How is Your Ministry Work MPG?

Posted by Aaron Buer on February 14, 2019

What’s the best car you’ve ever owned?

Maybe your first car comes to mind.

The freedom of leaving your parents’ house and driving on your own!

Sure it was rusty and falling apart and left a hole in the ozone above your hometown but...FREEDOM!

Maybe you had a sports car that pushed you back in your seat and made your heart race...before kids and the inevitable surrender to the minivan.

Or, maybe, like me, you had a car with insanely good gas mileage and every time you filled up your gas tank you just laughed at the other fools at the gas station who were paying AT LEAST double what you were paying for gas every month.

Ok. That sounds a little too maniacal but you get my point.

When I was 18 I bought a used Geo Metro.

It wasn’t cool.

In fact, when I took the girl who would become my wife on our first date and she saw my car for the first time she was noticeably disappointed.

No, my Geo Metro wasn’t cool at all.

It was tiny.

It was burgundy.

It was slow—like 0 to 60 in about 15 minutes.

BUT, it got 55 miles to the gallon!

I could drive for weeks without filling up!

I saved so much money and looked ridiculous doing it.

Now, this isn’t a post about cars.

I can’t emphasize enough how much I am NOT a car expert.

This is a post about ministry, leadership, fatigue, empowering people and fit.

You see, something my boss helped me see recently is that people aren’t all that different from cars.

We all have a limited supply of energy—think gasoline and how we burn through that supply of energy at a certain rate of energy.

When we reach the end of that supply of gasoline—when our tank is empty, we are done.

And, I mean DONE. Like, exhausted.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting.

You and I, based on how we are gifted and wired, churn through our tank of gas at different rates depending on the task we are doing.

In other words, certain tasks burn through my supply of energy very quickly and others...shoot!

Some tasks I can do all day and it barely affects me.

Let me show you what I mean, here’s a list of tasks and the mpg impact they have on me.

Sermon Prep 40 mpg
Returning Emails 10 mpg
Strategy, Vision Conversations 50 mpg
Confrontational Conversations 5 mpg
Pastoral Care/Counseling 10 mpg
Administrative Work/Organization 5 mpg

If this mpg thing has you lost, here’s a simpler explanation:
The higher the mpg, the farther I can go on 1 gallon of gas.

In other words, strategy and vision conversations barely drain my energy reserves while confrontational conversations drain me insanely fast.

Get it?

I can study for a sermon in a coffee shop somewhere for half the day and love it and feel great.

I still have half a tank of gas left for the rest of the day!

However, if I sat in the same coffee shop returning emails for half the day, by noon I would need a nap and a halftime locker room speech.


Because my tank is nearly empty.

In the same way, I can sit in a strategic vision meeting for half the day and at the end of it feel energized and ready to tackle whatever is next.

My tank is practically full!

But, if I had to confront an employee about their job performance and fill out expense reports, I would be almost useless for the rest of the day.


The gas light is pinging on the dashboard!

My tank is dangerously empty.

This analogy has an impact on each workday and may explain why some days you feel great at 5:00 pm and others you feel like a bear in need of hibernation.

But this analogy also has long-term implications.

I hope you catch this because it is critically important.

If you are regularly performing tasks that have a low mpg for you, the cumulative impact will be, how shall I say this...BAD.

I mean catastrophic.

Your job performance will suffer
You will not last long
You will crash emotionally and maybe even physically
This will hurt you and your church
This will impact other areas of your life

I believe that you and I were created for certain types of work.

Matching our gifting and wiring to the right tasks and roles is exhilarating.

Mismatching is inefficient at best and dangerous at worst.

There will be negative impact.

So, here’s what I’m not suggesting...Quit!

Or, if you are a manager and you’re realizing that someone under your care is operating in a role in which they perform at about 3 mpg...Fire them!

That’s not what I’m saying.

What I would suggest is exploring this idea of working and mpg rates in yourself and with your teams.

And, if necessary, shift responsibilities.

Optimize people and their roles by shifting certain aspects of the work and if necessary through supporting people in critical areas with outside help.

Wrap Up

And, if while reading about this post the truth hit you smack in the face...

I am in the wrong role and that is why I have been feeling so empty and drained.

It might be time for a conversation.

It’s not failure issue.

It’s a fit issue.

You were created and gifted to do important work but this might not be it.

Maybe it’s time to find the right fit because in that role you will thrive.

Hey, thanks for reading. I hope this has been helpful.

Feel free to ask a question or share your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you and we actually do respond.

Topics: Advice

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