Ministerial DNA

In Uncategorized by Roger Davis0 Comments

Do you every think much about your DNA? Obviously, it is something that is always with you and unique to you, never changing.

What about your ministerial DNA? This is language I use a lot with friends and also the various teams I lead and interact with. It is extremely important to know what makes up your organization, ministry or teams, what you value and focus on and while some aspects of ministerial DNA may not be unique to just you, it is what makes you, you.

A few years ago, I asked our staff to share their thoughts about our DNA. On the dry erase board went things like ministry first, focused on God’s Word, having dedicated year-round staff, partnering with the local church (fully believe ministry is a 52-week thing), valuing excellent customer service, serving churches of various evangelical denominations, creating a legacy, solid live in-room experiences, offering great mission locations that are theological sound, being creative and serving in a family atmosphere. I just listened and did not give any of these. While we have core values and mission statements, we don’t hand out a sheet a paper to new staff and say “memorize these things so you can live up to them.”

An organization’s DNA is passed through people, not paper.
Truth is things like an organization’s DNA is passed through people, not paper. Core Values, mission statements, focus and targets hanging on a wall or given out in HR training are a great thing. However, if they never really become part of who we are they are nothing more than wall art. If they just become words robbed of action, they are useless and belong on the scrap pile of motivation. And over time, they go from great objectives to not even on the minds of your team or even worse, they become joking comments that your team throws around in random conversations.

As a leader you want buy-in, you want people to believe in the product or live the mission. This does not come by you standing up and telling people what to do and pointing in that direction. It comes from you as a leader living it, talking it and showing it. I kind of smile a bit in my spirit when I hear some of our staff talk and they use the words similar to mine. This is not an ego statement, it simply points to legacy and DNA transfer. They aren’t reading a script, they are living who we are as a group of people and they become part of it, each person contributing to the bigger organization or organism. Many times along the way I have heard various leaders say, “words create worlds.” There is great truth in this as the words you use in your ministry have great power and will bring definition to what you are as a group are working toward.

“You teach what you know but you reproduce what you are.”Howard Hendricks
Howard Hendricks, the great Dallas Seminary professor who passed away in 2013 would often say, “You teach what you know but you reproduce what you are.” I have always loved that thought, because DNA is a part of reproduction. Not just what you give to your off-spring, but what you pass on to those that serve on your teams. We are all reproducing disciples of something.

Think about the teams you are serving with, your ministries and what you are reproducing. Is the language you use becoming a part of those that you are “transferring DNA” to? It is a great exercise to take your leaders or your students and have them list out what the DNA of your ministry is (you let them make the list while you listen or facilitate, but don’t feed them what you desire for them to say.) This will not only allow them to see it in front of them, but it will give you a bit of a check-up as a leader and disciple-maker.

If we as leaders don’t know who we are and what we are going for those we lead never will.
Header image (adaptation) provided through creative commons by ἀλέξ.

J. Roger Davis is the President of Student Life where he has served for 15 years in Birmingham, AL. During his time serving at Student Life he has focused his attention on creating events for teenagers and kids to have a real interaction with the God that effects how they view God, themselves, the world and their opportunity to be a person of impact. One of Student Life's most trusted relationships is with Compassion International. Roger and the team at Student Life have seen the global impact first hand in many of the 26 countries that Compassion works in and believe it is the best global disciple-making model in the world. He and his family sponsor three children with Compassion and one LDP who is studying at the University of Nairobi. Roger is married to Becca who was a youth minister and college minister for 12 years and they have four children.