A number of years ago when I was called by a Stake President (for a definition of click here) to be an Elders Quorum President (click here for definition), he gave me some very wise council that I was reminded of yesterday during one of our regional leadership meetings in Stake Conference. He advised me to lay aside administration and delegate that to one of my counselors and to focus on ministration instead.
When he saw that I wasn’t exactly clear on what he meant by that, he broke it down for me as follows:
Administering is: focusing on programs, processes, managing, and meetings vs. focusing on people. Sure meetings need to happen and processes need to be in place, but as a leader, I need to be a minister for the Lord.
Ministering is: having personal conversations with the men in my group at least on a weekly basis, praying sincerely with them, sharing scripture with them, holding them accountable to progressing spiritually and developing a relationship with God.
The whole time I served in this role, I had the paper up in my room posted with his advice and I tried my hardest to be a good minister.
Many sacred experiences happened as the Lord blessed me in the ministry. I remember kneeling with a young man who had committed a serious grievance and faced excommunication from the church. His soul was hurting and I felt God’s grace come over me as a love and compassion that is only from His grace entered into my heart. Words came to me in prayer and tears filled my eyes as I knelt with this young man and poured my heart out to God for him. Afterwards, I invited him to pray and he prayed as well. This experience along with many others showed me how much God loves the sinner (all of us) and when we reach out to Him, he is right there ready to lift us up and forgive us.
Last night, Elder James Hamula, of the Quorum of the Seventy, gave a powerful and spiritual sermon on the importance of ministering vs. administering. He shared the scripture in Alma 22:23 on how the King ministered to his whole household and that we need to minister with this same love and compassion to those who we have jurisdiction over. Elder Hamula asked us what he thought would happen if we focused too much on administering in our congregations and families and a gentleman in the crowd shared a good example that Elder Uchtdorf spoke about a while back where on the surface people looked like they were doing well because they were coming to church and putting on good faces, but over time there were a lot of divorces and strife between members because peoples’ hearts weren’t into it.
When I think of my role as a father, and a leader in my local congregation, I wonder how much ministering vs. administering I do. Administering in the family is important and as a father, I think that probably comes easier than ministering. I work hard and provide for them, make sure things are squared away logistically for the family, teach them right from wrong, etc. However, I need to to better about speaking with each individual member of my family, including my wife, and putting my arms around them, sharing my testimony of the Gospel, praying with them with deep, sincere prayers, etc. Similarly, as a leader, it is easy to hold meetings and track progress and delegate things out to people. Even when I’m making visits to members of the congregation, I can be merely an administer by “checking” the box that I visited them, but not praying and preparing beforehand and then with them as well.
I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts on ministering vs. administering. Where have you seen effective ministry as a leader in your congregation, or in your family? What advice do you have for all of us on how to be effective ministers?