By Eddie Pipkin

March 2, 2016

When my wife and I moved last year and were purchasing an older house that was going to involve quite a few projects and updates, I got hooked on a web site called “houzz,” which is full of photos of stylish decorating, DIY projects, and articles and blogs about all the latest trends in housing, design, and home furnishing.  Well, it takes a blogger to know a good blog (haha), and they have some great content if you are into that sort of thing (seriously).  But I was particularly tickled last week to come across this lighthearted but thoughtful blog about how people (spouses or otherwise) can get along together in the confined but popular space known as the kitchen.  Every point that author Laura Gaskill makes—and from which I will now quote liberally and with full credit where credit is due—translates surprisingly to the realm of ministry, particularly for those of us who have limited resources and share well-used multi-purpose spaces (sorry, well-budgeted megachurch staff, this blog’s not for you).  For the rest of us, we are all too familiar with the dilemma of “too many cooks in the kitchen.”  As I say of the multi-use ministry building where I ply my day job: “It’s like living with 500 roommates.”

Here are some of Gaskill’s observations about eight ways to promote teamwork and happiness in the household kitchen, along with my observational conversions as to how each tip offers delightful insights into shared ministry resources and space.

  • Stop micromanaging.too many cooks 1

One of the keys to effective ministry leadership—actually, one of the primary purposes of effective ministry leadership—is to give other leaders and potential leaders room to bloom.  If you are micromanaging every decision on a particular project, you not only stifle creativity, but in fact, can stifle the very new leader nurturing that sustains ministry.  Of course, this means that details will sometimes be different than you would have chosen, and it even means that sometimes things might fail a little, but that’s okay.  That the cost of healthy leadership development.

  • On occasion, swap your most dreaded chores.

This is a great way to build ministry empathy.  How about if ministry leaders occasionally swapped out basic ministry duties and responsibilities?  We would all develop a deeper appreciation of what our ministry partners regularly face and a more holistic understanding of how all of our individual ministries work together and impact one another.

  • Exercise the “Golden Rule of Dishwashing.”

This is a great way to help prevent burnout.  In the kitchen, it’s all about the cook getting to take a well-deserved breather after the meal while somebody does the cleanup, but in ministry it is about sensitivity to one another’s schedules.  When one of us has just completed a high-intensity project, how thoughtful and sustaining would it be if the rest of the team helped take the load off in the following days so that there was time to bask, reflect, and recharge for the key player who just spent weeks “all in.”

  • Be willing to break the “Golden Rule of Dishwashing.”

Every dishtowel has its day.  Even though we feel entitled to a well-deserved break after a big event, sometimes the schedule just doesn’t work out that way, and we have to be willing to cheerfully forge ahead for the team.  I recently had a lead pastor whose schedule required a calendar-dictated vacation week immediately following one of our major events of the year.  We were able to compromise on some downtime once she returned, and a positive approach to working it out in such a case builds long-term goodwill.

  • Try to avoid the whole “too many cooks” scenario.

A little organization goes a long way.  Sometimes a smaller ministry team can be much more effective.  Certainly, key leaders with a clear organizational structure can promote a path of less chaos.  It is very important to establish early (and to document) who is in charge of what.  This makes decisions more efficient and accountable and makes it more likely that everyone is (happily) on the same page and not tripping over one another.

  • Maintain a master shopping list.

This is another type of organization that makes the best, most efficient use of resources.  Every ministry has specific needs, but there is no reason that the youth ministry needs a separate Sharpie supply than children’s ministry or the women’s group.  Many basic resources can be shared, and even when thinking in terms of equipment such as game supplies, hospitality wares, or even shelving, it is good to have communication that imagines what the best, most economical, most sharable resources might be.

  • Make peacetime decisions.

In the heat of ministry events and the deadlines leading up to them, as well as the inevitable micro-disasters that happen, everybody has some great ideas about how to do it better next time.  But the heat of a crisis is not the time to be making decisions (or debating potential decisions). It is good to have a practiced response to people who want to talk about “next time” in the middle of “this time,” and then to have a well-honed follow-up process.  Always do a detailed post-event analysis, giving participants and helpers a voice.  And email can be a wonderful, too: you can send yourself reminders that will pop in the future and act as aids to avoid the mistakes of the past.

  • Get some outside help.

Another way to keep from burning people out is to not try to do EVERYTHING with your same staff people or key volunteers.  Bring in a ringer on occasion (why be the speaker when you can invite in an interesting guest?).  Work with other groups with similar interests.  Involve new folks—old folks love to act as mentors for the newbies who are carrying out the exhausting details of the work with fresh energy.

These are all great tips for thinking about how we share and collaborate and, in the end, produce some tasty ministry cookin’.  Do you have tips to add or insights into how one of these eight strategies worked for you in your setting?  Share in the comments section.