Friday, April 7, 2017

Is your church growing an audience or building an army?

One of the greatest hinderances to the expansion of God's Kingdom is the failure of churches to develop new leaders, pastors and missionaries. We have been pretty good at gathering an audience to worship services and even into bible studies and small groups but are very poor in discipling leaders who reproduce other leaders. When asked in a recent leadership study, 92% of the 2,000 pastors surveyed said developing leaders was critical to the health and development of the church.  Yet only one in four churches said they had any plan to develop leaders.

For many pastors, missionaries and leaders, their path to the ministry was that they participated in ministry and were inspired, felt a call by God or conviction to serve full time and "surrendered" to the ministry.  They were the bi-product of ministry.  For me, I was offered an opportunity to get paid for what I loved to do in an area of ministry (sports). As I developed my faith and leadership skills another door of ministry would open and I simply walked through it.

But for me, and many others, there was never an intentional effort from my church to develop me or anyone else for ministry beyond the specific needs of their church. And even when we needed a paid staff position, we never looked to the members who were being developed because none were. No, the staff just sent out a search comittee to interview candidates outside the church and hired the best one. I was the exception, one of the few members who went from volunteer to a ministry position.

I was fortunate to have had a mentor that spent countless hours pouring into me, but I was never exhorted to develop others or pursue a calling outside of my ministry at this church. I learned by osmosis and when I led our Singles ministry, I developed leaders in our Singles ministry because I needed young adults leaders to attract and disciple other young adults. I didn't really know what I was doing or had any plan. I discipled out of a need and did what my mentor had done with me. I had the pleasure of investing my life into many young leaders and continue to this day.

In most churches that I am familiar with, the pastor or the staff does all the leading and most all of the ministry in the church.  Yet, there is really only one job description in the Bible for pastors.  Ephesians 4:12 tells us that we are to equip the saints for ministry. And even when a church makes an effort to do just that, equipping the saints consists of teaching and training. We tend to either dump ministry upon volunteers (tell and command), or delegate (teach and train).  But there is a higher level that gets neglected because of a lack of time or incentive to develop leaders (mentoring, modeling and coaching).

There is little immediate benefit in developing so for most pastors, the weight of the desire and or need to grow the church, to get bodies into seats, money in the plate and volunteers into ministry positions takes precedence. The developing takes time, investing hours into another’s life.  Yet it is critical for the long term growth of the church and the Kingdom that pastors make a priority to develop leaders. Not out of a selfish, what can this person do for my church motive but for sake of the Kingdom.  Every leader in the church should always be mentoring, encouraging and developing at least two or three people who can be sent wherever God leads them to serve, minister and multiply other leaders.

If you are in ministry in a church or non-profit, what was your path to ministry? What part did your church play in your development?  Who are you developing now?  What strategy does your church employ to develop leaders?

For a great perspective on developing leaders in your church, check out this Carey Nieuwhof podcast.

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