My brother was ten years old when my grandfather showed him the pitching grip for the change-up. The release is the same as the fastball, but there are more fingers on the ball. The friction slows it down so the batter swings early and misses. Following my grandfather’s instruction, my brother gripped the ball, wound up, and released. All he got was dirt. It did not even cross the plate!
My brother could have stayed in his comfort zone with the fastball, but he knew the change-up was necessary, for both a pitcher and a team. It took him three years of practice to throw a solid change-up, and by then he was already learning the curveball and knuckleball.
How is your change-up pitch? Is it hitting the dirt? What is the next pitch you are learning?
Each person in ministry has a good fastball, their natural gifts and interests in the ministry. For some it’s preaching; for others it may be pastoral care, administration, mission, youth ministry, communication or relationship building. If only one or two of these blessings become your area of focus , they narrow your leadership capacity and ministry.
What’s the change-up pitch that you are actively learning? What’s the next step that you are actively pursuing in your personal development or ministry plan?
Here are some questions for you to consider as you consider the next step in your development.
- Am I spiritually fed?
Your capacity as a leader will only go as far as you are spiritually fed. Don’t neglect spiritual growth. You may want to consider focused learning on the spiritual disciplines.
- What are my areas of growth?
Consider focusing on an area such as personal development, church growth or community engagement. Be sure that your continuing education plan relates to your leadership development and the ministry of the local church or organization.
- Who can attend with me?
Take a team to a continuing education event. With an enthusiastic team on board, you will have a head start in implementing the ministry ideas you learned at a conference or workshop. If a team is not possible, attend with a colleague. Share with one another two new learnings that can take root in your ministry, then plan a check-in in a month to see what seeds have been planted.
- How can I tell the story?
Inform the community of what you learned. You may document the learning opportunity on social media, create a sermon series, host a small group meeting over a potluck supper, or teach a workshop at the local library or town hall. Illustrate that your work is being put to good use, and the church and community will celebrate with you!
- Is there additional funding?
Just ask. You might be surprised. Organizations often offer scholarships and grants for degree and certificate programs. Check online at UMC resources and if you are a pastor, review the Board of Ordained Ministry’s “Guidelines for Continuing Education Funds”
A fellow pastor once shared these words of wisdom: “You are one of the most precious resources in your local church and this conference. Your continuing education is an investment in your leaders, your church’s vision, and ultimately the Kingdom of God.”
It’s time to take the mound and learn that next pitch.