I knew I was going to marry my wife the first time I met her. True story. After walking her to class on our college campus and wrapping up our first conversation ever with one another, I knew she was the one. It was only a matter of time.
LAYERS OF LIFE
What followed was months of late night talks, “study” dates, last-minute road trips and a care-free courtship with very little responsibility other than to pass our classes and spend as much time together as possible. Looking back, it was simple. We loved each other and wanted to be together, and that’s all that mattered.
Graduation came and went, the wedding was a wonderful blur, and then a new reality set in – we were adults. We had jobs, bills, rent and then a mortgage, insurance, school loans, 401k’s and years later, the monster of all new realities…FOUR KIDS! Our whirlwind, responsibility-free, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants relationship had taken on a whole new identity. What was once simple was now incredibly complex. We weren’t quite prepared for it but we learned to make it work as we went. As new relational layers were added, we navigated, adjusted and began the never-ending pursuit of determining what layers are appropriate and healthy and what layers are debilitating and distracting.
While our love for one another has grown and strengthened over the years, intentionally communicating that love has become increasingly more difficult. We have to be more strategic about wading through the compounding layers of our relationship in order to keep first things first and remember what’s most important. Our relationship started out as one long perpetual date night. Now planning a date night takes an act of organizational brilliance, coordinating schedules, booking the babysitter, mapping out our itinerary and ensuring all arrangements have been made so that the kids are still breathing and the house is still standing by the time we get home! Date night can be exhausting, but it’s worth it. It gives us a few hours of layer-free attention with one another.
I love my wife more now than I did when I walked her to class for the first time. I just have to be more strategic and intentional about communicating that love to her through the many layers that life and marriage have compounded on us over the years.
Layers of life are inevitable. It’s learning what layers to add on and what layers to avoid that matters most.
LAYERING IN LEADERSHIP
When it comes to leading ministries, we have to learn to layer well. The temptation is to say yes to every good idea and launch or expand the ministry with as much impact as possible. Yet, simplicity and focus are essential to effective, sustainable ministry. That requires being willing to say no at certain times, not yes all the time.
More ministry programs, initiatives and endeavors are not inherently wrong, but just like the layers of a marriage relationship, if you add too many, or stack the wrong ones up, a ministry will eventually lose sight of what’s most important. It’s not that they stop loving Jesus or caring for the vulnerable or believing the Bible, it’s just increasingly more difficult to keep those first things first with all the added layers that have compounded over time.
A commitment to simplicity in ministry programming is a commitment to layering well. It’s a uniformed resolve to keep first things first and not allow what’s most important to get buried underneath things that in the end may be secondary at best.
Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. | Steve Jobs
As a leader or a leadership team, a good, consistent practice would be to lay everything out on the table – evaluate the layers of your ministry, determining what needs to go, what needs to stay, what needs to be added and what needs to be shifted. A focused, strategic commitment to layering well will safeguard against the daunting potential of 5 or 10 years down the road having a lot going on but not much really happening. It’s a checks and balances system against becoming a mile wide and an inch deep. It’s not an anti-programs agenda, but a commitment to program well so as never to lose sight of what’s most important and to always ensure that first things are first.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
So, just getting started in your ministry? Layer slowly in the early years. Commit to doing a few things well and maintain a narrow focus on those things. You’ll be tempted to add on additional layers too soon only to find they were distracting and took away from what was most important at the time. What are your “first things” you need to do first?
Are you a seasoned ministry leader? What layers of your current system are overshadowing what’s most important? Be courageous in making bold, necessary decisions that might be hard at the time but in the end are the best for your organization and people. Remove the unnecessary layers. Your ministry will be more healthy and your team will thank you.
In the end, the value of our ministry will be determined not by its scale or its size, but by its significance and its impact.