4 Keys for Developing a Vibrant Church Life Filled with Multiplying Leaders

Churches should be run by teams of volunteers—those committed to work together for the cause of Christ, serving one another and the world, because they have been gifted and called to do so.

Yet, this is an ongoing struggle for many churches. Perhaps it is an ongoing struggle for EVERY church.

Recently, I shared with my own church the kind of things we looked for in our ministry teams. It’s not perfect—and we’re not perfect—but we are looking for ministry teams that will be in partnership with the staff, will take ownership of areas of ministry, will be part of the fellowship of the church, and will be involved in apprenticeship to raise up new people to serve with them.

These four things—partnership, ownership, fellowship, and apprenticeship—are key for a church that is serving one another and a hurting world in the name of Christ. As such, let’s explore them one at a time.

1. Partnership

The first step to becoming a part of a ministry team is to exercise partnership.

At the beginning, most volunteers will speak of their ministry as “helping” a staff member—you want them to move beyond that and see their role as leading the ministry as a partner with the staff. They become co-laborers.

For example, at Grace Church, the church plant at which I am the teaching pastor, we have lay leaders who assist with finances. They become key ministry leaders by altering their definition and expectation of their ministry. Rather than being a helper to me or the executive pastor, they become a partner with the specific staff member managing the financial area of ministry for Grace Church. It’s their ministry now—we are partners.

This shift in mentality will bolster leaders’ sense of responsibility and encourage forward thinking rather than simply taking orders. Partners in ministry take charge, working together to recruit other partners and to plan and oversee weekly responsibilities.

2. Ownership

The second facet of key leaders is their ability and propensity to take ownership.

When people see themselves in ministry as empowered, they eventually own their ministries. They learn about it so they can do it better (and leads others in that ministry). In order to be most effective, key leaders discuss the vision with staff members, read books about successful practices, attend conferences or training events, or contact ministry workers from other churches who have established similar ministry areas. As a result of their study, key leaders will be equipped to provide confident, informed leadership of their area.

Sometimes, lay leaders may feel uncomfortable taking ownership because they do not wish to overstep a staff member’s job description. Sometimes staff are too insecure to let a non-pastor own a ministry. However, staff members who understand the importance of raising up key leaders should express their desire for ministry partners to take ownership under their headship. Staff members and key leaders need to view their roles as partners with staff members equipping and key leaders owning.

3. Fellowship

The third important area within key leadership is that of fellowship.

Ministry team members within the church must be involved in the small group ministry of your church. Everyone who is serving needs to be in community—one is not exclusive of the other. Even pastors need to be in small groups.

Small groups are not simply a tack on to the important ministry that takes place in the worship service and preaching. Rather, people who do not move from sitting in rows on Sunday morning to sitting in circles in an authentic community will likely drop out of church, not grow spiritually, and not connect with others.

Without that connectivity, individuals can go through incredibly difficult times and remain isolated and without support. Thus, key leaders must lead the way into genuine community with other believers. Ministry teams must see it as normal to be involved in small groups. That’s the only way they’ll know the people with whom they are partnering in ministry.

4. Apprenticeship

In partnering, pastors equip lay leaders to do works of ministry. Through that partnership, ministry teams and key leaders take up ownership and say, “I will lead; I will own this area.” Ministry teams and key leaders then model and live out fellowship by being involved in community.

The final significant aspect of key leaders is apprenticeship.

As churches continue to grow, more and more ministry team members must participate in ministry and resolve to become key leaders. Otherwise, the foundational group of key leaders will be unable to sustain the growing numbers of people to whom they minister. For example, if an outreach team of three helps a church of 200 remember to do outreach by planning events and mobilizing strategies, an outreach team of five or six will be needed to minister to a church of 300. Similarly, as the number of attending families grows, so must the number of children’s ministry leaders.

Thus, churches must think in terms of multiplication of ministry teams and key leaders—more in partnership, ownership, and fellowship. As ministry team members commit to become key leaders, they should look for other individuals to come alongside and instruct in their specific ministry role. Since roles will expand as a church grows, key leaders must recruit and train new leaders to step into expanding roles.

Apprenticeship toward partnership, ownership, and fellowship will lead to a vibrant church life filled with multiplying leaders.

A Vision for Developing Leaders

Pastors, ministry teams, and key leaders must work together to create a healthy leadership culture in which ministry teams members partner with staff members to provide intentional leadership over an area of ministry.

Within that ministry, key leaders must take ownership over its implementation and its multiplication by practicing apprenticeship with promising volunteers. As key leaders engage in partnership, ownership, fellowship, and apprenticeship, they will afford their ministry area room to grow, and, as a result, do their part to ensure the continued growth of the church.

That helps us to move beyond church as a spectator sport and to look more like 1 Peter 4:10 where, “based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

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Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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