Ministry where a few people are doing the work and the church is expecting them to keep doing it can be terribly frustrating.
How do we mobilize people in the rows of our congregations to action, to ministry, to mission? Here are three things that need to happen to mobilize your people.
Create an Atmosphere of Expectation
Increasing expectations is key to mobilizing people out of the pews. Paul helps us to know our role as pastor in Ephesians 4.
And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head — Christ. 16 From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. (Eph 4:11-16, CSB)
Pastors must lead their churches to fulfill this God-ordained mission by equipping the saints for the “work of ministry.” Some churches set expectations before people can serve in ministry like finishing a membership class, being baptized, and signing a membership covenant. Other churches have their people finish a process to discover their gifts.
Churches that people join tend to have clear expectations from the beginning, recruit workers one-to-one, provide entry level ministry for new workers, and so on. There’s a helpful chart from Chuck Lawless in chapter 7 of Comeback Churches for more on this.
Instead of burning out a few who do all the work in a church, the goal is to maximize the number working in ministry. People need to be taught that the pastoral leadership of the church is there to equip them for the work of ministry. It’s their responsibility to do the work. They are the church.
Create an Atmosphere of Equipping
The local church must have a strategy not only to get as many as possible into ministry, but also a strategy, or process, to equip people for ministry. You start with gift-discovery and a placement process. Then you continue by working to create enough entry level ministry positions, face-to-face recruiting, recognition and affirmation, etc. You can’t just have a position, but the means to train them for the position.
Get people involved quickly, exploring different ministries, and recognizing where they excel and have leadership potential. And make sure they aren’t just sustaining the church building. Get everyone involved in evangelism!
Create an Atmosphere of Empowerment
You need people to feel empowered and enabled for ministry. Don’t just expect people to “get it.” Preach, teach, and train your congregation. It can take time to empower the people for ministry, especially if they don’t have a good understanding of their gifting. We tend to overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in three years. It has to be communicated in different ways at different times for it to sink in over time.
Structure breeds confidence. When there is a well thought through process, it helps people feel led and empowered.
Empowering people requires giving them authority along with responsibility. They need ownership that it’s their job to get done.
And people need affirmation. They need to be appreciated for their ministry activity and involvement. Give them a quick “thank you” note. Let them know their effort didn’t go unnoticed.
It’s not enough that you as a leader feel empowered for your ministry, you have to empower others.
I want to encourage you to read more about mobilizing people out of the pew in chapter 7 of Comeback Churches.