Letting go of the mop
Several weeks ago, while on a short trip to visit our ministry partners in the Philippines, I relayed a lesson I had learned to my friend, Pastor Todd Crusenberry. It’s a lesson that I have found myself learning over and over again. It’s a lesson about leadership, selfishness, and pride.
I wish I could tell you that I learned this once, a long time ago, and have gotten it right every time since then. However, if I said that it just wouldn’t be true. Here’s the story behind the story.
Letting go of the mop
In 2001, we started a ministry from scratch in Augusta, GA. It was a mission that sheltered the homeless. We called it Garden City Rescue Mission. In the early days, the volunteers were few and far between. There were a handful of faithful people who helped us, but we discovered that building a new ministry would take an army, not just a few soldiers.
I loved every aspect of it. I enjoyed preaching and counseling and also the office work. There were always construction projects and I really found joy in doing them. I swept the floors, mopped the floors, and everything in between. Many of the men who found shelter at the Mission also enjoyed pitching in to get the work done. In fact, if it was not for their participation, the Mission would not have operated.
In the second year, I was able to hire a couple of people to work on the staff and the ministry was really growing. My responsibilities as the Director were also growing. There were reports to be written each week, fundraising to do, letters to write, and a pile of other administrative work that needed attention.
Early one morning, while I was mopping the floor, it happened. One of the men that I had hired to work on our staff, came up while I was mopping and grabbed the mop. He said “let me do this, I know you have other things you need to be doing.”
He was absolutely right, I had many things that I needed to take care of, but when he grabbed the mop, I immediately pulled back. I didn’t let go. Mopping was something that I had done since the very beginning and it was important to me that it was done and done right. Tugging again on the mop, he said, “I’ll take over here."
The strange thing is that I didn’t want him to do my job. I had hired him because I needed help, but now that the help was there, I didn’t want to let go. Mopping was something that I enjoyed and I would much rather do that than do the duties of the Executive Director. Reluctantly, I did let go of that mop, but I was upset. I felt like he was stealing my job.
What I finally realized
After retreating to my office and thinking for a little while, I finally admitted to myself that he was right. I needed to let go of the mop and allow someone else to do that so that I could fulfill my duties, duties that I was falling behind on. The more I pondered the situation, the more I realized how selfish and prideful I really was. I wanted to be able to do it all. I was afraid to allow others to enter into the joy of serving alongside me. I was guilty of hoarding all the ministry, I was selfish.
After much prayer and soul-searching, I decided to invite others to use their God-given abilities to help me build the Mission. God began to give us some really great people and a wonderful ministry was established. It’s still going strong today.
How I’m still letting go
Today, I have the joy of leading a ministry that not only helps the homeless here in the U.S., but also in the Philippines. It is a growing ministry and the sky is the limit! My family spent the first half of 2015 in the Philippines getting this new ministry launched. We are focusing on helping homeless children. We all enjoyed our time there, and as a matter of fact, we loved it!
One of the hardest things we have ever done was stepping on that airplane at the appointed time to return to the U.S. It was hard because we enjoyed the hands on part so much. My wife and children worked very hard day in and day out with the children who we ministered to. We even fostered two young brothers in our home for over a week. It was heartbreaking to come home.
We trained several people for the new ministry, established a staff, and handed it off. We let go of the mop.
We will be returning in a few months for another extended stay, but for now, we are here in the U.S. doing the other necessary things that our new ministry requires. We are raising funds, speaking in churches, and helping others get started reaching the homeless. It’s a constant battle in my mind and heart to know that our ministry team is overseas doing the work of the ministry each week and I’m not there with them.
I have to remind myself of several things:
It’s not all about me
I am a leader and I have a responsibility to develop others, not just do it all myself
I can’t do it all by myself anyway
It’s prideful and selfish of me to whine about not getting to do exactly what I want to do all the time
Long story short
Basically, I believe that leading a ministry is a series of mop-letting-go experiences. I am reminded that I can mop the floors all by myself if I want to, but that’s a lonely place to be and I cannot grow very much there. If I want to reach more people and expand my influence, I better let go of the mop and let others contribute!
Question: How are you doing with letting go? Could you let others in and expand your reach? Are you willing to let go of your “mop”?
Photo: James Dennis was one of the men who “took the mop away.” I will be forever grateful to him and the other men who helped me build Garden City Rescue Mission. Click here to see how the Mission is doing today!