The Importance of Vision
George, one of my parishioners, came into my office with a solution to a problem. I think he had heard that finances were tight and that I was going to be appealing to the congregation to support the ministry of the church financially. Now George was a good man, a sincere Christian man who had for many years been regular in church and served the ministry. Yet his solution surprised me.
George’s answer was to slim down the staff numbers and get lay people to do the ministry. Since my philosophy over many years had been to advance ministry by increasing staff personnel it made me realise with a jolt how different our visions of ministry were and how different was our understanding of what staff should be doing. Now I do not deny that sometimes it is correct for staff to leave. Their gifting may not be right for the roles they are being asked to perform. They may not fit the culture or direction of the church. It can also be the case that the church can be over staffed. None of those were our problem.
The real underlying issue was, ‘what should paid ministry employees of the church be doing?’ Behind George’s question was the idea that staff members were doing the work that church members could be doing. Now if this is the case George was right and such staff members ‘should be freed up for ministry opportunities in another place’. Sadly, in too many churches this is true.
However my reason for hiring staff members was not that they would do the basic ministry (of course they would do some) but that they would empower others, train others and support others in their work thereby growing the ministry.
This was a vision based around Eph 4:11-12:
‘So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip his people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up.’
Staff need to be multipliers of ministry, not adders of ministry. If you are employing someone to run small groups in a church, with say 10 small groups, you do not want someone who will start and run an extra six small groups themselves. You want someone who can set up a network of fifty small groups by enlisting training and encouraging a team of small group leaders.
I tried to get this multiplication concept across to the congregation, humorously I hope, in the following way:
In a message on ministry gifts I said on one occasion. ‘Suppose you are sick in hospital and I as senior minister come and visit you. You would be wrong to say,” great Rod, glad you came.”
No, what you should say is. ‘What are you doing here? Why haven’t you sent a member of the pastoral team to come? Get out of my room and go and do your job empowering and equipping lay ministers to do this vital work of ministry.’’’
Now I hasten to add this was delivered with a smile on my face and of course there were some times when it was appropriate for me, as the senior minister, to visit. But I hope you get the point I am trying to make. In fact some years later one lady in our church had had a very serious car accident and when she woke in hospital there was my senior associate minister, who knew her quite well, at her bedside. So well had she absorbed the principle of every member ministry that her first words were,’ Am I going to die?’ In other words, is it that serious?
So if you are trying to raise money for the ministry of the church it will often involve raising money for staff positions. But just make sure the people you hire are multipliers not adders, equippers not merely doers. For more about raising resources in the church see my book Giving Generously.
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