Teachability Helps With Ministry Longevity

Top Text: Teachability and ministry longevity Image: a screen shot from a video from our bible study series on teachability

What do I preach next? What color do we paint the kid’s wing? Who do we hire next? What do we do for summer camp? How do we need to shift our strategy? Where should I get coffee with my small group leader?

As a pastor, you are always making decisions.

How do we ensure we make the best possible decisions? We need wisdom.

That’s where Solomon enters the picture for us. He didn’t want his son to get swept away in the cultural streams, so he passed his wisdom down to his kid in the form of bite-sized teachings called Proverbs. The result was, well, the book of Proverbs. This book, part of the wisdom literature genre,  has been used as a source of wisdom and guidance for centuries. Proverbs 4, in particular, focuses on Solomon’s favorite topic — teachability and the effects of walking in wisdom.

Proverbs 4:13

Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;

    guard it well, for it is your life.

NIV Bible

In verse 13 of this chapter, Solomon drives home the importance of holding onto instruction and guarding it well, as it is the key to life. Every pastor should pay attention and every leader should listen up. This principle rings especially true for us, understanding is your life. We must hold onto instruction and never let it go, because it will give us life. Strong’s Lexicon points out that this could translate either to it’s the “source of your life” or “the secret to a successful life.” We can infer, from the context of Proverbs, that Solomon believed both. When you are teachable, you are more successful. When you are willing to own your shortcomings, you live a happier life. When you are open to changing, growing, and developing, you are opening the door to a full life.

Teachability, therefore, is the key to ministry longevity. It makes sense too. When you are more pliable, you are less likely to break. When you allow instruction to mold you, ministry longevity becomes natural. For that reason, a leader who is open to learning and growing will be more effective in guiding others toward spiritual growth and maturity. On the other hand, a leader who is resistant to learning may find themselves struggling to stick it out due to frustration, tension, or even breaking. Teachability gives us the gift of pliability and adaptability. Don’t we all need that?

Speaking of adaptability, let’s talk about technology. When you think of the company Apple, you probably think of the iPhone, right? After all, it’s their bread and apple butter. However, in 2007, they were a computer company that dabbled in music devices. No one had any clue what this tech giant would become.  That year, the iPhone, a sleek and groundbreaking device, made its debut. However, instead of embracing the winds of change, Microsoft’s CEO laughed off the iPhone, dismissing it as a mere novelty that posed no real threat. In a now-notorious interview, Steve Baler laughed at his underdog rival, “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.”

He’s not laughing now. Apple went to revolutionize the smartphone industry while Microsoft watched from the sidelines. Apple is presently more profitable than Microsoft, which was once the most valuable company on Earth. For real, apple sold 10x more iPhones than MacBooks last year. The iPhone didn’t just make Apple a force to be reckoned with.  It also changed the landscape of communication as we know it. When it came to mobile phones, Microsoft had every reason to be on top.” They were in every home. Everyone knew about Microsoft and trusted them. However, they failed to adapt and they were swallowed up by Apple. Now, I doubt you can name 3 people with a Microsoft-branded phone.

What does this have to do with being a pastor? While our message is unchanging, our situations are ever-changing. We have new issues to explore, new people to serve, new headlines to address, and new challenges to confront. Our church culture is forever in flux. Wave after wave, changes come pouring in. If we are not adaptable, we can quickly get swept off our feet. We need wisdom to withstand these waves, and Solomon knew that wisdom was the secret weapon. Take a look at the following snippet of Proverbs four.

Proverbs 4:5-8

Get wisdom, get understanding;

    do not forget my words or turn away from them.

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;

    love her, and she will watch over you.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.

    Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Cherish her, and she will exalt you;

    embrace her, and she will honor you.

NIV Bible

Some of us struggle to be teachable. If we immediately assume they’re wrong when someone offers us kind correction, that’s not being teachable. If we refuse to change our strategy because it’s the way we’ve always done it, that’s not being teachable. If we have ignored the request from our spouse for the third time, that’s not being teachable. When we are teachable, we are pliable. When we are pliable, we are able to withstand the madness that is ministry.

