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I listen to a writer’s podcast called Write Now with Sarah Werner. The show started about seven years ago so I’m a little behind (still listening to the first season) but I’m noticing a trend. The advice she gives regarding writing techniques or story development or whatever she happens to be talking about often emphasizes the idea of adaptability. She has shows that talk about how to write yourself out of a corner, what to do when you don’t feel like writing, and more recently where ideas come from and no rules, just write. In each of these categories, the writer is faced with having to alter their intended course and move toward a different way of doing things. The basic story and the general idea might be the same, but getting it from idea to prewriting to outlining to first/second/third draft to finished product will require a bit of adaptability.

            Ministry also calls for adaptability. The best laid plans of mice and men go haywire on a good day and short out our intentions. Ministry is working with people and circumstances. People are unpredictable. Circumstances are unpredictable. Trying to lower you head and/or shoulders and plow through is sometimes the best way and sometimes not. Being able to stop and ask a few questions about the situation might save a great deal of trouble. For instance:

Is this what I want or is this what God wants? This is one of those press on at your own peril moments. When you aren’t sure of your motives, you have every reason to stop and reconsider. Often, we get ourselves and our ministries in trouble by continuing to press on for the wrong reasons. There is nothing wrong with taking a step back, even in the moment, and asking yourself, Who am I really doing this for?

Is this violating the General Rules? John Wesley’s had three general rules of the church—do no harm, do good, stay in love with God. When you look around at the ministry you are taking part in or spearheading, think not only of what it’s accomplishing but whether or not it harms someone else to do it. Are you drawing resources (people, space, time, money) away from other ministries that sorely need them? Are you forcing others ‘out of your way’? Are you causing relational damage in the way you go about ministry? Is the ministry doing or leading to something good for the people? Does it act as or help point to a means of grace, a transforming act in the lives of people?

Is it just doing something for the sake of doing something? Often churches develop ‘ministries’ or ‘projects’ that really do little for the church or the cause of discipleship. They make the people involved feel like they are doing something without actually doing something. They offer little challenge and little development for the disciple and often just make churches look selfish. Ask yourself, is this just something we do because we’ve always done it? Does it make us look selfish or self-involved? Could our time and energy be spent on other things that have greater significance to the community of faith and the community around us?

Being adaptable is a learned skill and one that cuts against the grain for some people. But it’s a necessary skill for the church to learn if we want to see the church of tomorrow. What are your growing edges regarding adaptability? 

Feel free to comment or offer questions at lmjarrell (at)