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How to be excellent: Guidance for young ministers

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‘The God we serve is a God of excellence” and so “the minister of God … should always be for excellence,” argues O.J. Shabazz in his new book, “Excellence in Ministry.”

A longtime African American minister, Shabazz has served churches in Memphis, Tenn., Detroit, and currently, the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.

O.J. Shabazz. “Excellence in Ministry: A Guide to Protocols and Etiquette for Church Leaders.” O.J. Shabazz Ministries. 2023. 153 pages. $19.97

O.J. Shabazz. “Excellence in Ministry: A Guide to Protocols and Etiquette for Church Leaders.” O.J. Shabazz Ministries. 2023. 153 pages. $19.97

To assist in mentoring younger ministers, Shabazz has compiled this book of practical guidance for ministry based on his extensive experience, including 23 years at the Harlem Church of Christ. While not a lengthy piece, the book contains numerous helpful tidbits, particularly for a minister starting out in a new church setting.

Shabazz frames the book using the words “etiquette” and “protocols.”

Etiquettes would be ministry principles that are expressed or inferred from Scripture, while protocols would be the appropriate practices or norms that a minister should follow.

Both frameworks are needed if a minister is going to do his work in excellence, Shabazz suggests.

Various ministry topics are discussed, including determining the best context for ministry, the first year of ministry, navigating relations with the previous minister, dealing with change, leadership dynamics, guest speakers and even officiating weddings and funerals.

For each subject, Shabazz presents guiding principles and proper practices to follow — if the minister desires excellence in his ministry.

Throughout these chapters, helpful snippets abound. For example, do not make changes during your first year of ministry, manage the relationship with the previous minister cordially and respectfully, and beware of passive-aggressive leaders who do not oppose you publicly but sabotage you privately.

O.J. Shabbaz

O.J. Shabbaz

One favorite highlight was Shabazz’s description of the “spend down.” When a new minister arrives at a new church, he has a honeymoon period. Then, as the minister begins to make changes, the leadership will go along, at first. But the minister is spending down his favors.

If he continues to make changes too quickly, eventually the honeymoon will be over because he has spent all his goodwill and the relationship between the minister and the church leaders is now rocky. Do not move too fast as a young preacher, urges Shabazz.

Administrative matters are touched on as well: navigating IRS regulations for churches, delegating as a leader, upholding sexual integrity and handling criticism. Shabazz cautions about controversy.

People often avoid worship assemblies when negativity is present, so rather than create controversy, seek to cultivate stability, as stability is important for growth, Shabazz advises.

Related: Special project: Sacred Calling

The book offers time-tested tips for a young minister who is starting a successful ministry. I was particularly pleased to see this book because few ministry books exist from an African American perspective.

Shabazz has done the church a great service by capturing key lessons that he has learned from a lifetime of ministry, organizing them and writing them down for the next generation. Hopefully, that means more churches will be experiencing excellence in ministry.

STEVE CLOER directs the Doctor of Ministry program for Harding Graduate School of Theology in Memphis, Tenn. Cloer preached for 15 years for the Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Filed under: black churches book reviews Excellence in Ministry Features O.J. Shabazz preaching Reviews Top Stories

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