The Four Tenets for Effective Ministry

Every church requires a basic foundation for effective congregational leadership in ministry. At Trinity Baptist Church, the staff abides by four tenets that can apply to almost any church seeking to create an atmosphere for ministerial excellence.

Tenet 1: Professionalism.

Although there is some debate as to whether ministry is a profession, we at Trinity Baptist Church feel that every minister–from the office administrator to the music minister–is to be as professional as possible. This means that every minister has a responsibility to be punctual, well-kept, and thoughtful in all he or she does.

Being professional also applies to boundaries and ethical standards. Boundaries keep ministers from inappropriately relating to the laity or overstepping their authority.

Boundaries also provide opportunities for spiritual and personal growth as a minister schedules his or her time for professional development, recreation, and family time.

Professionalism ultimately establishes a healthy work environment that enriches both the staff and the congregation. When healthy boundaries are established and everyone values healthy lifestyles, the entire church thrives as a whole.

Tenet 2: Confidentiality

One of the primary goals of a minister is to honor the confidentiality that pervades the office of the ministry. Ministers have always functioned in society as Called-Ones in whom others trust. Ministers, therefore, are spiritual stewards and confidants. When ministers break this trust, then the integrity of all of Christ’s Body suffers.

That is why confidentiality is of utmost importance in ministry, and valuing confidentiality is something that honors each person’s pursuit after a holy God. We cannot seek God alone, for we all need encouragement, prayer, and support. If ministers do not value confidentiality, then the road to spiritual maturity can become a lonely one indeed.

Tenet 3: Patience.

We live in a society of urgency and fast service. Our desires and wants must be satisfied right now, this minute. There is no time to waste!

Ministers remind people that God works on a different timeline than do humans. God’s time–holy time–meanders through both the blessings and perils of life, in season and out of season.

Ministers remember that patience is necessary when one’s spiritual growth, healing, grief work, and expectations are at stake.

Patience is also one of the fruits of the Spirit, for “those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Galatians 5:22, 24-25).

Tenet 4: Prayer.

In the letter to the Philippians, Paul encourages his audience to “worry about nothing; instead, pray about everything” (4:6). Ministers must be examples to congregations by seeking God in prayer for all things, be it prayer about life decisions, ministries, or even missions in the church.

I am convinced that God is honored the most in those churches that put prayer ahead of all other endeavors; for without prayer, our programs, and liturgies, and ministries, and relationships ring hollow. Prayer allows that hollow-ness to become hallow-ness, or holy as God is holy.

In all things, Trinity’s staff makes prayer a priority. The staff engages in very few decisions or ministries without first bathing those decisions and ministries in prayer. It is prayer–the act of coming into God’s presence in vulnerable communion–that allows the power of the Spirit to flourish in a church’s midst.

Professionalism, confidentiality, patience, and prayer are four values that allow ministry teams to become all the more effective in their ministries at church. At Trinity Baptist Church, these four foundations are what drive our ministries and establish ethical parameters in our work and worship.

Ministers are professionals that should take ethics seriously

As a minister, I know that gaining a congregation’s trust is one of the single most important tasks in developing a sustainable and healthy ministry.  It usually takes years to gain a church’s trust, and the hard work that it takes often requires experimentation and risk.

When it comes to trust, however, ministers face an uphill battle.  Numerous sexual, financial, and abuse-related scandals have eroded ministerial integrity.  A recent Gallup Poll shows that only half of the American population trusts clergy “high” or “very high.”

That means that one out of every two people in the United States does not trust their local church or minister.  According to pollsters, this is the lowest that clergy have scored over the last thirty years.

My feeling is that this lack of trust is not so much a misunderstanding on the part of the general population as it is a failure among clergy to uphold ministerial ethics.

Sure, pastors are like everyone else and play down their formality in order to connect with congregations, but pastors still stand apart in most communities.  Ministry does require a degree of professional ethics.

Ministerial ethics is founded upon certain bedrock principles.  One of those principles is trustworthiness.   People entrust their pastors to be spiritual caregivers.  Because people grant pastors this kind of power, it behooves pastors to not abuse or manipulate their position of authority.

To avoid abuse, pastors implement another principle of ethics, which is confidentiality.  As the people place greater trust in their pastor, the pastor has a greater responsibility to keep his or her interactions with individuals in the congregation confidential.

Where else is a person going to turn as they struggle with sin, despair, and doubt?   An obvious answer to me is, “pastor;” but if a pastor cannot keep secrets and help individuals work through their issues with God, then trust is imperiled indeed.

Valuing professional ethics also means establishing boundaries.  Ministry is an autonomous profession because most pastors keep their own schedules.  Boundaries impart the self-discipline needed to be punctual, to be intentional about sermon preparation, and to be attentive to pastoral care.

Setting boundaries also safeguards against sexual impropriety.  I once read that as many as 40% of pastors have had a situation in which some sexual indiscretion had occurred, be it related to pornography or inappropriate advances towards another person.

Ministers have a responsibility to care for themselves and their families so as to not burn out in ministry and fall into temptations beyond the point of self-control.   An exhausted minister is a vulnerable minister.

Professionalism is not a one-sided affair; churches also have a responsibility to treat their staff with utmost professionalism.  One way of determining whether your church is professional is by asking questions concerning human resources issues:  Does the church have a written and clear job description for each staff position?  Are there written policies pertaining to things like discipline, compensation, internet usage, and codes of conduct?  Does the church have a system in place to critique and evaluate staff that is free from unrealistic expectations?

When we visit a doctor’s office, we expect our physician to act according to his or her profession because the doctor is trained to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses.  So too with ministers.  Ministers are professionals trained in spiritual stewardship.  They—and the churches for whom they work—should act as such.