Let it Ferment!

Are you trying hard to get something going, and it isn’t going anywhere? Maybe it’s a new ministry initiative, a better relationship with a church member, or a new approach to budgeting like a narrative budget. You try, and try, and it just doesn’t go anywhere.

What if you just let it sit for a while?

Lately I’ve been making sauerkraut and pickles. It’s like magic. You salt cabbage or put vegetables in brine at room temperature and things start to happen. You don’t have to do anything, just let it sit. My husband has always hated sauerkraut, but he likes this. It’s delicious! And it’s good for you, too.

Sometimes in ministry you have to let things sit. Sure, there’s plenty of hard work. But at times, things happen quietly on their own. For example, you make a case for more intergenerational ministry. No one responds. After a few attempts, you decide to let it go, and a while later (maybe even a few years…), surprise! Somebody says, let’s do this intergenerational ministry! And like magic, the ministry gets going. It’s been bubbling along without you doing anything.

Or you can work like crazy to heal a relationship with someone who is a challenge. Or you and someone else simply aren’t in sync. You have meeting after meeting, yet nothing changes. Then you decide there’s nothing more you can do. A month or a year later, something has shifted.

I can’t explain this. However, I do know that one action can affect many other pieces. Many factors are at work, even in myself, that I know nothing about. As with the sauerkraut, natural processes are at work.

Letting go of the outcome may be the most productive thing you can do. How do you know when to push through and when to wait? If you have consistently been proposing something, and no one says, “I’m interested.” Or if you’ve been taking action on something that is not going anywhere. Stop and reflect. Consider taking a break, whether it’s a ministry initiative or a relationship you’d like to improve. You may want to spend your energy elsewhere for a time.

Likewise, if you keep thinking, “I should do this…” but you have no energy for it, that may be a sign to let it lie fallow for a while. Discerning what not to do is at least as important as discerning what to do.

What can you let go and let ferment, at least for now?

Get a checklist for sustainable ministry here.