Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mobilizing Members for Ministry

One of the greatest needs in churches is to release the members for ministry.  A Gallup survey reveals that 50 percent of all church members have no interest in serving in any ministry.  Think about that!  No matter how much a church promotes involvement in lay ministry, half of its members will not get involved.  And that’s okay… people are extremely busy and have very full lives.

The encouraging news, however, is that this same survey reveals that most of the other 50 percent of members have expressed an interest in having a ministry.  This group is an untapped goldmine.

Americans today have less discretionary time today than they had in the 80s, so optimizing their volunteerism is essential.  If a person comes to me and says, “Pastor, I have four hours a week to give to the church” the last thing I will do is put him on some committee.  I want him to get involved in ministry, not maintenance.

There is a difference between ministry and maintenance.  Maintenance is “church work” – administration, budgets, buildings, legal matters, compliance with state and federal law, organizational matters, bills to pay, policies to write, and so forth.  Ministry is “the work of the church” – helping people, meeting needs, making disciples, and so forth.  The more people we involve in maintenance decisions, the more we waste their time and keep them from actual ministry, and create conditions for conflict.  Maintenance work also conditions people to think that their responsibility is fulfilled by simply voting on church business.

A common mistake made by many churches is to take their best and brightest people and place them on committees.  You drain the life out of people by scheduling a constant string of committee meetings.  We have no committees at PCC.  We do, however, have more than sixteen ministry teams.  I would like to see that number expand.

What is the difference between a committee and a lay ministry?  Committees discuss it, but ministries do it.  Committees argue, ministries act.  Committees maintain, ministries minister.  Committees discuss needs, ministries meet needs.

Committees also make decisions that they expect others to implement.  At PCC, the implementers are the decision makers.  We do not separate authority from responsibility, but trust people with both.  This makes committees irrelevant.  We don’t give decision-making authority to those who do not minister.

Who, then, does the maintenance (administration) at PCC?  The paid staff does. This way we don’t waste any of our members’ valuable time.  People really appreciate the fact that the time they volunteer is given to actual ministry.

I’m sure you can see how radical this approach is.  PCC is structured in the exact opposite way of most churches.  In the typical church, the members handle all the maintenance (administration) and the pastor is supposed to do all the ministry.  No wonder the church can’t grow!  The pastor becomes the bottleneck.  There is no way that one man, or a small number of paid staff, can minister to all the needs in the church.  He will eventually burn out or have to move to another church for relief.

Conversely, when 50 percent of the congregation is mobilized to do hands-on ministry, more needs can be met, more disciples made, more hurts healed, and more lives changed.  Why?  Because hundreds of ministers can accomplish more than one minister.

Once a church gets up to 300-400 in attendance, no single person or board can know everything that’s going on in the church.  I haven’t known about everything that happens at PCC for years.  I don’t need to know about it all!  You might ask, “How do you control it?”  My answer is:  “I don’t.  It’s not my job to control the church.  It’s my job to manage and lead it.”  Big difference.  Our pastors and staff are responsible to keep the church doctrinally pure, organizationally sound, on mission, and headed in right direction, but most of the ministry decisions are made by the people actually doing the ministries of the church.

We are serious about mobilizing our members for ministry, which is why we have streamlined our structure:  we can deploy people into ministry easily while minimizing unnecessary administrative involvement.  The more organizational machinery a church sets up, the more time, energy, and money it takes to maintain it –  resources that could be invested in ministry to people instead.

People are happier, more harmonious, and have higher morale when they are released to do ministry.  Fulfillment comes from helping people, not from administrative maintenance.

In war, you always find the highest morale and sense of camaraderie among those one the front lines.  You don’t have time to argue and complain when you’re in a fox hole dodging bullets.  Ten miles back, however, soldiers in the rear echelon grumble about the food, the lack of hot water for showers, and the lack of entertainment.  The conditions are not nearly as bad as those on the front line, but people are critical because they’re not occupied with the battle.  Whenever I meet critical and cantankerous Christians, I usually discover that they’re not involved in a ministry.  The biggest complainers in any church are usually committee members with nothing else to do.

My guess is that the average church would be healthier if it eliminated most of its committees and business meetings to allow for more ministry and relational evangelism.

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