Equipping the Saints for Ministry

As a writer for the Worship Facilities website, I was invited to attend the WFX conference in Dallas recently to cover the event. It was a great opportunity to meet church leaders from around the country and hear from insightful presenters. While I attended a variety of sessions with topics ranging from staff development to emergency preparedness, one common theme emerged…equipping the saints for ministry.

We’ve all had moments when we wonder why more people aren’t serving. We have volunteer signup campaigns, we appeal to people from the stage, and invite one-on-one. Even with all that effort, I’ve yet to meet a church leader who said he felt his congregation was fully engaged in ministry. So, what gives? Are people just being lazy? Are they not committed enough? Has our “me-first” culture infected the church? Perhaps those are factors, but I think we have to take a tough look at ourselves as leaders as well.

Instead of only asking people to sign up to volunteer, what if we took a different approach? What if we created a culture of ministry where every believer in our respective churches realized that he is responsible for some facet of ministry? What if we encouraged our congregations to do ministry in their day-to-day, even if it doesn’t involve the church?

Two speakers in particular, Pastor Miles McPherson and Pastor Ed Stetzer, addressed this concept and offered ideas to initiate change. Here are several key points to help us move towards creating a culture of ministry:

Inform & Invite

  • Pastor Miles talked about finding the pain in your community. Figure out what’s going on within a 10-20 mile radius from your church. Foster care agencies, homeless shelters, rehab facilities, and convalescent homes are good places to start.
  • Tell your congregation about what you found and invite them to offer ideas on how to alleviate the pain in their community.
  • The key is to inform them of the need, ask for their ideas, and then to equip those who want to start serving to actually lead it themselves. Don’t do the work for them – come alongside them but let them lead. Screen potential leaders, provide guidance, and offer advice as needed.

Encourage & Inspire

  • Pastor Stetzer mentioned reminding believers that they have a gift from God and they’re responsible for using it in ministry. Their ministry may include volunteering at your church, with your church, or outside your church. Don’t try to make people feel as though it’s not ministry if it’s not done with your church. A woman who takes meals to a new mom in her neighborhood or a man who mentors a college student are both using their gifts for ministry. We need to get out of the way, equip believers with a strong foundation of Biblical teaching, and be available to help when they have questions. As Pastor Stetzer stated, “If we do ministry in a way that disempowers people from being engaged in ministry, we’re doing it wrong.”

Develop Relationships & Mobilize

  • Another recommendation Pastor Miles offered was to develop relationships with local influencers and ask how you can help. Fire chiefs, school superintendents, city councilors, and other local officials are constantly bombarded with people asking them for things. When you offer friendship and practical help from your church, at first they may not know how to accept your service. Propose a few ideas and over time, they’ll see you’re serious about serving and will come up with ideas of their own.
  • Go outside the walls of your church and go to people who’re hurting. If your congregation becomes the hands and feet of Christ in your community, people will notice. They’ll wonder why you’re offering to serve with no expectation of receiving anything in return. They’ll see that these “church people” aren’t so judgmental or unapproachable after all. This can break down walls and attract people to come and see what your church is all about and come to meet the One who can truly change their lives.

These concepts aren’t a five-step magic formula to getting more volunteers – honestly, that isn’t even the point. The goal is changed lives – both the lives of those in your congregation and of the lost in your community. This type of change won’t occur overnight. This requires consistent, persistent, communication and effort to change hearts and behaviors. The key is to remember that your job isn’t to do all ministry work on behalf of your church. Your responsibility is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. You can’t be the lone ranger who does it all. That limits your capacity as a leader, can easily lead to burnout, and robs others of the chance to use the gift God has given them. Equip your congregation, offer guidance, be available to help when they need support, and trust God to use your collective efforts to draw others to Him.