It’s part of life. We move on. God calls us into different ministries, to serve different people in different places and to pass our ministry batons well.
When the Lord called me and my husband to the mission field, we both knew we needed to prayerfully and very intentionally prepare someone else to take the lead on the ministries we had been responsible for.
For years, it had been our goal to lead our way out of a job and now the time had come to let someone else fill our shoes. Some were already ready, others were still in the process of learning the ropes and growing in grace.
It’s not always easy to pass your ministry baton, but if you don’t prepare others by leading your way out of a job, then one day, your ministry will fade when you move away or die when you do. Ministries that are personality driven die quickly when the long estblished leader is gone. Ministries that exist to glorify God are normally led by those who aren't concerned about making a name for themselves, they just want to make Jesus known and fulfill His will.
A huge part of doing ministry well is preparing others to take the lead when it's time for you to move on.
We know that Moses had his Joshua. David had his Solomon and Paul had his Timothy. They all passed their ministry batons well.
Here are five ways you can be sure you pass your ministry baton well:
1. Begin when you begin. Once you get a bit settled into a new ministry, it’s important that you get busy raising up someone else with you. Involve others as you look for who would be the best fit for the various responsibilities you have. It’s never too early to start leading yourself out of a job.
2. Involve as many people as you can. There are always a ton of things to do in ministry and you are always surrounded by latent potential and untapped giftedness. The more people you allow to help you with various tasks, the more opportunities they have to discover they were called to more than they are doing now. When you pull as many people as you can into the ministry mix, you give each of them a chance to dabble, develop and decide where they might like to serve most.
3. Pay attention. Notice where people seem to thrive and where they don’t. See potential in others that they may not see in themselves. What specific tasks do you find certain people gravitating to and others running from? Don’t count someone out because they don’t seem to be good at one thing, help them find their sweet spot. Good leaders recognize giftedness and place people where they know they’ll thrive best.
4. Let them fill your shoes. Start with small steps, but give others a chance to develop their skills. If you are a teacher, ask them to teach part of a lesson with you. If you are responsible to organize events, ask them to help you make the phone calls, schedule details, create forms or give them a specific project to complete. Let them fill your shoes to see if they can start taking steps that will help them become the leader you know they can be.
5. Invest in their walk with God. There is no substitute for spiritual maturity. Take time to mentor your protege. Strategically walk with her through the Word. Teach her spiritual disciplines. Remember, you’re looking for spiritual maturity, not perfection, but if you’ve been in the ministry for any length of time, you know there is a lot to deal with. Personality conflicts, criticism, disappointments and deadlines. Being able to deal with those types of things without knocking the wind our of your faith is definitely paramount to being prepared to receive the ministry baton.
It’s not easy when you know it’s time to move on. A plethora of emotions are sure to ensue. But it’s really not your ministry. God has entrusted you with it as a steward and though you've had the privilege of being His ambassador in the role you are in now, when the Lord gives you a new assignment, it’s important that you replace yourself well.
As a leader, constantly ask yourself the following questions:
Stephanie Shott is the author of Understanding What Matters Most (a Bible study on Ecclesiastes) and founder of The M.O.M. Initiative (a missional mentoring ministry dedicated to taking Titus 2 to the streets). She is also a popular, practical and passionate speaker and Bible teacher who travels to share hope for the hurting, peace for the weary and truth for all.