Bishop Will Willimon: Three Signs of a Miserable Job

Every person who joins the North Alabama Cabinet ... reads a book that has revolutionized our ministry of oversight: Marcus Buckingham's First Break All the Rules. Now Mike Stonbraker has had the Cabinet read a related book, Patrick Lencioni's Three Signs of a Miserable Job. Miserable jobs share three things: Anonymity, Irrelevance and Immeasurement.


Fulfillment of any job requires being known by the management. "All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority." (p.221) The Cabinet has learned that following up with responses on our weekly Dashboard reports is one way we can show that no one is just blending into the system. It is pertinent for us to make sure all our pastors are aware that those of us who are in the ministry of oversight know them, down deep, and that we know the challenges they are tackling.


Lencioni defines irrelevance as knowing that your job matters. This is one of the greatest stresses of being a pastor. Many times we do not see the finished product. "It's so ridiculously clear, and yet almost none of the managers out there take the time to help their people understand that their jobs matter to someone! (p.133)

DS's must never require pastors to do "busy work" or to attend meaningless meetings. "If a manager has any responsibility in the world, it's to help people understand why their work matters. If they don't think that's their role, then they're the ones who don't deserve their job." (p.134). Much of what we do may not have effect for years to come. How one impacts another's soul may never be known except by God. So this brings us to the final stage.


For Lencioni this is focused more on an individual gauge of measurement than overall corporate gauging. We can set up the benchmarks, but there still has to be a personal sense of measuring success and accomplishment. "...if a person has no way of knowing if they're doing a good job, even if they're doing something they love, they get frustrated." (p.128). He goes on to say that it is all about feedback. Buckingham says, "people don't change that much. Don't waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That's hard enough." (p.79) No pastor excels in every area of ministry. "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?...but covet earnestly the best gifts." (1 Corinthians 12:29 and 31) We must help pastors measure those areas that are important for the life of the church and areas in which a pastor excels.

Measurement is necessary for accountability. Immeasurement robs pastors of the joy of saying, "God did that through me," and "I am going to improve in this area and measurement will confirm when I improve." "Because people who aren't good at their jobs don't want to be measured, because then they have to be accountable for something. Great employees love that kind of accountability. They crave it. Poor ones run away from it." (p.131)

Mike Stonbraker says that after reading Lencioni he, as a District Superintendent, was led to ask some self-assessment questions that might help our pastors to have more fulfilling ministries: Do I really know my people? Do they know how their work impacts, and how? Do they know how to assess their own progress and success?

Through the North Alabama Conference Dashboard and other changes in the way we are working, those of us in the ministry of oversight can be used by God to make ministry more fulfilling for all our pastors.

Will Willimon

[Taken with permission from "A Message from Bishop Will Willimon," May 31, 2010. North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.]