7 Practices of Effective Ministry is the book written by Stanley, Joiner, and Jones with seven main tasks for effective leaders being discussed. The peculiar feature of the book is the authors’ intentions not just to teach the reader but to share a story that demonstrates how to use hints and improve leadership practice. The main message of the book is reflected in a brief disclaimer where the authors say that “the principles and practices described in this book are not and cannot be a substitute for God’s blessing or power”,1but they can be used to guide church people and establish the rules that may increase the effectiveness of programs and the work of the ministry. It is not enough to read the book and learn the principles. It is necessary to comprehend the reasons for why people may want to take these steps and what outcomes may be expected.
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The book is a real lesson that is improved by the attention to personal experience and the actual abilities of people to cope with the tasks. In fact, there are seven lessons that cannot be ignored. They are to clarify to win, to think steps, but not programs, to narrow the focus, to teach less for more, to listen to outsiders, to replace yourself, and to work on it.
While reading the book, I was challenged to look close at the work of the ministry, analyze the abilities and steps of the leaders, and clarify if the offered practices could be used to promote some changes in the church. Besides, it was hard to comprehend how people have to combine their personal changes with organizational changes that should occur in the church. One of the main challenges is to make a leader recognize that “before circumstances could change, he might have to change”.2
To get the required portion of learning, the reader has to understand that reading is not the core of the work. People have to learn how to use the offered practices, and one of them that implies teaching less for more challenges me the most because I cannot comprehend how people should divide their education in order not to try to do and learn everything but to know how to introduce right information to right people.3 The book is challenging because of the necessity to grasp new information and comprehend how to use the knowledge.
At the same time, the book inspires and shows how church leaders may promote changes and improve their routine activities. It is not enough to say that the book is interesting and insightful. I like it not because of a number of adjectives I can use to describe its worth. This book contains seven simple practices. It seems that people have already known a lot about these steps, and this book helps the reader to start using the knowledge. It is not an ordinary guide with rules and examples.
It is a story of a life full of interesting dialogues and the possibilities to exchange the experience. Sometimes, leaders are not ready to ask for help or to admit the fact that there may be an additional guide that could improve their work. This book teaches that “each day each of us is bombarded with countless suggestions, opinions, and ideas”,4and there is no need to reject help or think that personal knowledge is enough. It is impossible to know everything, and the book helps church leaders accept this fact with dignity and get ready for hard work.
There are also several points which are hard to accept and agree with. For example, it is expected that the book should cover a number of religious concepts and the affairs of the church. Still, there are not as many biblical substances as it is expected. In fact, this book can be useful to any leader at all. I do agree with the ideas offered by the authors, and I do like the approaches developed in the book. However, it is hard for me to realize why this book should differ from other management sources.
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There is no evident accent to church leaders. Therefore, the only improvement that could be offered to the book is the attention to church practices, to the Bible, and to the choices people have to make when they decide to join the church. I would like to see more comparisons between the authors’ ideas and the Biblical examples. The reader should understand that all these seven principles of effective ministry have one powerful basis, the Bible.
Despite the existing concerns and disagreements with the authors, there are many things that could be used for future church improvements and growth. After reading the book, I am able to identify several powerful aspects for the ministry to implement in future. First, the church has to be ready to determine itself more than any other organization because the ministry has to achieve rather high stakes. People, who come to the church, believe in eternity, and the ministry does not have a right for a single mistake. The second lesson is based on the importance of knowledge. Church leaders should not think that they could know and learn everything to reproduce the light at the end of the tunnel. Knowledge is not the power.
The power is the usage of the information. Another step is the identification of the directions. The church has to exist in a competitive environment and be ready to compete unless it does not want to be paralyzed. Actions may vary. Still, they have to take place regularly. Then, church leaders have to understand that it is not enough just to add something new to the church. It is necessary to replace an old system, get rid of past traditions and norms, and create a community with new goals and new expectations. Finally, leaders should never be afraid to ask for help or to confess that something goes wrong and has to be changed.
At this moment, the book helps to comprehend three simple rules that can influence the work of personal ministry and achieve positive results. First, leaders, as well as other stakeholders, have to hear their own language, listen to the questions, and use practical skills to get the answers.5 Then, the church should realize that it is not always crucial to know the answers and to be ready to help people. Sometimes, it is enough to listen and use the information offered. It is necessary to know how to listen and find answers from the outside.6 Such task may be complicated for many church leaders. Still, the sooner people start practicing at this, the better results could be achieved. Finally, the book teaches me how to organize and evaluate all work done. “No matter how good the system, a consistent time of evaluation can produce tremendous benefits.” 7
Self-evaluation is the key to success in church leadership and ministry, and people have to use different methods in order to comprehend what kind of work has to be done or what mistakes have to be avoided in the future.
Stanley, Andy, Reggie Joiner, and Lane Jones. 7 Practices of Effective Ministry. New York, NY: Multnomah Books, 2004.
- Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, and Lane Jones, 7 Practices of Effective Ministry (New York, NY: Multnomath Books, 2004), 67.
- Ibid., 28.
- Stanley, Joiner, and Jones, 7 Practices of Effective Ministry, 46.
- Ibid., 119.
- Stanley, Joiner, and Jones, 7 Practices of Effective Ministry, 65.
- Ibid., 52.
- Ibid., 174.