Are We Equipping the Saints for Ministry?

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One of my greatest surprises when asked to serve at my church
many years ago was that there were no prerequisites. I have been a
volunteer all my life, and have always been required to go to some
form of orientation or training. There were specific
responsibilities and expectations, and I was asked to commit for a
very specific period of time.

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So when I was asked to serve in my church, I thought, “This is
pretty neat-just jump right in and swim!” I quickly experienced a
new frustration in volunteer service, however; I didn’t know who to
ask for direction. I assumed someone would show me the ropes, and
they assumed I knew just what to do. And that was the problem.

Many churches are strong in the area of spiritual nurturing, but
fall short on the practical side. As near as I can tell, the church
is one of the only nonprofit organizations that depends almost
entirely on volunteers, yet offers or requires little or no
training.

Ephesians 4:12 commands us to ” Equip the
saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of
Christ.” Being intentional about inviting people into ministry in
an area in which they’re gifted and about which they’re passionate
is just the first step. We need to provide ongoing support in the
form of training, coaching, affirmation, and feedback.

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Churches need to offer training at every level of
service. The best training is done in the context of community.
Begin your ministry leadership training by sharing a meal together,
and use that time to share spiritual journeys, per­sonal stories,
and prayer before getting to the nuts and bolts of their
ministries. You’re inviting people to experience the joy of
service, so it should be creative and fun.

Be creative in planning training session-mix it up. You can
introduce small training segments within the body of an existing
meeting, or spend an hour on a training point before a meeting. If
you’re scheduling training as a separate function, consider
Saturday morning when people are fresh and focused. Try to avoid
scheduling training times on Sundays. They’re meant for celebration
and worship, and it’s the leader’s time to replenish and
refuel.

Your ministry leaders need to have a realistic idea of what to
expect, so don’t be afraid to deal with the tough issues. Address
conflict resolution, burnout, dealing with difficult people, and
terminating a volunteer. Working through real issues will better
prepare your ministry leaders to be effective and authentic in
their leadership.

Leadership development has traditionally fallen to clergy, but
it’s more appropriate and effective to share the task. As we equip
new leaders, our clergy can lead the elements focused on spiritual
direction and maturity. But practical, hands-on issues should be
led by those closest to the need. Your core team of ministry
leaders should be conscious of pushing this responsibility
downward.

I encourage you not to overlook the basic tools of good
equipping. Use accurate ministry descriptions, encourage volunteers
to share ministry by inviting others to join in the effort, and
encourage leaders to delegate tasks. Interview potential volunteers
effectively, establish ministry support teams (such as a calling
ministry), keep the ministry as your focus at regular meetings,
develop a plan and vision for each ministry, and set goals that get
you there.

These are just a few ideas to enhance the quality of service in
your church. Next time someone invites you to serve, ask, “Will I
be equipped to succeed in the task?” And before you invite someone
else to serve, make sure the answer to that question is “Yes.”

Sue Mallory is executive consultant to Church Volunteer
Central, author of
The Equipping Church, and co-author
of
The Equipping Church Guidebook. She’s also a frequent
contributor to Rev.
Magazine
.

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