that nasty attitude of yours is going to hold you back because your leader is under no obligation to do anything for you while you are like this.
8. Seeing through right vision. – The church abounds with people who feel they have had dreams, visions, and words from God that are, in fact, not from God. Some of them are from counterfeit spirits, some are opinions, some are thoughts from observations, and some are nothing at all but a royal mess. If you want to be promoted, you need to prove to your leader that you have enough of right vision to make proper decisions and direction not just from leadership, but from God Himself, as well.
9. The manifestation of fruit of the gifts. – As a person, you are, most likely, very enamored with whatever it is that you feel God wants to do in your life and with the gifts that God has given you. This is a part of spiritual process, because it’s all new and different, and God has most likely shown you where you will be one day if you stick to the right principles and learn obedience and honor along with development of your spiritual gifts. Your leader, however, isn’t real interested in the things that you feel are going to come “one day” from being in ministry. You aren’t the first person to come to us thinking they are a great and gifted preacher, a future best-selling author, called to the nations, or “anointed” for great things. Believe it or not, we hear it all the time. The reality of how many people we really see reach this place in their lives is very minimal because too many people do not discipline themselves to the point where their gifts bear very much fruit. If you claim to have gifts, your leader wants to see those develop fruit, not personal boasts.
10. Action and an ability to be a self-starter. – I personally hate it when people talk too much, and I experience it all the time. I find people who talk incessantly and don’t listen to be people who try to dominate the conversation, thus exerting a spirit of control. I am much more interested in seeing the great things God is doing through and by you rather than hearing all about what you think He wants to do later on or will one day do. I speak for all leaders in saying that we do like people who self-start, and you never need to ask for permission to do something good for someone else: give a ride to church, volunteer at something in the community, volunteer to do something in the church, etc.
11. Loyalty to the ministry, especially the leadership. – If you are saying one thing to your leader’s face and another behind their back, never assume that you know better than they do and that you are hiding something from them. Every single time I covered someone who was speaking badly about me behind my back, God always let me know. I might not have said anything about it to that person without proper evidence, but I knew their wagging tongues were busy when I wasn’t in the room. These are also the people who always start off really gung ho and interested in things but then wane interest over time because they don’t get their way or can’t have all the control. You cannot expect a leader to give you papers or a promotion because you think you are gifted when you show a complete and total disloyalty to all things related to the ministry. If you really think so little of your leader, why do you want them to ordain or promote you in the first place?
12. Reasonable and sensible in one’s sense of order. – Let’s get something straight right now: an awful lot of the time, ministers are not being controlling with their people; they just don’t like that they aren’t getting away with the things they want to get away with, so they yell control. There are incidents where ministers do control their people, but it is not control to expect that people who desire promotion display proper order in their lives or to expect that those who want promotion participate in the ministry. You have chosen to submit yourself to the leadership present in a ministry. Let me state again: that is a CHOICE you make. That means if you believe you are supposed to be there by God’s purposes that you follow the rules as are outlined for that work and you stop trying to conform them to your own vision. If you are unhappy with a vision or don’t feel in alignment with it, then you make the choice to go to a ministry that fits better with where you are at in your life and belief system. If you are so out of line with the leadership where you are, then again I reiterate, as I did with the last point – why do you want promotion from them to begin with?
13. Being self-disciplined. – Self-discipline comes from self-examination, and self-examination comes from self-awareness. It is also probably one of the most important aspects of being in ministry. We should reach a point in time where our leaders don’t have to explain everything to us and that we should be able to recognize things within ourselves that need change or improvement without other people always having to tell us about them. It also means we should have the ability to make changes within ourselves without constant praise and hand-holding from our leaders.
14. A respectful attitude. – Respect is something that extends to more areas than I have space to list, but let’s say that a truly respectful attitude displays in every area of our lives and conduct. Someone who is disrespectful will be careless with their speech, fleshly and emotional, undisciplined, and immature. I recognize we all have our bad moments (leaders included) and that some people bring out sides of us that we otherwise would not expose; I am not talking about such situations. A general attitude of disrespect, however, on a regular basis, is most definitely a problem that will block promotion.
15. Being a good steward. – We often talk about stewardship in terms of money, but stewardship is far more than just about money or finances. Stewardship is the ability to wisely use resources and to use them to the best of one’s ability. An unfortunate reality of ministry is that money and resources alike often have to stretch over a far distance, and the ability to use resources in a creative manner goes a long way in proving one is ready to advance in ministry work.
16. The ability to apply learning. – I think we have given the false impression that ministry is all about gifts and anointing, and that God will fix us wherever we lack. Ministry does require anointing and gifts and abilities, but it is also about learning methods, tips, and purposes to execute the anointing, gifts, and abilities that God has given to us. This requires training and a willingness to learn from those God has appointed to teach us in this life. If you aren’t applying what you have learned, then you need to learn it again.
17. Humility. – Pride goes before a fall, even among ministers. If you esteem yourself more highly than you ought, you can stay where you are.
18. Patience. – Sometimes leaders see things within the people they cover but they realize that the time for promotion is simply not right. Every time it was time to promote or ordain someone, God came and gave witness to me about it. If you are having to promote the idea of your promotion, odds are good that the timing is off and it is better to be patient and wait than make it so that your leader feels you will NEVER be ready to elevate.
19. A sense of honor. – The word “honor” has multiple meanings, including a high sense of respect, esteem, privilege, or to fulfill an agreement. All of these definitions are in play when it comes to ministry promotion. Potential elevation needs to bring with it respect for one’s self, the ministry work, leadership, the church, the people one will minister to, accountability, other leaders, recognizing the work of ministry to be a privilege, recognizing the allowance of promotion to be a privilege, and the willingness to fulfill one’s duties through to the end. If you aren’t here yet, you aren’t ready for promotion.
20. Ability to do the work of the ministry. – Different people are called to do different things for the Kingdom. We are not all called to be in ministry. We are not all called to the same offices, appointments, or purposes in the ministry. This means that not everyone in the church or ministry is the right fit for every available position or promotion that comes up in a given church setting. It is very possible that the abilities and gifts you have are better suited for something other than what is available or purposed at that given point in time, and that the leadership you have recognizes who you are and the abilities you have and is, for that reason, not putting you into a position that is not right for you to handle.
(c) 2016 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.