Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Empowering & Platforming Young Adults for Leadership

It was he (God) who gave…… some to be pastors and teachers... to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… (Ephesians 4:11-12 NIV, abbreviated for emphasis).

The ministry must be given away. God’s will is not for the pastor to do it all, but rather that he be an equipper of others. Ephesians 4:11-12 above clearly states that one of the roles of pastors is to equip/prepare/train other people for the work of the ministry.

Young people and young adults should be included in the ministry. They have been given gifts by God and possess great potential to advance God’s kingdom. They can be an enormous asset to the local church ensuring its future. Waiting until the old guard dies off before deploying younger leaders is a mistake – it’s too late.

I’ve always been mindful of how important developing others, especially younger adults, really is. Over the years we have been deliberate about targeting certain individuals, developing them, and deploying them into a servant role at PCC. As a result we have a very strong church of dedicated disciples and servants. Most of the ministry at our church is carried out by a very large team of kingdom-minded servants, because the sheer volume of work could not be accomplished otherwise. In this mix of volunteers and staff is a good group of younger adults. We don’t clip their wings; we encourage them to fly.

Still, we have much more to do.

To accomplish this, young adults must be empowered AND platformed. We’ve always be intentional about empowering people. But that’s not enough. We must “platform” them also. Platforming means granting someone with the “symbols” of authority. It tells everyone that this person has significant juice and influence in the church.

Being endued with symbols of authority is Biblical. Jesus was called Rabbi. Paul was called an apostle, as were the other twelve. Others throughout the New Testament were called elders, deacons, deaconesses, evangelists, teachers, fellow servants, etc. The titles these people had and the roles they filled where symbols of authority - i.e., platforming.

Today these symbols of authority vary from one organization to another, as well as from one church to another based upon their form of government and structure. But everyone within knows exactly what they mean. For instance, in the business world it’s the corner office. In an academic setting, it’s the letters written beside your name; the difference between being called a “professor” or “instructor.” In a church, it’s the title you are given, the role you are allowed to play, and a host of other subtle symbols.

Many Christians people grew up in a church where the pastor was the only “real” pastor. He was the one who carried out the symbolic duties of spiritual authority; communion, baptisms, weddings, funerals, and teaching. That sent a strong message to every other young leader that if you wanted to be a pastor, you’d better go somewhere else to do it. His was a platform not to be shared.

The senior pastor’s hogging of the symbols and platforms of spiritual leadership also sends a strong message to the congregation. If someone is in the hospital, he has to be the one to visit. His are the only prayers that count. If someone needs spiritual counsel, or even the keys to the church kitchen, he is the one you call. Even worse, many people in the congregation expect it to be this way! The pastor is the only one that is good enough for them.

The result is an overwhelmed pastor and other leaders who have been devalued.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Leaders who willingly share the symbols of a church’s power experience a completely different reality. Since their young leaders don’t have to go elsewhere to fly, they tend to stay. When a congregation has other gifted, powerful, and appropriately platformed leaders to choose from, people will start turning to them for spiritual counsel, as well as the keys to the kitchen, significantly lightening the load of the pastor.

We can platform people in many ways. Most involve simply stepping back and sharing some of the roles and duties that others currently carry out. That’s why I have continually given the ministry away over the years. I’m not the only one who baptizes, serves communion, visits hospitals, offers prayers, or leads up-front events. These same duties are carried out by our small group leaders, staff members, and other gifted persons in our church family.

Another way to properly platform young leaders is with appropriate titles. They are powerful symbols that cost nothing to give away except a willingness to share our church’s prestige with others.

Take a look around PCC and you’ll see what I mean. Titles are everywhere. Some are formal, others less so. We have directors, team leaders, ministry leaders, “heads of”, and overseers. Look on the back of the Sunday bulletin and you’ll see titles related to our age-level ministries. We even use the word pastor in the plural (i.e., pastors) communicating the idea that more than one pastor leads this church.

There are some people in this church family that I don’t want to lose. They are gifted, called of God, and can bring much to the table. I don’t want them to consider leaving PCC as an option if they want to get a spiritual promotion. I believe they can be promoted, deployed, and utilized to the fullest extent of their giftedness right here! To that end I will do everything I can to make that happen.

I’m even thinking about doing away with the title of “senior pastor” for myself. Here’s why: the title senior pastor implies that all others are “associate” pastors. In fact, most church’s use that designation. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the title “associate pastor,” but it has come to mean (in many people’s mind) that you are either too young or either lack the skills to be a senior pastor. So people assume that anyone who has the title of “associate pastor” will be leaving soon for an upgrade.

Ironically, achieving the title of “senior pastor” is always seen as a promotion even if the new church is smaller and the circle of influence is much smaller than in the “associate” days. Apparently, there is a lot of power in the word senior. That’s why I want to change the nomenclature (i.e., system of names) at PCC in regards to pastors.

It should be apparent that visible changes are taking place in our worship band on Sunday mornings too. There are now two worship teams, with each team serving one month at a time. New musicians are being trained and used. Young adults and teenagers are in the mix. Some of the team members are filling new roles. And yes, more changes are on the way and new talent is going to be deployed.

Our Seminar System (101 & 201) is on the drawing board right now getting an overhaul, and the content is being rewritten. When finished, these seminars will be taught by a teaching team – not only by me. This will communicate loud and clear that there are other important people teaching at Pace Community Church.

All of this illustrates an important point about platforming – aspiring leaders know they don’t have to go elsewhere to fly.

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