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When Patti and I got married I had no idea a couple could “do” Christmas differently. That possibility never crossed my mind. I grew up in a home with a German tradition that celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. We opened all our presents except one, the “big” one that Santa brought on Christmas morning. Patti grew up in a family where ALL of Christmas was celebrated on Christmas morning.    

(Really!) It took us a little while to adjust and learn to do Christmas in a new way. Patti’s way! Hey, I wasn’t a brilliant husband, but I knew the right thing to do in this case!

In the same way that families can do Christmas differently, churches can do ministry differently. In some cases very differently.

In order to become as effective as possible, it’s a good idea to think through how your church, with its culture, philosophy, personality and theology actually practice ministry. Then write those practices down and continually talk about them with your staff. (This is primarily a staff document. Your staff may be paid, volunteer or both.)

Here are the 7 ministry practices we wrote a little over ten years ago now. It’s a sort of code for how we do ministry together that fits our culture and increases our ministry effectiveness. You can use them as a starting point for your church.

1. Strive for disciplined diligence.
This first practice landed for us on a staff retreat in 2002 while studying Good to Great, by Jim Collins. “Disciplined Diligence” doesn’t sound very spiritual, but it truly was a God moment for us all. God’s work is worth 100% of our effort. It’s a temptation for church leaders to do what they like to do and want to do, not always what needs to be done!

Let’s be blunt. There can be a great deal of freedom in the local church and not always equal amounts of accountability. Your church will drift in mission and in effectiveness without both these qualities.

Discipline deals with your inner character. Do you have the right stuff?

Diligence deals with your outward focus. Are you doing the right things?

Both involve a choice, a decision, not a talent. Available to everyone – next to the Holy Spirit, it’s what makes ordinary people extraordinary.
  • Stay focused on mission-centered priorities.
  • Plan your work and work your plan.
  • Invest your time well; work smart and hard.
  • Give unrelenting commitment and passionate consistency.
2. Move the ball down the field.
You can’t be around our team long without hearing this phrase! “Move the ball down the field.” We love progress! We don’t need to see things explode with growth, although that’s always great if it happens, but we purpose to keep gaining yardage one yard at a time.

We want to reach people, one at a time. We are fired up about seeing lives change, one at a time. We fight like crazy against the comfort zone, getting stuck, blame, and anything that even smells like an excuse.
  • Know what a win looks like.
  • Champion progress.
  • Don’t make excuses – make things happen.
  • Take risks.
  • Deliver with world-class quality.
3. Keep your ministry relevant.
Current culture is changing fast. And though the message of the gospel never changes, we all have to adapt to remain fresh and relevant to those we seek to serve.

It used to take decades to change a ministry trend in the local church, now it takes only a few years tops. I remember when online church caught traction about 5-7 years ago, now I would venture to say there isn’t one church doing it the same as they were even 3-4 years ago!
  • Talk to God and listen to God.
  • Listen to people who are far from God.
  • Work on your ministry, not just in it.
  • Keep it simple – less is more.
  • Feed the mission, not the machine.
4. Take people on a journey.
Ministry is best designed as a process not an event. Because of the seven day cycle that all churches operate within, it’s easy to “think” in events. But people change and grow in process. Events are hopefully catalytic to the process, but the process always wins.

When you design your ministry, think next steps. Make it clear and easy for the people to know what is next. It’s also important to know what the destination looks like. I’m not suggesting than any of us ever “arrive” but there is a point where spiritual maturity is more obvious and spiritually productive. What does that look like in your church?
  • Think people not programs.
  • Design ministry as a process.
  • Invest in life transformation.
  • Let your life reflect Jesus as you lead.
5. Play team ball.
It’s easy to do your own thing. It’s often faster and less messy, but it’s never more productive in the big picture and over the long haul. The larger your church becomes the more intentional effort is required to work well together. If you are a multi-site ministry this is doubly true. Good teamwork can be painful to achieve. It requires hard work, honesty, endurance, and a ruthless commitment to the mission. But it’s also one of the most rewarding things any of us can experience.
  • Invest in the lives of your teammates.
  • Initiate contribution outside your ministry area.
  • Put cooperation over competition.
  • Honor trust.
  • Speak the truth in love.
6. Work yourself out of a job.
This doesn’t literally mean you no longer have a job. It means you are continually raising people up and giving things away. The starting place is your continued growth as a leader. What are you doing to grow yourself? Then you invest significant intentional effort to develop leaders and empower them to practice ministry with you! What are you doing to grow others?
  • Keep growing.
  • Think apprentice.
  • Develop leaders.
  • Practice empowerment.
7. Make it fun.
Ministry isn’t always easy, but there is no reason it can’t be fun. You will have tough days, and perhaps difficult seasons, but the Holy Spirit makes joy available to all of us. Like where we began this list with Disciplined Diligence, “fun” is also a choice. At 12Stone® we like our office and cubical space to be noisy. Laughter is good and encouraged. Sometimes we can get carried away, but I’ll take that risk any day over an environment that’s more like a library! Ministry happens throughout your church and community, you can choose to make it upbeat and fun! Your volunteers will love their ministry more and so will you!
  • Atmosphere matters.
  • Choose joy even under pressure.
  • Express gratitude and encouragement.
  • Bring laughter and a light heart to the mix.
What is your list? Stay true to your practices!

This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter
The Pastor's Coach available at

Author Biography

Dan Reiland
Web site: 12 Stone Church
Dan Reiland is Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

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