No matter the size of the congregation or the size of the staff, the ministries of a church are primarily carried out through those who make up the church community. Many congregations experience a leadership vacuum, with long-time leaders burned out and newer members not being offered a seat at the table. We make it hard to identify and empower new leaders in the church. I believe there are many who feel called to serve and are beyond gifted in meeting the realities of church leadership today. I offer 4 ways the church can empower new lay leaders.
Make Expectations and Responsibilities Clear
You’ve been on one end of the conversation (or perhaps both ends) before. “We need you to fill this role in the church; it will be really easy, you don’t have to do much, and it won’t take a whole lot of time.” You and I both know that none of this is true. Lay leaders occupy some of the most important roles in the life of the church. Rather than minimizing, what if we made the commitment and responsibilities clear up front. Yes, this is an important role and yes, you have the gifts and the calling to take on this important role. What if all leadership positions in the church came with a position description and an estimated time commitment? This will not only make responsibilities and time clearer; it will also lift up the importance of the role and the time it will take to serve in a faithful manner.
Let Them Lead
We are all guilty of this in some fashion. We’ve had a leadership role for a long time and desperately would like for someone else to carry the load. We are excited that the congregation has identified a new leader to take our place. They bring new energy and enthusiasm. And… we expect them to do things the exact same way we did. Same meeting schedule, same classes, same mission projects, the works. The strength of most congregations is the diversity of not only gifts but life experiences, approaches to church, etc. When a new leader does something differently than you did, that is in no way a dismissal or diminishment of your ministry and service. Instead, it is often an affirmation of the strength of your work in moving the congregation forward in its mission and witness.
Create the Right Path
When it comes to church leadership, there is no need to “pay your dues.” We need to move past the thinking that one needs to have been a member for a number of years in order to assume a leadership position. (Perhaps we need to move past the idea that they need to be a “member” of the church at all). There are many in our churches who are long-time members or attendees. Some people have never been asked, My philosophy is always to give people the chance to say “no.”
Train, Equip, and Support
The church is not always great at “equipping the saints.” Church leadership is unique. It is not the same as leadership in the corporate space nor is it exactly like leadership in the non- profit space. It is a unique witness with “what would Jesus have us to do?” guiding every decision and action. What if we could do proper training and orientation to church leadership for our leaders while providing ongoing support for their ministries? The mission and witness of each congregation would be more faithful to God’s call.