Every-Member Ministry in a Small Church

I met Dan while in Chicago for The Gospel Coalition’s National Conference. We had connected through twitter and he had been gracious enough to allow me to review his book, iFaith. I love what God is doing through his ministry!

Connect with Dan on his blog, twitter, or facebook.

Three years ago when I came to Gages Lake Bible Church, we were a church in decline. We had a faithful core group of people who had kept the church open. These were people who remained faithful in the midst of trying circumstances. They’re my heroes.

This was my first church and really the first time I served in a leadership capacity, where, for lack of a better way of saying it, I was “the guy.”

Thankfully, God has brought us some great growth and we’re becoming a healthy church. I’ve made a ton of mistakes along the way and am still a leader in progress. But if there is one lesson I have learned in growing and building up a dying church it’s to get every person in the church involved in some kind of ministry.

Now in a small church, this isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. You need someone to run the sound. You need nursery people. You have to get that basement painted. And if you wait for the most spiritually mature, reader-of-Edwards-and-Calvin to come along before you tap anyone for jobs, you’ll end up doing it all yourself.

I know some leaders disagree. They want to make sure folks are first members and secondly have “all their ducks in a row” before they get them involved.

Now, when it comes to leadership, I think maturity and spirituality are a must. But when it comes to mowing the lawn, painting the nursery or ushering, it’s all hands on deck. It has to be or you will not function as a small church.

But there’s another reason to find the giftings and talents of your people and plugging them in. I don’t think people make the church their own until they have a regular duty and feel as if they are contributing to the spiritual welfare of the rest of the local body. I think that the more we involve folks and take them from spectators to investors, the thicker our community will be.

Furthermore, I believe Ephesians 2 gives the image of a Christ-centered church as one where Christ is the center and all the members of the body work together in harmony to proclaim His name in the community. Therefore, when we plug in members to a specific job, we’re helping them to be fully alive. We help them worship.

Sometimes pastors like me complain about the state of our churches. We see people simply come to church, hear the sermon, smile, maybe put something in the offering plate and then leave. We lament their lack of involvement and care and investment in the church. But I wonder if it’s less about their spiritual laziness and more about our inability to get them plugged in.

I take seriously Ephesians 4:12, which tell us that church leaders are to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” That means it isn’t necessarily our job to “do the work of the ministry” but equip those in our care to do the work. That means sometimes we step back and give tasks to church members rather than doing it ourselves. That means we seek out folks who would be fit for certain jobs. It means we work hard to find and identify folks who might be good fits to serve.

In some ways it’s tiring. But in the long run, I think this every-member model will move our churches toward the healthy, Christ-centered body that we see held up as the model in the New Testament.

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