The primary function of the pastor’s leadership ought to be helping their people discover and unleash the ministry potential God has placed inside of them. Congregants are not to be merely gathered, counted, organized, and assigned volunteer positions as cogs in our ministry machines. They are to be empowered into their own ministries.
Training leaders is different from recruiting volunteers. “Volunteers” primarily serve as cogs in the machine that a leader has built. Leaders generate their own ideas, and usually want to build their own machines. I’m not downplaying the need for volunteers: our church has more than 1,200 faithful volunteers who execute our services each weekend. I’m saying that great churches will do more than simply recruit volunteers — they will multiply leaders.
Do You Have a Process?
If you are a ministry leader, ask yourself this question: Do you have a clear process for identifying and training up new leaders in your church, and for helping ordinary congregation members generate good ideas? In The Leadership Baton, Bruce Miller points out that while most leaders acknowledge an urgent need to raise up leaders in the church, they “have no apparent strategy for developing [those] leaders.” Without a clear process it is unlikely to happen.
We once offered ten $1,000 grants to the small groups that could come up with the best “community blessing” ideas. As with any other grant, they submitted proposals that we judged, and then we awarded the top ten ideas so the groups could pursue them. It was the best $10,000 we ever spent on community ministry, launching ministry that goes on to this day! But even greater was the effect this exercise had on the psychology of our church members: It challenged them to see their community through the eyes of the Spirit and empowered them to pursue what the Spirit put into their hearts.
If you want to be a “sending” church, you have to develop a process for producing leaders. Without a process, it is unlikely you will move the leadership needle much in your church. As the old saying goes, insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. To produce leaders, you have to think and act differently.
Have you taken up your responsibility as a ministry multiplier? Real leaders are not those who simply get the job done. Leaders empower others to get the job done. “Doing something well” does not a leader make. “Empowering others to do it well” does.
One of the Hardest Things to Do
Churches that take Jesus’ promises and the Great Commission seriously are committed to sending out some of their best leaders into the mission. Honestly, this is one of the hardest things for me to do: finding someone with great potential, developing them, and then watching them leave to establish a ministry somewhere else. Down in your heart you know you ought to be happy about this — but still, they are no longer there benefiting your church.
But here’s a principle we have learned that sustains us when our courage flags. This principle is of such crucial importance it needs its own paragraph:
Sending out leaders creates more leaders. What you send out inevitably comes back to you in multiplied form.
A Pattern Jesus and the Apostles Established
God sent his best to the world (John 1:14), and through his sacrifice we live. Everything else in the kingdom grows in the same way… the harvest comes only as seeds are planted and die (John 12:24). Life in the world comes only through the death of the church.
—J. D. Greear, Gaining by Losing. This book will help you establish a repeatable process for developing and sending out new leaders.
How to Use This Book
Gaining by Losing will challenge your scorecard for gauging success in ministry. Success isn’t about seating capacity; it’s about sending capacity. You will see why this approach is deeply biblical, and then discover how to create a sustainable, thriving “sending culture” in your own church.
Gaining by Losing
Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send