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.” Many pastors are frustrated because every year it seems that fewer and fewer lay people are willing to serve on committees or accept volunteer positions in the church. A few days ago I wrote a post about how pastors need to learn to delegate. One pastor posted a response that lamented that "it is difficult to get the church body to do the things that need done." Most pastors would agree with that statement.
But I wonder sometimes if we pastors have unintentionally taught the people in our congregation to be spectators instead of leaders. One pastor friend of mine insists on printing the bulletin himself. He says this is because no one in the congregation is willing to do it correctly. When I asked if he had ever showed anyone how to do it correctly, he said no. How can we expect a person to serve correctly if we have never trained them? Another pastor friend of mine teaches all the adult Bible studies himself. He says he is the only one who knows the Bible well enough to teach it. While that may have been true when he first went to the church, after more than a decade of service to that congregation, why has no one in his church learned enough yet to be able to teach a Bible study? Why has he trained no one how to teach in a decade?
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 how much lay people are willing to do if only they are asked and then trained properly and then loosed to do the ministry.
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. Pastors must resist the urge to micro-manage the people whom they select and train. 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.
Dennis Bickers writes in his book, The Bivocational Pastor: Two Jobs, One Ministry, that pastors "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. When lay leaders have been trained, and then are allowed to do what they have been trained to do, it is amazing what they are able and willing to do.
This post is adapted from ideas in the book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. The book includes six practical lessons that pastors can use to teach lay people how to assist in the ministries of the church. Though written specifically for bivocational pastors, nearly 3000 churches of various sizes are using the concepts found in this book.