“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Stepping out our front door is what we are called to do. We have been given the commission to “go into all of the world.” The idea of staying put within our own four walls is an option, though not a good one. It misses out on the joy of the journey and the deeper purpose that God created us for. We have been called to go.
But just as we have been commissioned to move and also encouraged to shake off the bonds of apathy and timidity, we have also been given a word of caution. The world that we are entering into is a dark and tasteless arena. Jesus told His disciples that the world would hate us because we are not one of their own. Peter would later write that Satan prowls around like a roaring lion looking for opportunities to devour us. It truly is a dangerous business walking out your front door.
So what does this mean for us as leaders within our various ministries, especially as we consider our call to be “the beautiful feet that bring good news?”
Though there are many guideposts for us to utilize, one that is particularly pertinent is found in the book of Ephesians. The apostle Paul writes, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).
Paul is very forthright in his language to the early church because he was aware of the dangers that were prevalent in the world. His call for the Ephesians to be wise and careful showcased his understanding of the potential problems that existed for the early church. On the flipside, his encouragement to make the most of every opportunity also showed his reliance on God. The combination of the emphases was to move God’s people forward with both confidence and purposeful awareness.
It is in that context that we take the opportunity to focus on the idea of risk management and how to effectively address the many facets that are connected with this issue that has become a growing concern/topic for those in ministry. When we discuss risk management, the overarching idea can consist of anything from maintaining a safe and healthy environment for your students (so long “Chubby Bunny” competitions) to committing to a personal and professional life that keeps you above reproach. Being attuned to the very fact that there are dangers inherent within ministry–physically, emotionally and spiritually–is key for all of us working in the field.
A truly important and practical component to keep central in regards to risk management is to take the time to honestly assess all aspects of your ministry. This includes everything from the activities that you organize and participate in to the materials that you teach, the articles that you write and the things you say and do both on and off the job. Some great questions to ask yourself include:
What is the potential danger to me, my students and others involved by engaging in this particular activity? This includes items such as the games you play, the drivers and chaperones you utilize and thoroughly researching a particular mission site and organization you will be using.
How will this be perceived by others as they hear about it/see it out of the context in which it originally happens? Keep in mind that certain pictures, sayings or activities may seem fun and innocent within a unique setting, but once they show up on Facebook or get mentioned in church they take on a whole different meaning because the context has changed.
Have I effectively communicated my plans to my supervisors and parents? Good communication is a sign of a growing leader. It eliminates surprises, keeps people informed and serves as an accountability tool for your ideas.
Am I honoring my congregation’s policies and reputation? By doing more than just “obeying the rules,” you are setting a strong example for others in regards to integrity and respect.
Am I protecting myself from possible accusations? In this media driven world that is constantly looking for someone to fall, just staying “above reproach” isn’t enough anymore. Ministry workers have to be smart in all areas of their lives.
Am I honoring the lives of the students and parents that have been entrusted to me? God has blessed us with an opportunity like none other. May we never take it for granted!
Just being aware of the multitude of pitfalls that exist can serve to help ministry workers to make better decisions up front. This is being wise. This is being careful. This is also helping you to be a better minister as you talk through ideas, plan activities, engage volunteers and communicate your love for Christ through your love of those He has placed in your life.
This is only the beginning, but I hope a good starting point for you to consider as you assess various areas in your own ministry that could serve as potential issues if not addressed. And though risk management may tend to paralyze some because of the potential for trouble, the purpose is more to protect leaders up front so that they can be more productive in the roles in which God has placed them.
“It’s a dangerous business,” but it is the call that we have been given and I whole-heartedly trust in the power and direction of my Lord and Savior. May all I do be to His honor and glory.