IF you have the attitude that “we can do it and you can help.” The “we” being the church staff and the “you” being the church members. This means that the staff run the programming and significant ministry and the lay people are the supporters or sideline players. If that’s your attitude and approach toward church leadership and ministry then you are probably a plateaued or declining church.

Sure there are some churches and church members who appreciate a staff led church. But that probably also means that those same church members are happy to assign blame and criticism when the youth group or men’s group or choir or (fill in the blank here) ministry isn’t up to their standards. They also probably exercise their opinion about when to get rid of a staff member as well. Then there are probably a number of those sideline church members who are attending less and less because they instinctively know they have no skin in the game. They know that the only thing missing if they don’t attend is their offering in the offering plate. They also know that aside from the worship service and maybe a few other things there is little incentive to grow in the faith.

There are naturally a lot of instinctive, rational reasons why we might do “church” where “we can do it and you can help.” It is natural to treat church as any other organization in America, like a comodity. You provide a good product or service and people will come is the thinking. Good activities, good programing, good groups run by good staff members and people will come. But all that ends up doing is creating consumer Christianity.

The alternative is to have the attitude and approach that “you can do it and we can help.” In other words, you, the lay people can really do significant ministry and we, the staff (pastors, DCE’s, etc) can help you, support you, resource you and nurture you along the way. Granted, it is a flip in thinking but it is the far more biblical approach and it makes all the difference in the vitality of the ministry.

Remember the words of Ephesians 4:12 where it says that “apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers…equip God’s people for works of service.” That is the proper approach. God’s people serve (diakonia) and the offices of the church equips or prepares them for that service or ministry. So how in the world have we gotten that upside down? Well, perhaps we as church workers need to confess we like to be in charge, we like the attention, we like to be in control, and we like the strokes when people say we do a good job. Maybe we feel obligated to do the work because we are getting paid!

Unfortunately this attitude and perspective does a poor job of making disciples or equipping people for works of ministry. What it also does is severely undermine what helps people stick around and grow as a disciple through Word and Sacrament and words of service. If you want to revitalize the church and turn things around consider the following questions:

As a church leader check yourself when you are doing something:

  • Why am I doing this? What is your motivation?
  • Who else can do it besides me?
  • Who is really doing it and who is helping? Why or why not?
  • Where can I work myself out of being the primary “doer” and raise up someone else?
  • Who can I invite to grow into the role of primary “doer”?

Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, scottgress@me.com or scottgress.com

"Helping leaders be more productive - less controlling"

Church Leadership: You’re Doing it All Wrong…

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