Last July, while volunteering at a Group Week of Hope mission trip, I realized I’m still a recovering “one-man-band”. As part of the “Red Shirt Team” I thought I’d go the extra mile to help the youth who had been assigned the final breakfast shift. I got up early and did all the prep and set-up myself. (Yes, I’m that good!)
No! Instead of being greeted with their gratitude, six students, and their adult leader, gave me chilling looks and said, “Why didn’t you let us do it?” I didn’t have an answer. I robbed them of the joy of serving—not to mention the fact that they woke up at 6 am to help!
Many of us went into ministry because we want to serve. We want to help people. Simply stated, we want to do ministry. Shifting from a “doing” leader to an “equipping” leader is easy to read and talk about, yet hard to do.
The application of the Ephesians 4 message is a new reality for many church leaders. Unfortunately, many seminaries don’t train to this theology, let alone teach the practical components necessary for equipping leadership. When we combine our lack of training with the desire to serve…it’s no wonder we struggle to live into this reality.
In her book, The Equipping Church, Sue Mallory states, “It’s not a pastors’ fault. They didn’t experience this growing up in their home churches and haven’t been trained to do this.”
If this describes your experience… there is hope. Here are some practical suggestions to begin the journey toward becoming an equipping leader.
- Dialogue with other leaders who have been where you are now. No leader should believe they are alone in their journey to become equipping leaders. We’re all in this together. So how do you find these people? First, engage with leaders who publicly embody the values of releasing people into ministry. Determine which churches in your area seem to have a large percentage of their members serving, and connect with their leadership. Consider attending the Equipping Institute in February 2014 at Group Publishing to network with other leaders who share this vision.
- Identify people in your church with equipping leadership potential. Pull together a group of spiritually mature believers (inside or outside your church) and begin discussions around the realities of Ephesians 4 leadership. It could begin as an informal, once a month conversation over coffee. Get a copy of the Bible study, Leading Out: Connecting People to Purpose and some donuts and start talking!
- Create a personal growth plan to move forward. Write some SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) to ensure you are proactively growing in your equipping skill set. Consider sharing these goals with other leaders who can lovingly hold you accountable.
- Pray. Ephesians 4:11-16 is God’s design for how we should function in the church. This means, God wants us to be successful as we transition to reflect this call. Consider asking others to join you in praying that your leadership will reflect God’s plan for His church.
Don’t wait for the day when your volunteers look you in the eye and ask, “Why didn’t you let us serve?” As you live out an equipping style of leadership—you’ll experience real joy of being in ministry.