How to Build a Ministry

From now until Lent we begin a worship series that I’m simply calling “How to . . .” On this first Sunday, we’re tackling a big question: how to build a ministry. This church is small and consists mostly of people who are retired. For the next six months I am bumping up to ¾-time. This is an opportunity to try some things.


Today’s sermon is going to be interactive. I encourage you to find yourself some paper and something to write or draw with. Let your mind engage with the questions however works best for you. If words or images come, put them on paper. We will have an opportunity in a few minutes to share whatever is coming up.


Here are a few of my reflections on how to build a ministry.


First, love God. Spend time getting to know what God is all about. Read the Bible. Ask a lot of questions. Commit yourself to this relationship. Pray. Be open to the Spirit at work in and around you, sometimes coming from wildly unexpected places.


Love each other. See each other. Learn each other’s names. Get to know each other’s passions and challenges. Help each other. Feed each other in body and soul.


Love yourself. Take good care of yourself: food, exercise, sleep. Keep learning. Keep striving to be the best possible version of yourself. Wrestle with your addictions. Forgive yourself and ask others to forgive you for any way in which you may have hurt them. Twelve steps. Get help: pastor, counselor, psychiatrist, physician, etc. Work on healing whatever is broken.


Invite others on the journey. There are many people seeking, many who are spiritually hungry. Share whatever is working for you, not in a “you need to do this” way, but in a “this is what is working for me; maybe it will work for you too” way. We are all on that journey; we can help each other along the way.


How did Jesus do it? How did he build a ministry?

After his baptism, he spent a long time in the wilderness working out what his ministry was going to look like, who and how he was going to be in it. He wasn’t going to be tempted by earthly power or status or wealth or comfort. He was going to be centered in God and serve God with humility. Frequently we see him going off on his own for time to pray, rest, and renew. This work is exhausting and draining; he has to hit the reset button now and then—take a sabbath.


According to the Gospel of Luke, after Jesus’ time in the wilderness, he starts teaching in synagogues around Galilee. He is finding his feet in this new ministry, and initial responses are favorable. When he comes to his hometown of Nazareth, he uses his moment in the synagogue to announce his ministry’s mission statement, based on Isaiah. Centered in God and the traditional Hebrew scriptures, he intends to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, and proclaim the year of jubilee. This is the passage we read today from Luke chapter 4.


Another thing we know about how Jesus built his ministry is that he invited everyone to be a part of it. He spent time preaching to the masses, healing the sick, dining with prostitutes and tax collectors—as well as those more recognized in polite society. The invitation to God’s love is for everyone who seeks it, everyone who says yes. In our reading from 1 Corinthians today, Paul makes clear that every single one of us is part of the body of Christ, and that we all need each other in order for the body to be whole. God doesn’t throw anyone away.


So with both of these scripture readings fresh in our minds—Jesus’ mission statement, and Paul’s reminder that we need everyone in order for the body of Christ to be whole—we’re going to put some questions on the screen and let you contemplate them for a few minutes. Write down any words that come to mind, or doodle, or draw images of whatever comes to you. And then let’s discuss. [People’s comments are added below.]


Where in the world do I see good news for the poor?

Free school lunches and supplies.

Native languages are reviving.

Buffalo are coming back.

There are catcher contraptions on pipes to catch plastic and keep it out of the water.

Omicron is waning.

Rising minimum wage, awareness of racism, reparations in our consciousness. We are all part of one body—we need each other.

Where do I see people being able to see better than they could before?

When we are intentional about the time we have. Find purpose. Look to scripture. Draw on wisdom to retain a sense of purpose. Recognize goodness, help each other. Be inclusive.

We’re more aware of systemic racism and sexism.

Racism: keep vigilant about this conversation.

Where do I see people being “set free”?

What can I do to help those who are suffering or who need help?

Visit, listen, laugh, and bring dessert.

What color is “good news”?

Orange: yellow + red (also good colors), sunshine, pumpkins, birds, autumn leaves

Rainbow with sparkles

Yellow, red, green


How can I bring joy to those who are sad?


Read bedtime stories


How to build a ministry:

Be real. Trust the process. Hang in there during COVID-19.

Church is community. People must feel needed, loved, accepted.

Music. Zoom has potential for greater outreach. Send Zoom recordings to friends.


We closed with a prayer.

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