In the 1980 Winter edition of Leadership Journal there was an article comparing ministry to a poker game. HOW TO WIN AT PARISH POKER (Pastoral credibility can be parlayed into great gains–or squandered.) by Leith Anderson You can try the link above (may or may not work)
The article basically talks about “earning your chips”. This article helped me over the years by knowing when to make an “All in” call. Too many Pastors believe their title gives them the opportunity to call “all in” or a “my way or the Highway” decision. In my current ministry, I have had to make a few of those calls. I did not take them lightly and everyone knew that I did not make unnecessary threats. The key to surviving those situations is twofold. First you must know how many “chips” you have earned. Second, you must know which hills you are willing to die on.
I think too many Pastors make major mistakes in these two areas. “Earn” your chips. Often you are considered a “hireling” If you are in a ministry or a denomination that has a frequent turnover (3-4 years), then these people will outlast you. They were in the ministry before you and will be there after you. So any bad decision you make means that they will have to live with the consequences, because you will be long gone. I have “earned my chips” in my current ministry. The board knows that any idea I want to implement means I will also be around to deal with the success or failure of that idea. I have incredible freedom as long as I do not think that I have incredible freedom.
Secondly, know what hill you will die on. Anderson refers to this as your focus for ministry. I have found that in the course of ministry battles arrive on a constant basis. As a leader, I have to fight the battles, but I don’t have to win every battle. There are times it is wiser to allow someone else to fight the battle for me or simply decide to let that battle go. Which battle you choose often determines your destiny in a ministry. When I have to take a strong stand as a leader, I am willing to die on that hill. I have never made an ultimatum that I was willing to act on. Those battles and issues are very few, but I know what they are and after 20 years, my board knows them as well. I have watched too many Pastors leave ministries over issues that they should have simply not fought.
THOT – Are you earning your chips? Have you foolishly squandered some of your chips in your response to issues that really don’t matter? If you are in a smaller church ministry, realize your chips will be earned over time and by developing relationships.