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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Plateauing

Dictionary Definition:
- verb (used without object)
5. To reach a state or level of little or no growth or decline, esp. to stop increasing or progressing; remain at a stable level of achievement; level off (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/plateauing)

Chapter 1 of the book Church Planting Landmines is about personal health and growth for ministers. In 13 brief pages, it provides several pieces of excellent advice, however the following quote, which appears under the sub-heading entitled Plateauing, especially caught my attention.

“Plateauing occurs when a person in ministry stops learning and growing, and as a result they settle into a pattern of doing what once worked with very little effort to expand. There is no great vision for the future, and there are no great attempts to get there.” (Tom Nebel and Gary Rohrmayer, Church Planting Landmines, p.23)

Reading this statement has caused me to do a little personal “soul-searching,” and to face an uncomfortable truth. The truth is that, while the demands of my current job push me to keep learning and working hard in order to help the congregations in Canada East Mission, there is a part of me that would really rather relax a bit. Perhaps my sub-conscious mind has grown somewhat lazy. It reminds me regularly that I really didn’t plan to be working this hard at this stage of my life and career. That part of my brain is like the story Jesus told of the rich man whose investments had done well, and he said to himself, “I will store all my grain and my goods, And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'” (Luke 12:16-20) You can trust me when I say my investments have not done all that well, but part of my brain would still like to take things a little easier and coast a little from time to time. That sounds dangerously like a plateau.

Plateauing is not the same as retiring. When we retire from our working careers, we get out of the way and let someone else take over the task of producing the results the job requires. Plateauing is different. If we plateau, we are still physically on the job, but we have simply stopped progressing. When we do that, we not only stop growing and learning ourselves, but we hold everyone else back around us.

The problem with plateauing is that it inevitably leads to decline. The body of knowledge is continuously increasing around us, and the world keeps turning. If we stop growing and learning, we soon become out of date on what tools and methods are effective now. We rely on old methods that used to work, but no longer do. Soon, we are falling behind; in other words, declining.

At an earlier stage in my career, I was a sales person for children’s books. Had I grown satisfied with the level of sales already attained and stopped trying to sell more books, I would not only have hurt myself but also held back the company I worked for. Worst of all, there would have been children who would not get the benefits of reading the books I had to offer. That would have been the real tragedy because my lack of effort would have deprived someone else of the joy of reading a great book. The same is so obviously true in ministry.

It is important to keep learning, growing and progressing in our life and work. As the servant of the congregational leaders in Canada East Mission, I offer my renewed pledge to guard against the temptation to plateau. At some point, I will need to retire or otherwise get out of the way so someone else can achieve the needed results. In the meantime, I will endeavor to continue learning new ideas and methods. I invite you to do the same.

Posted by Carman

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