Trying to lead people in ministry can sometimes be a bit perplexing. As a leader, there are those times when you have created and cast a vision for specific ministry initiatives only to have your people look at you like you are crazy. You are filled with enthusiasm and excitement about the possibilities for Kingdom impact, yet your enthusiasm is not transferred to the people. Some will join you in the work because that’s what they do, regardless of what the work is that needs to be done. They just want to encourage you as the leader or they are convinced that being busy is the key to their spiritual growth. Others will half-heartedly try if you needle them enough. However, most of the people will give little more than their verbal support of what you are trying to do because the bottom line is they are just not interested.
As a pastor, we tend to endear the first group, become frustrated with the second group and start to ignore the third group. Some leaders will even remind themselves of what the leadership gurus teach, “You have go to move with the movers.” But what if I am ignoring the Spirit of God and how God desires to work through people to do the work of ministry? As pastors, we are good at saying, “You need to discover your spiritual gifts and use them to serve the Lord.” We even help people with spiritual gift inventories to begin to discern what their spiritual gifts may be. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, I think it is insufficient to get the job done of equipping the saints for the work of ministry.
Consider this scenario: A church member is growing in his knowledge and understanding of God’s Word through personal Bible reading and small group discipleship. He even utilizes a couple of spiritual gift inventories to begin to understand what gifts God may have trusted to him. Once he starts to get an idea of what he should be doing he looks at the church’s ministry program structure and asks, “What now?” The well-meaning pastor tends to answer the church member based on areas with volunteer needs. While what the pastor should do is take the time to ask the church member one more question, “What are you passionate about?” The answer to this question becomes the catalyst for the pastor helping the church member begin to fully utilize his spiritual gifts for the Kingdom of God.
Continuing with the scenario from above: What if the church member has the gifts of service and organization? The likelihood is that he will be directed to existing ministries that might allow him to use these gifts; such as greeter/hospitality ministry. He might enjoy this for a while because it is new to him. However, if he is not passionate about greeting people, making coffee and making small talk then he is going to feel like a fish out of water very soon. What if the pastor had asked him what he is passionate about before directing him to a ministry area and had learned that he is passionate about technology and the use of social media/internet communications. As a leader you are now armed with enough information to help this growing disciple plug into ministry that can utilize his gifts and his passions which in turn is more likely to lead to long-term Kingdom impact. This church member would likely be better suited helping to develop and maintain the church’s website, social media outlets and media presentations.
While it is important for Christians to know how God has gifted them for service in the Kingdom, it is equally important that we as leaders help them understand how they can maximize their gifts by serving in the areas of their passions.
Here are at least five reasons that plugging people into areas of their passions will maximize their ministry service:
- You won’t have to beg them to serve. If you are going to have to beg them to do the work then it is going to be nothing but frustration on your part. However, when they are serving in their areas of passion they are motivated to do the work because it is what they WANT to be doing.
- They are more likely to take ownership for the work. This is critical for the ongoing development of ministry and ministry leaders. I cannot afford to be the point person for every ministry in my church. It just will not work. When we plug people into their areas of passion they want to take the lead.
- Creativity will flourish because they will be more likely to use their gifts. Anybody can learn to do just enough to get by. But when people are serving in their areas of passion they will bring their entire array of gifts and talents to bare on the ministry. This means it will go further and higher than you as the leader could have imagined on your own. They will be able to take your vision for ministry and enhance it for the glory of God.
- Other volunteers will be recruited and assimilated more naturally. Leaders will develop other leaders. (Click here for more on this.) If you have developed a leader to take initiative and ownership for an area of ministry, then he or she should be able to duplicate that in the lives of others. People with similar passions tend to hang around together and know one another. This means that a trained leader will do a better job of recruiting other volunteers than a generic pulpit plea for volunteers; though pulpit support is needed to encourage the leaders.
- An environment of trust will be fostered. When church members begin seeing the pastor (and staff) willing to trust people to serve in areas of their passions rather than just filling spots on the organizational chart, then they will be more likely to trust the pastor (and staff). This mutual trust will strengthen the entire church to commit to the church’s vision. People will be more willing to volunteer and serve knowing that they are not viewed as just another “number”, but as a valuable individual whom God has created and gifted for His service.