H. B. London expresses the feeling of many pastors in his book Your Pastor is an Endangered Species, when he writes, “pastors serve in a me-centered world where church members and attenders are becoming more and more apathetic.” While few would argue with London’s assessment that our society has become more self-centered, we must ask if pastors are training their congregations to be part of the solution or part of the problem. Fred Lehr works with pastors who have experienced burn out. He writes in his book, Clergy Burnout: Recovering from the Seventy Hour Work Week and Other Self Defeating Practices that “the volume of responsibilities dumped on the clergy is inordinate, and because we clergy are so codependent, we accept that burden, rescue the laity from their responsibilities, and suffer the consequences.” Pastors must learn to let go of their own need to be in control. Pastors must help the laity accept more responsibility for the ministries of the church. Pastors may be surprised just how much lay people are willing to do if only they are asked and then trained properly.
Simply making announcements at worship services will probably not produce the level of commitment needed to provide significant assistance to pastors. Dennis Bickers correctly observes in his book, The Bivocational Pastor: Two Jobs, One Ministry, that “a bivocational minister should not expect to find lay leaders who are capable of serving on leadership teams without investing time and energy in training them.” Pastors must make time in their own schedules to develop leaders. Pastors must then be willing to release significant responsibilities to the individuals they train.
Pastors should make sure their sermons include teaching on spiritual gifts and the importance of using those gifts for God. Pastors must find ways to highlight practical examples of what lay people can do to help lead the church. Once lay people begin to understand that they are needed and gifted for ministry, they will be more willing to accept responsibility for ministry leadership.
Pastors should not wait for people to step forward and volunteer. They should be constantly looking for parishioners with leadership potential. Pastors should have an ongoing and intentional plan for discovering, enlisting, training, and releasing lay people for ministry.
Building effective leadership teams in the church will not be an easy task. Differences in personalities, communication styles, and life experiences will be obstacles to be overcome for effective teams to emerge. Drawing on his years of research, George Barna concludes in his book, Today’s Pastors, that “a team mentality does not spontaneously arise with the church. A leader must instill the vision for team play among the players and create an environment in which those players work together toward a common end. The objective is to glorify God through acts of personal spiritual growth and community service.” Though the challenges to building such team environments in the church are significant, the end result is worth it.
The above is an excerpt from the book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. The book gives six easy to use lessons that pastors can use to teach lay people to make visits and share the preaching responsibilities with their pastor. Though there are many other things lay people can do, preaching and visitation are two of the most time consuming. If the pastor can allow lay people to share these two important ministries, it can remove significant levels of stress from the pastor.