Pastor's Pastor

Pastor's Pastor: A new start for your ministry

Pastor's Pastor: A new start for your ministry

Consider a new approach that will renew your ministry to the extent you invest your energies in expanding your leadership team as the model and measure of pastoral success.

James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Most pastors are too busy; the majority carries a far heavier load than God intends.

Consider a new approach that will renew your ministry to the extent you invest your energies in expanding your leadership team as the model and measure of pastoral success.

Resign your position as the one who directs and implements all ministry functions. Your assignment does not include doing the work of ministry. You are called to put your members to work doing ministry.

Renew your ministry by doing less and expecting more from others. Leading your elders to accomplish the Lord’s will enables your own ministry to accomplish far more than you ever dreamed.

Reconfirm your responsibility not to do everything—a burnout guarantee. Instead, determine to expand your ministry base by increasing the number of individuals assigned to and involved in your ministry. Recruit new elders who will join with you in accomplishing heaven’s goals for your ministry. From the very beginning Jesus envisioned his kingdom moving forward by teams. His own method involved bringing a small group of leaders together and then deploying them in pairs as He sent them out.

Reject volunteer leaders. Typically those who offer their services are full of uneducated enthusiasm but are not prepared for the costs of long-term service. Among Jesus’ disciples, only Judas volunteered. The others were personally recruited by the Lord.

Remember your own origins. If the potential leaders you recruit appear to lack what ministry needs, reflect on how God has led in your own life. I recently fellowshipped anew with two successful pastors who once had been new converts and later were elected as elders before studying for ministry. Potential is often easily overlooked.

Rejuvenate your own spirit by sharing the load with other dedicated leaders, men and women, whom God will call to work alongside you. A team approach of pastor and elders cooperating together will breathe new strength into your own vision.

Recognize innate talents and gifts that God can use. Match assignments for newly recruited elders to their own talents and interests in order to multiply their effective service. Avoid forcing introverts into public, upfront roles or shutting people persons away from visitation and personal interaction.

Require specific commitments from each elder whom you recruit. Do not generalize. Define specific responsibilities with well-written job expectations. Include an estimate of the minimum hours per week that will be necessary to perform the tasks. Ask whether they are able and willing to commit.

Release those whom you elect to accomplish their assigned tasks. They may work differently than you. But remember: while they are engaged, you will be freed to pursue different objectives.

Risk that these tasks may not be performed with the same skill level you might bring. Of course, the even greater ego risk comes from realizing that your elders might do a better job.

Resource your laity leaders to do their assignments. They may need training or equipment. They will surely need mentoring. Whatever the church invests will be repaid in more effective service.

Reference helpful tools in training your elders. Specific resources such as The Church Manual, Elder’s Handbook, Minister’s Handbook, and Ellen White’s Pastoral Ministry should form a basic library for every laity leader (order at www.ministerialassociation.com).

Relate to your elders so that each becomes part of the larger team with a desire and commitment to achieve the group’s objectives. When Jesus trained His own disciples, He invested quality time in doing ministry with them, in their presence, before He sent them out two-by-two.

Replicate your own pastoral care in the ministry of your elders. Provide them church business cards so that when they visit hospitals, contact potential converts, assist members, or engage in church business they are designated as “the pastoral team.”

Respect the Scriptural view of the priesthood of all believers. The greater your own confidence in the role of laity leaders, the greater will be their individual ministry performance.

Review your group’s goals, accomplishments, and challenges in regularly scheduled meetings with your leadership team. Help each elder understand that their contribution will set a higher standard for the church.

Revitalize and retool your own pastoral skills with the extra time you gain from effectively utilizing elders.

Rejoice when your leadership becomes reduplicated in the lives and work of your elders.

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James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

December 2006

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