Not long ago it became official. After eight years at Alban, I am accepting a call to a new ministry. I will soon leave my work as Alban’s Director of Research and become a regional staff person for the Unitarian Universalists (Congregational Services Director for the Central Midwest District). The warm support from both my present and future colleagues has been amazing. I have gotten a huge amount of great advice. I have made a list. Now the list had grown so long that there is far too much for me to use all by myself! So, I share the list with thanks to all my colleagues, present and future. One wonderful thing about the advice is that much of it applies to those called to ministries in congregations as much as it does to those called to service in the regional body of a denomination.

Advice from Colleagues

Loren Mead, Alban President Emeritus: You will make more of a difference by how you enter this job than by anything else you do in the position.

Susan Beaumont, Alban Senior Consultant: At the beginning, spend a lot of time “on the balcony.” A key challenge is being able to see the whole system. In a congregation where the key people meet face-to-face regularly, it is easier to see the whole system, and you may not need to be so intentional about working to get it in view. Here you do. I know an American Baptist district minister who visited every congregation in the first six months. I don’t know how he did it but he did-and after that he was able to do his work with an understanding of the whole that was exceptional.

Ed White, Alban Consultant: I have a lot of suggestions about what to read. Read Gil Rendle’s “Finding the Path in the Wilderness: Middle Judicatory Case Studies and Learnings.” And read both Leadership on the Line and Leadership without Easy Answers by Ronald Heifitz. Beyond this, find someone in your denomination who does this middle judicatory work really well. Spend a week just following this person around. Then go to your area and spend the first two months driving to see people. Make the rounds.

Richard Bass, Alban Director of Publishing: Of course, buy Alban books! But seriously, beware your wish to please people. This admirable wish betrays many who do this work. Serve mission.

Jim Wind, Alban President: Define the role. When we create a circumstance where middle judicatory people can really speak freely, what they want to do is explore the fundamental lack of clarity that they experience in their roles.

Susan Nienaber, Alban Senior Consultant: Be clear about your role, especially in conflict. People in these roles end up spending a lot of their time dealing with conflict—ineffectively—because they are not clear about their roles. Avoid being triangulated.

Larry Peers, Alban Consultant: Very different types of people thrive in different ways in these roles. Don’t think there is one model of success. Invent your own.

Bob Leventhal, Alban Senior Consultant: These systems as a whole tend to be very bureaucratic, in the Jewish world as much as the Christian. It can be, however, a less bounded position compared to that of a pulpit rabbi. It can offer someone a place to do something creative.

Gil Rendle, Alban Senior Consultant: It will feel to you that the question is how can we do everything? This is not correct. The key question you need to ask is what should we do?

Alice Mann, Alban Senior Consultant: I have lots of advice but if I were forced to give just one word it would be “readiness.” This may sound simple but it is very hard and very important: put your energy where there is readiness and don’t put it where there is not readiness.

Speed Leas, Retired Alban Consultant: Heaven help you! Give good attention to life outside of your work. You are entering an occupation where few of the factors determining your success will be in your control. It is therefore inherently frustrating. You need to arrange your life so that you can prosper in such an environment.

Roy Oswald, Retired Alban Consultant: Make sure you start another garden when you move. Blessings.

And now for my own advice to myself and to anyone beginning any new ministry. Find colleagues who will give you advice you can trust. Find colleagues who will give you advice even when you don’t want to hear it.

For permission to reproduce go to our permissions form.


Related Articles

Twelve Characteristics for Effective 21st-Century Ministry

Designing Staff Positions 

Featured Resources

AL307_SMThe Spirit-Led Leader: Nie Leadership Practices and Soul Principles by Timothy C. Geoffrion

Designed for pastors, executives, administrators, managers, coordinators, and all who see themselves as leaders and who want to fulfill their God-given purpose, The Spirit-Led Leader addresses the critical fusion of spiritual life and leadership for those who not only want to see results, but who also desire to care just as deeply about who they are and how they lead as they do about what they produce and accomplish. Timothy Geoffrion creates a new vision for spiritual leadership as partly an art, partly a result of careful planning, and always a working of the grace of God.

AL283_SM Becoming Barnabas: The Ministry of Encouragement by Paul Moots

Western culture has made a cult of success, and the church has accepted the larger culture’s definition, focusing on success as growth in membership and budget, rather growth in faithfulness as disciples of Jesus. When we do not measure up, we become discouraged, disillusioned, and perhaps even envious. Paul Moots offers a welcome antidote: a vision for the ministry of encouragement. He examines five components of this ministry: partnership, hospitality, courage, reconciliation, and authenticity.