One of the surest ways to empower people to serve is to champion their ideas. If any church member approaches you with an idea for a ministry, the answer must always be yes! Does this mean your church supports and sanctions every ministry idea a person wishes to attempt? No, it doesn’t. But it does mean that you champion each idea in a manner similar to the following:
1. You enthusiastically praise the person for coming up with such an original idea. No matter how dumb you may think the idea is, the fact that he or she has taken the risk to approach you with a creative idea is outstanding. How many more ideas do you think the person will bring to you if you criticize this one? When you can’t praise the ideas, at least praise the person for being creative and outrageous enough to think of it.
If any church member approaches you with an idea for a ministry, the answer must always be yes!
2. Ask the person to find five other people who are willing to team with him or her to help build such a ministry. If the person can recruit others, this will tend to improve the idea. If others aren’t recruited, the idea will probably die. When the team has been identified, the person with the idea should come back to you. Doing this has a number of advantages. It empowers the person to begin working on the idea. It requires him or her to define and communicate the vision for ministry well enough to attract others to it. It allows the ministry idea to be confirmed, refined, or rejected by others.
3. When you meet with the team, let them know how enthusiastic you are to learn of their commitments and willingness to serve. Encourage them to think through how the new ministry fits with your mission and direction as a church. They should especially think through how their new ideas fit with your church culture.
4. Support the team with all the training they need but encourage them to find their own funding. It is the responsibility of leaders to provide training for ministry (Eph. 4:11-12) but not necessarily the funding. Placing responsibility for funding the ministry on the team developing it ensures that only ministries with a large enough vision to attract funding will likely be started. This is another way to verify the appropriateness of the new ministry.
5. Assure the team that the church will support them in every possible way, especially promoting the ministry through your church if they abide by the following guidelines:
- The new ministry must maintain legal, moral, and ethical integrity.
- The new ministry must be biblically based and doctrinally in agreement with your church.
- The leaders of the new ministry must attend your church’s ongoing leadership training events.
- The leaders of the group must report to the church a record of how many people attend their ministry, the parts that are going well, and the difficulties they are experiencing.
Taking the risk to empower people for ministry in this way will take a few years to develop. If your answer in the past has always been no when people approached you about starting a new ministry, it will take a few years to convince them that you are serious. Once you prove to them that you are willing to be a risk taker and allow them to begin their own ministries, people will approach you for encouragement, direction, and training.
This article is excerpted from Gary’s book Beyond the First Visit (2006) published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group. Beyond the First Visit is also available from Amazon or Cokesbury.
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