Murphy’s Law for Churches: Lessons that Every Minister Needs

  • Church members living 15 miles away will be 15 minutes early and members living within 2.

   blocks will be 15 minutes late.

  • As soon as you pray, babies cry.
  • Church air conditioners and technology seem to rest on Sundays.
  • The probability of the pastor tripping over cords is greater in special holiday services than other times.
  • When the pastor misspeaks during a sermon more people will write it down and remember it more than the best biblical point in the message.

Do any of these situations sound familiar?  I am sure you have more than just these because weird stuff happens on Sundays.  No matter how much we try to be prepared “things” still happen on Sunday more than any other day of the week.  It seems that no amount of formal schooling can prepare us for the many encounters we experience in ministry.

On any given week I am wearing multiple hats. The various roles we play are astounding. As a Pastor we wear the hats of; preacher, teacher, evangelist, counselor, psychologist, banker, plumber, janitor, manager, CEO, EMT, EMCEE and host.

As I look back on my education and the process of preparing me for ministry, I am amazed that I was able to learn all I did in 11 years of formal education post High School.

I absolutely loved my education days. I loved college, seminary and even the doctoral days.

However, like many other ministers, I still felt ill-prepared for the calling I was given.

Here is what I have learned outside of the education process, things that every minster needs to know.


  1. How to plan for the annual life of the church. (Ministry Action Plan)

I am forever grateful to W.A. Criswell and Adrian Rogers for teaching me how to plan out the life of the church on an annual basis.  These men called it Biblical Intentional Planning. I called it a Ministry Action Plan.

From these men I learned that a church has 4 things and 4 things only;

  • People
  • Time
  • Buildings, and
  • Money  I learned how to build an annual plan of ministry that started with people that was supported by funding.  So many churches take what they have, money, and let that amount determine who they think they “can” reach. I learned that you start with people and let God provide (Mark 6:30-4).

This has been the greatest tool I have learned. Over the last 25 years I have taught this to thousands of churches. My eyes were opened to the daily operations of church that move the church forward annually with great intent and biblical content.


  1. Every minister needs to know how to manage Expectations.

I’ll admit that on many things I am a slow learner, and this is the big one. I am also very grateful and thankful to God for my wife. It was often her insight and discernment that gave me pause to make sure that what I said is the same as what the church heard.

It took me a while to learn that when I said church growth, I expected new people, new ministries, new horizons and new days of ministry. When the “church” heard church growth they heard, “enough money in the bank to pay bills.”  So, you can imagine my shock when they were against new.  New meant shaky ground of uncertainty. Certainty meant security and security was comforting.

Before Renovate was a term we called it “pastoring an unhealthy church.”  We all knew that leaving Seminary brought the challenge of taking an existent church and developing new life and new days of hope.

Knowing how to manage people’s expectations is huge. Clear communication and stated expectations clear the path for healthy ministry. When I learned how to manage people’s expectations, I could anticipate areas of potential conflict and resolve it before it was ever a question.

I have learned this lesson and how true it is;

“People are always down about what they are not up on.”  John Maxwell.

This does not mean that you have to explain everything to everybody before you can act but you need to know how to manage expectations.

Here is a quick look at how to do this: Anticipate fears, understand concerns, see it before you state it, provide a clear path of progress, establish biblical convictions and speak with the authority of the Holy Spirit.

This by the way is what is meant by “casting vision.”  Vision isn’t numbers and events. Vision is communicating how people encounter God in the process of doing ministry (Proverbs 29:11).  Vision according to Proverbs 29:11 is seeing God.  We can never answer all the questions, but we can manage expectations. Let them see God not just an agenda. A leader must think like the one in the pew.

  1. Ministry, Culture, and the Culture of Ministry changes rapidly.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible as it relates to thinking strategically is, I Chronicles 12:32, “Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command.”

The smallest of the tribes but without these thinkers, students of the times, many a battle would have been lost.  Pastor, it’s part of your calling to understand the times.

Ministry, culture and the culture of ministry changes rapidly. In the 40’s, 50’s and even 60’s ministry changed every 8-10 years.  As we entered the 80’s and 90’s the church growth movement ushered in a climate of change every 5 years.  Now it appears like we are changing every 2 years. With the introduction of technology and the loss of biblical, cultural convictions the response time for ministry seems as quick as a social media post goes viral.

Thousands of churches are falling behind in the area social media/digital ministries.  Our digital world makes dinosaurs of systems and establishments that are not part of and engaged in the digital world.

You might think that sounds hopeless, it’s not. Here’s the good news. Our culture has always been changing and always be. Ministry will always face the challenge of meeting people where they are with the unchanging message of the gospel.

The issue is not models of ministry. The issue is and always will be leadership.Think about it, Joshua crossed the Jordan, Moses parted the waters.  Leadership was the common denominator.

So, let me wrap all of this up while talking about this last lesson.

  • Murphy’s law: Inevitably when you are least prepared, you will be asked to speak.

So, Pastor, all of your education wasn’t meant to give you all th answers for all your encounters in ministry. Your education was meant to prepare you to be a self-guided learner, a constant student.

If there is one lesson, we should have learned in seminary it was this; I am always a student and I should never stop learning the different ways to cross water. So, when I get the call to cross, I am ready.