Since teachability is key to ministry longevity, here are four steps to help you become more teachable.

Accept that you have more to learn.

Solomon keeps using the verb “get.” As in “get wisdom” and “get understanding.” This is built on on the assumption that we have come to receive, right? We must start with a humble posture of the heart. You do not have all the answers. You have not figured it out. In practice, acknowledging that there is more to learn might involve seeking advice or input from others, leaning on mentors, reading more than you’re preaching, and always checking a spirit of pride. This willingness to learn and grow will not only make you a better leader but also set a positive example for those whom you lead. Commit to continuous improvement. This means being proactive in seeking out opportunities for growth and development, both personally and in your ministry.

Ask a lot of questions.

Solomon encourages his son to “get wisdom and gain understanding” (4:5). How do we gain anything? By asking for it. How do we gain ideas? By asking questions. Please, insatiably curious. Ask questions far more than you rattle off answers. Seriously, when you when you don’t know something, own that fact, and seek out to gain that understanding. Ask questions during your Bible study, when you’re with fellow staff members, having breakfast with your group, or just walking through the park with your family. Ask questions, often.

Actively listen.

Let me be real, this is hard for me. When you ask a question, you need to be sure to actually listen to the answers. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. That’s where active listening comes in. Active listening involves being fully engaged in conversations, setting aside distractions, and genuinely seeking to understand the other person’s point of view. This skill not only helps us grow in our understanding, but it also models Christ-like empathy for our church body.

Listening goes beyond merely hearing words, it’s a dynamic engagement with the speaker’s heart and soul. When you actively listen, you create space for profound understanding. It’s a practice that extends beyond your ears; it involves your heart, your empathy, and your presence. While I pray that you have never been mid-conversation and realized you had no idea what the other person was saying, I am sure you have been there. So it’s pivotal that we listen with intention. Whether we are in a pastoral care session, on a call, in a staff meeting, or receiving a sermon critiqued. Actively listen then remember what you heard. When you show that you know what they said, it reveals your compassion and intention.

Always share what you’re learning.

As church leaders, we must remember that the pursuit of wisdom does not end with asking questions and listening. It is essential that we also share what we have learned with others. Far too often, leaders may hide their learning process from their congregation. I don’t know why we do this. Maybe it’s fear of being seen as flawed, imperfect, or vulnerable? I am not sure. However, I truly believe our people should see us as all three of those things. Why? Because that allows God’s glory to shine through us. However, this can be a powerful way to demonstrate teachability and encourage the same in those we lead. Don’t be afraid to invite others into your process.

As a pastor, your transparency in sharing what you’re learning is a powerful example to your people. It shows that you’re not just a vending machine of wisdom, but a fellow seeker of it as well. We need to celebrate it, because teachability leads to growth and development. By modeling your own teachability, you set your people up to begin flourishing on their own as well.

Teachability is the key to ministry longevity for both you and your ministry at large. By accepting that there is more to learn, asking questions, actively listening, and sharing what we’ve learned, we model a healthy posture to our people. Furthermore, we allow ourselves to stick it out long-term, because teachability sets us up for pliability. Really let Solomon’s words simmer in your soul.  “Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it.” Can’t you just hear him saying that to his teenage son? “Hey, buddy, listen up! Don’t forget this.”

By embracing teachability, we can ensure that our ministries remain vibrant, effective, and, most importantly, grounded in the ways and wisdom of God. May we always strive to be open to learning, willing to listen, and eager to share the insights we gain along the way. In doing so, we can mature into the leaders that God has called us to be.

Because I truly believe He has something more in store for you.

You can listen to the full message here:

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This blog contains leadership material from The Pastor Circle. What is THE PASTOR CIRCLE?

We recently asked ourselves, “how can we serve pastors more personally?” The Pastor Circle is the answer.

It’s a virtual small group community of pastors who understand what you’re going through and want to offer you godly support and guidance. We meet on Zoom once a month to listen to a short devotional and topic introduction, followed by a small group discussion. We hope to see you there next month! Click here to learn more.