What your Philosophy of Ministry ISN'T
Of all the things you would think Seminary would prepare you for, a Philosophy of Ministry (POM) should be at the top of the list. We know that not all of our candidates have been to seminary, and that's okay! But if you're looking for a church to hire you in vocational ministry, you'll need a POM nonetheless. It's honestly a bit surprising how often I interview candidates unaware or confused by the idea of a POM, much less what their personal POM is. So, I want to equip you, whether you are looking for a job or not, to spend some time creating a POM that is unique to you, faithful to Scripture, and actionable in ministry. This will not only make you more hirable, it will make you more effective and will bring greater clarity to your calling.
Before we get started, this first installment will mostly talk about what a POM isn't. For more clarity on what a POM is and some helpful exercises to create your own, check out the next installment titled "Turning Your Ministry Passion Into an Actionable Plan." Okay, let's get started.
There are three components of a well-rounded and actionable ministry:
- Theology (Core Beliefs)
- Philosophy (Transferable Principles & Guiding Values)
- Methodology (Effective Execution)
Your philosophy of ministry is the bridge between your theology and your methodology. It helps answer the questions "why" you do what you do and "how" you will go about it. It connects the "Why" with the "How." You can view these as concentric circles.
A well-rounded philosophy of ministry should be able to articulate everything from the mission to the methods in an orderly and coherent way.
Before we talk through the elements that should be included in any great philosophy of ministry, here are some things a POM is NOT:
Your POM is not your job description
Your POM should clarify a job description, but it should be much more encompassing. Often, when asking candidates what their philosophy of ministry is, their answer can become a recital of the basic responsibilities of the role for which they are applying. It's always a bit awkward when someone applying to be an Executive Pastor has a POM that states, "My job is to support the Senior Pastor in his vision." That answer may be entirely true, but it is also entirely inadequate. It tells me that this person has not thought through what ministry is, what purpose it serves, and how it is done. A POM should speak to the role you are applying for, but it should be more than that role. A great XP has a thorough and practical philosophy of ministry that integrates well in the context he or she wishes to serve. That POM, which is somewhat transferrable across roles, churches, and social contexts, helps him or her lead the staff toward personal growth, cultural health, ministry effectiveness, and spiritual reproduction. A POM is the guiding set of principles that clarifies contextualized ministry.
Your POM is not about parroting catchphrases and cliches
"Love God and Love People" is not a philosophy of ministry. Those are commands for every Christian to obey. It's great as a visual for your people to communicate your True North, but it isn't all you need. Parroting a favorite vision statement of churches is not a great way to communicate how you will do ministry. Remember, your POM is a bridge between your theology and your methodology. HOW will you love God and people? More significantly, how will you EQUIP OTHERS to love God and people? This is the starting point to an effective POM. Yes, you want to lead relationally, but the dirty little secret about relationships is that most of them are built on proximity and convenience. If you don't have a strong POM, then people will leave you as soon as it becomes inconvenient for them to stay. The best relationships are built on shared values and shared experiences. How will you support those relationships with a system that leads people from convenience to commitment? Your POM should help answer this question.
Your POM is not about you
You know this, but I have to say it anyways… Your POM is not about you. As we interview candidates, it's always great to see the things that fire them up and get them excited about ministry. We have other questions for that, though. When we ask about a POM, we're looking for more than passion. We're looking for competency, thoughtfulness, and a healthy perspective on serving others. The best POMs are unique to the person and oozing with passion, but they must also be clear on how the potential ministry leader will serve and equip others to do the work of ministry. This is back to the basics… ministry is, at its core, all about serving God by serving people and leading them to follow Jesus in every area of their lives. Your POM is about how you serve and lead, not about how you will be personally fulfilled.
POM is not about a theological soapbox
Similarly, a healthy POM is not about a theological soapbox or your passion to "fix" a particular aspect of the church. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, "For the love of Christ compels us…." If your motivation for ministry is to fix the Church rather than to serve Jesus, then your POM is built on shifting sands.
Finally, your POM is not just "Equipping the saints."
Okay, you're getting much closer here! You've identified the WHAT, but you still haven't identified the HOW. How will you equip the saints for the work of ministry? This can look different depending on the context, theology, personality, training, and experiences of each person and ministry. In the most recent release of The Unstuck Church's quarterly report, Tony Morgan and his team stated, "The average church employs one full-time equivalent staff person for every 34 people in attendance" (The Unstuck Church Report: Q2 2022). This is down from about one full-time equivalent for every 50 people in attendance just a few years ago. As a rule, the healthiest churches should employ one full-time equivalent for every 80-100 people in attendance. The Unstuck team also clarifies that "…declining churches employed 56% more full-time equivalent employees than growing churches." What this tells me is that even though many of the people we interview state "equipping the saints" is their POM, very few ministry leaders know how to go about it. We are trained to do ministry ourselves, and we love it! We are far less equipped to equip others. Rather than equipping people for ministry, we're hiring people for ministry. It's easier, sure, but it's not as healthy and bottlenecks our capacity for effective ministry. If you want a competitive edge when interviewing for your next church role, define how you will equip the saints and, if you can, give examples of how you have done this in the past.
Okay, you know what a Philosophy of Ministry ISN'T. In my next blog post, we'll talk about what elements SHOULD be included in a healthy POM that is faithful, unique, and actionable ... and you'll get a free download that will walk you through the process!
Have questions? Feel free to shoot me an email!