Accidental Idea Becomes Key Ministry Philosophy
Some of the greatest ideas happen by accident. Many great inventions that we take for granted, find their roots in a mistake or an accident or some kind of failure. I have also found this to be true in leading a community of faith.
One of the best things we are doing as a church, when it comes to organizational structure and staffing, happened completely by accident. We had recently hired a staff person to look after all of our Junior High Ministries. Just prior to that we had moved the person responsible for Junior High into a similar role for Senior High students. This is a traditional hiring practice in many churches.
It was obvious in the way the ministry was functioning and growing, that the leader of our Junior High ministry had strong gifts of leadership and teaching. The leader of our Senior High ministry was gifted in the area of the arts and technology and had a real “shepherding” gift. Parents and volunteers told me they wished that each of these very young leaders could have a piece of the other.
So we came up with an idea.
Why not take a gift-based, team approach to this ministry? Instead of each person overseeing a segment of the complete ministry why not let them lead the larger combined ministry together? This allowed them to use their gifts and natural abilities. We saw both Junior and Senior High ministries flourish and started having a greater impact on students from grade 6-12.
Then our college/university ministry began to grow. The traditional way of doing it would have been to hire a staff person to oversee that segment of our church community. But one morning while sitting in my office I got a Spirit-led idea. Why not add this responsibility to the two-person team that was already in place and add a third person to the team that brought gifts and abilities that were complementary to the team? So we did. We brought in a leader with administrative and organizational strengths that made the entire team stronger—again allowing each ministry to flourish and grow.
Like any great idea there are some drawbacks and challenges. For example, each of these leaders now is out at least an extra night per week than they were before. It means that I don’t just have one direct report but I meet with the “team” together. We have had to make one of the team members a “quarterback” while treating team members with equality.
There are some challenges but there are so many benefits that outweigh any of the challenges. The most important one is how these ministries have had a greater impact on the people they lead and serve. Second to that is that people now get to serve using their gifts and abilities which provides great passion and endurance and it makes doing ministry fun.
This has worked so well for us that we have now used it in other areas of our ministry. Once led by a solitary leader with some part-time support, our Children’s Ministry leadership team is made up of two people who have very different gifts and abilities but work well together. Our Care Team is made up of one full-time and one part-time person who work in a team environment. Our Technical and Visual Arts ministry which were once two separate ministries are now one ministry with two team members using their gifts and abilities in strategic ways.
We have also done this with some volunteer ministry team leaders. Our ALPHA Ministries are led by a team of people who each bring different gifts to the table. Again, we have seen a greater impact in this ministry since we have made this change.
As we move forward we will continue to look for ways that more and more ministries can be led in a team approach. This idea that happened by chance has now become a key philosophy in the way we organize and operate our ministries. We believe that this allows people to love what they do because they get to serve according to gifts and strengths and we believe it will have a greater impact than the traditional way of hiring and staffing and raising up key volunteers.
Dave Ralph is the Lead Pastor at Lakeside Church in Guelph, Ontario. Leading and teaching are his spiritual gifts and personal passions. Before entering full-time ministry, Dave was a funeral director for 10 years and VP for a financial institution. He has been ministering at Lakeside since 1999.