In my first ministry position I was sure I knew what to expect. Stand up in front of thousands of adoring members of a faithful congregation and present to them an hour’s worth of jaw-dropping truth so inspirational that they cried for the next six days until you wowed them with more brilliance the next Sunday. At least that is what I had in my head.
In reality, preaching was one job among dozens of others that all seemed to fall under the title of Pastor. Run ragged and stretched to my limit, I became exhausted in my role as counselor, accountant, mentor, lighting technician, the blesser of new life, and the sender-on of the past ones just to name a few. I was lying in my bed one night wondering why my church wasn’t growing and why I was feeling more and more tired, when the Lord spoke a truth into my heart:
One of the greatest lies of leadership is that to be successful, a leader needs to be well-rounded.
The reason that the average church in America is only 75 people is because that is all one person can handle. (To be honest, most can’t handle that many) There are amazing leaders out there that are running themselves into the ground because they have bought in to the lie that they need to sort of be this “jack of all trades and master of none.” The pastor really has one job, and it has nothing to do with running committees, hospital visits, service bulletins, capital campaigns, and all other sorts of craziness that has become pastoral tradition. Based on Ephesians 4:11, the pastor isn’t supposed to be the doer of all ministry, but rather the equipper of people who do all of the ministry. As simply as it can be put, the job of the pastor is to raise up other people to do the work.
Leaders of successful churches that are growing numerically and spiritually all have one thing in common: They aren’t trying to do all of the jobs in the church. Some pastors have a messed up view of what it means to serve in the church. They create a list of criteria as if to say, once a member of our congregation has been around long enough, has enough polo shirts and pleated khaki pants, and is getting their 401k together, then they have a role in serving and leading in the church. They create positions that are “destinations” for lay leaders. The way I view serving in the church has always been a little different. I always viewed serving as the vehicle to grow people, not the destination for grown folks.
This requires a change in organization, but if you want your church to be better than it has ever been, you are going to have to start doing something that you have never done. It doesn’t matter if you are a church of 50 or 5,000, what got you where you are isn’t going to get you where you are going. You have to reevaluate. If you want your car to go 200 mph, you don’t drive it the same way for years until it finally starts going 200. You change something. New engine, better gas, whatever it is—you change something so that you can get to the new place, but when it comes to leading organizations, we don’t think like that at all. If you are a church of 75, you need to quit running your church like you are a church of 75. You need to start running it like you are a church of 150. If you are a church of 150, you need to lead like it’s a church of 300, and so on.
To grow a church, you have to start leading more people through fewer people. That is to say, you have got to start developing teams and putting people in leadership that are better at that area than you are. I love the way Pastor Andy Stanley puts it: “You can have authority in every area of the church without having competency in every area. The problem is that too many leaders confuse authority and competency.”
As the overall leader of the church, you have the authority over the entire body, but that doesn’t mean you are the person that needs to be answering the questions on how to run the kids’ ministry. If we understand that we don’t have to be well-rounded, and that we can lead through other people, then we are in a place where our ministry is getting people into their ministry.
Maybe it is as simple as making a list of all of the things that you have to accomplish in a week and in a month and then beginning to identify who in your body would be suited to pour all of their time and energy into that one area. Some things may be harder for you to let go of than others, but you must empower others to serve in their areas of greatest competency. Start with a team to handle the First Impressions of your church. Getting people from the streets to the seats is very important. Identify someone to head up the worship experience, someone to head up the kids’ ministry, someone to head up your administrative efforts, and someone to handle your assimilation process, helping first time visitors become active disciples. If you have a staff, you’re on your way, but even those paid individuals need to recognize that they can’t do everything in their areas themselves. Help them to identify teams of others who can serve.
As a leader, if you were to spend the bulk of your time just equipping and lifting up those leaders to be better leaders, and communicating the vision to the teams they build, you will wake up one day and realize you are leading more than you ever thought possible through fewer people than you ever imagined.