I've been in Africa for almost ten years---ten years that seem like a lifetime. I arrived as a clueless 19-year old, with nothing more than a heart for the people of Africa and a suitcase filled with things I deemed important. I've learned a lot on this journey and know I will only continue to learn more. Here are some lessons from my first decade of ministry that I'm taking with me into my second.
- Get clarity on your vision, and stick to it. There will always be a ton of things you can do, but you need to focus on what you should do. Get clarity on the specifics God has called you to, and use that as the yardstick you measure every opportunity against. If you're presented with something that's a great idea, will impact a lot of people, and help meet a need, but doesn't line up with the vision God's given you, say no. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
- Everyone should know the vision. Your vision statement shouldn't be restricted to a plaque on the wall or a page on your website. It should drip out of you every time you open your mouth. It should come up every time you address your team, explain a decision, or talk strategy. Your team should hear the vision so often that they can--and do--easily share it with others. That means it needs to be concise; if you can't sum up your vision in one sentence, you need more clarity. Momentum in ministry only occurs when everyone's clear where you're headed.
- The right people make all the difference. Look for people who support the vision, are high in competence, are strong in character, and with whom you have chemistry. They need to be passionate about going in the same direction as you, otherwise they'll bring division. Your work is too important not to have people who are skilled at what they do; don't settle for those who are simply willing to serve. You also don't want someone who is extremely gifted but lacking in character; integrity matters highly. And while it's foolish to expect everyone to be best friends, it's vital that a staff member clicks with their supervisor and direct coworkers; the emotional taxing that occurs otherwise just isn't worth it. A strong team multiplies ministry effectiveness.