An Empowering Ministry Model

Maybe you read the last post and you are thinking, “This guy must be house church.” Or “He doesn’t know how much work being a pastor is.” I’m not, and I do. I’m just realizing that the core problem we need to solve is how to give rather than consolidate responsibilities. What’s needed is a new conception of the leader of the church. So I’m working through an alternative model of how to enable people to grow. Here are my working thoughts.

  1. The leader of the church should be the conductor of the symphony not the star of the show. The leader’s job is to maximize the fruitfulness and growth of the people on his team, and their job in turn is to do the same for those they lead. For those who see things through an authority paradigm, let me put it this way: you’re not divesting yourself of authority, you are making it less visible. Think to yourself, “Whenever I as leader take on a responsibility, I’m taking it from someone else.” Furthermore, when I take “important” jobs and give away the “unimportant” jobs, I’m communicating that I’m important and others are unimportant. Ouch. That will not build team ministry, I promise.
  2. “Church” should be seen as a fellowship of ministers rather than a place, a service, or a gathering. My Biblical picture of this is Nehemiah. Basically everyone had a place along Nehemiah’s wall regardless of their vocation. All held a load in one hand and a sword in the other. My secular picture of this is a Partnership. In a partnership there are many owners. In a corporation, everyone works works for the CEO in a pyramid structure.
  3. The primary job of the fellowship is to grow people, and identify the place along the wall where they will make the most difference and find fulfillment, and then to help them do it! This means provide the people, the training, the money, any resources needed to help people build God’s Kingdom in the way they are passionate about. Most churches operate on one of two extremes they either push people into roles they aren’t necessarily excited to perform, or they encourage them to “find their destiny” or “go ahead and start something.” Neither one of these will get the job done. We have to show people what there is to be done, and give them opportunity to walk in one of those paths before they will know.
  4. Roles are fluid, just like people. People grow and situations change. Moreover, many people have a wide variety of talents. That means we need to stop thinking about a particular ministry as a long term “calling” and more like a short to medium term “role.” I’ve done kids church, adult education, worship, prayer, pastoral counseling, etc. If someone had limited my life to one of these, I would have been stunted, and someone else would have missed their opportunity to grow.
  5. Resources should chase results. As a fellowship of ministers, we can think of ourselves like an investment group. We want to invest in the places and people that are getting results at that time. If we think giving the staff a raise will produce more results, we should do that. If we think that investing in a better website or facility will produce more results we should do that, but the bottom line is that we should make effort to economize our time and money and then invest it where it’s going to do damage to Satan’s kingdom.

These things change the game for the ministry men in the church. Instead of a race to get into the leadership seat where there is freedom and pay, it’s a team sport to grow God’s Kingdom. Now this does not mean that we never put people into full time ministry, it just means that we make that decision with different glasses on. Perhaps the first person to be paid is a young single guy who can evangelize full time for a thousand dollars a month and place to sleep. Maybe instead of hiring associates, we find ways to farm out the “counseling” to guys who have other jobs. Maybe we even give them a stipend for the sacrifice. Why does it sound crazy to us to pay a member of the congregation to minister part time, but it doesn’t to pay someone to do the same thing full time? Maybe our traveling guys really get priority. The fellowship makes a pointed effort to keep people out on the field advancing.

You can get away with not having the senior leader paid for a lot longer when he is not the personal incarnation of prophet priest and king. By the way, few men are better at all three roles that the best of exemplar of each from their congregation. If he is not preparing every week for every sermon, and doing most of the counseling, and making most of the decisions, then the investment needed on his part is much lower and comparable to the other members of the team. Rotate the preaching responsibilities. Spread the counseling around. Focus on empowering others to grow and advance. Part of this is by not hogging the responsibilities. This doesn’t mean you should not ever go full time, but do so when it meets the “results” criterion above. Once you reach a point where the responsibilities are shared, but it is clear that making you full time is going to really help the ministry, that’s a reasonable time.

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2 Comments

  1. What I appreciate about this post is that I feel it casts a unique and workable vision for God’s desire that everyone “play” on His team. Although the heart of the New Testament I believe is that ALL believers are “ministers of reconciliation” and thus ministers, our present church model still feels much like a “priestly” model. The Priest/Pastor is really the minister and everyone else serves as they are able. The ministry model you describe makes great gains in providing a system that truly empowers the “lay” person (we need a new term) to walk in their biblical identity – the identity of “minister” without feeling like a poser or some pastor wannabe.

  2. Just to add… I think pastors are a critical part of the Body of Christ as God has “given some” as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints.” – God’s blessings

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