10.4 MINISTRY IS LIKE Mountain Biking – Climbing Hills

As I have been learning how to be more of a serious mountain biker on legitimately challenging trails in the Ozarks, I have noticed many situations that have principles similar to what would be applicable in ministry.  This series highlights some of the things I am learning along the way.

My friend Tom has been teaching me some finer details about mountain biking, and recently he looked back to see me struggling with a problem.  He yelled at me in a firm tone, “sit down.”
I was in the middle of trying to coax my bike up a particularly steep incline, and was standing up while straining with everything in me to stay on the bike and keep it moving forward.  Unfortunately, I kept popping unwanted wheelies that did anything but make me successful. These weren’t rad looking wheelies with big air.  Rather, they were puny little dust storms that caused my bike to teeter sideways.  Most forward momentum was immediately and repeatedly lost.
I’m a bit hardheaded, so my resolve was undeterred.  I kept trying to get back up standing and riding at the same time time.  However, I finally listened to Tom, and a shocking thing occurred.  My bike’s weight shifted more towards the front tire, and I quickly zipped up the remaining part of the hill.  What had happened?  In my zeal to conquer the terrain, I had made the tactical mistake of trying to ride while standing.  Sure, this created more power, but power was not my problem.  The weight of gravity was conspiring against me!  Standing up while riding had shifted too much of my weight towards the rear of the bicycle. I literally needed to lean forward while sitting down, to keep my bike attached to the ground while overcoming the hill.
Leaders sometimes make similar mistakes in ministry.  They don’t prepare well for the hills they are about to climb, and quickly find themselves using maximum effort while achieving minimal success.  Exhaustion and frustration are the quick results, and expected results might be seeming increasingly distant or impossible.
When you can forsee a difficult season of ministry likely approaching, or find yourself on a “hill” you didn’t see coming, its important to consider how to best overcome it for God’s glory. For instance:
  • Seek Advice: Find someone else who has recently overcome a similar challenge.  Ask them what they learned.  Apply whatever you can to your situation.  There may not be a Tom looking out for you unless you find him first.
  • Give yourself a break: Sometimes in the middle of along mountain bike climb, Tom and I will stop to just breathe and listen to the birds for a couple of minutes.  Our blood pressure reduces. We get to see what we have accomplished, and steel ourselves once again for the climb yet ahead.  As long as we don’t rest for too long, this is a welcome and needed respite.
  • Upshift: Don’t try and do many of your normal other routines and try to beat the hill at the same time.  Digging deep within yourself can only accomplish so much.  Delegate. Prioritize. Create less friction in your schedule to counterbalance the challenge.
  • Prepare to celebrate:  Remember that you will get to the other side of that hill.  There will be a time to coast and feel the wind again.  Hope.
shift gears, prepare, measurable goals
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