Before you can entrust big things (projects, events, sermons, etc) to someone, you want to make sure they have been faithful in little things (Matt 25:21).
We don’t simply do this to make sure they’re effective, or worthy. We do it for their sake too. It’s not very loving to give someone something that they obviously aren’t ready/gifted to take on… yet.
So what are the little things you give people to do?
It’s worth having a list of things – things you can say “have a go at this” without too much internal conflict about the results.
Both of these are good and vital to a growing church.
Informal ministry is simple good gospel deeds; they go under the radar, usually only seen by one or two. It’s things like prayer, meals, phone calls, catching up, helping, sharing life together.
Formal ministry is organised and/or appointed; it’s running the youth group, leading the growthgroup, putting a plan together for welcoming new people, organising the camp away. These people bear a weight of responsibility appointed by others (cf Acts 6).
If you cut all the formal ministry, and only had informal ministry… you might appear to be a loving community… but how would you know if everyone is getting informally loved? You’d need to appoint someone to be responsible for that! You need leaders, you need organisers, you need these roles in order to love many people.
If you push everyone into formal ministry only, people won’t have time for the messy business of life and helping people in the unplanned hard bits of life. You’ll miss out on loving people really well.
So surely we should endorse both… we should encourage people to look for ways to express Jesus’ love informally, take initiative and love others without asking for permission. And we should encourage people to work out how to serve “the body” with their gifts from God in formal ways, for the sake of many.
After recently attending the very encouraging Nexus Conference I thought it’d be helpful to outline how we arrived at the Purposes Model.
- Back in 2008, we had 3 congregations and 1 more about to kick off. We had a Senior Pastor (Greg Lee) and we had a Staff member for each of the 4 congregations – I was the UniChurch pastor. We also had a Women’s Pastor and a part time kids pastor.
- We started to notice two areas of difference between our congregations. First, there wasn’t an equal dispersion of pastors to flock.
Unichurch had one staff to 150 people, PM had 1 staff to 60 people, AM had 1 staff to 80 people, the new congregation was going to have 1 staff to 30 people. Greg and Kelly (our women’s pastor) already had to spread themselves across all these people anyway.
- Second, we realised each of our congregations were doing well in some areas and poorly in others.
- So Unichurch had a pretty good meeting, but it didn’t welcome very well, nor did it have enough groups and there was no leadership development, nor a real heart for evangelism.
- AM was welcoming, but the meeting was awkward and there was no evangelism and groups were haphazzard.
- PM was really getting into evangelism, but it’s meeting was awkward, groups were struggling and welcoming was hit and miss.
- The new congregation were all in groups that were working well, but the meeting/mission/etc. were going to struggle.
- That’s when we heard about the Purpose model (from Andrew Heard at EV Church). We realised that the aspects of church that were going well vs going poorly were simply because our staff had particular “bents” towards helping people grow in those purposes.
- Richard (new cong.) had a natural bent towards helping people just get the bible, and lead a group and grow in knowledge and obedience.
- Sam (PM) had a natural bent towards helping Christians WANT to be evangelists.
- Dave (AM) had a natural bent towards getting beside people, helping them into church and investing in one another as members of a body.
- I had a natural bent towards challenging people about their deepest love and purpose in life.
- So, rather than having congregations that just reflect their Pastor’s strengths and weaknesses, we decided (after a long period of prayerful thinking and reflecting on God’s word) to free up our staff to do for everyone what they were only doing for one congregation. This also meant that we each stopped being responsible for aspects of our congregations that we weren’t particularly gifted in doing.
- Richard took on Maturity (encouraging people into small groups, raising up leaders and helping those groups build one another up in love from God’s word).
- Sam took on Mission (encouraging people to see themselves as missionaries to Newcastle, facilitating events where people can be confident the gospel will be presented and where they gain confidence in their own evangelism)
- Dave took on Membership (helping people to join well and participate in church life of loving one another and church).
- I took on Magnification (helping people live their whole lives in awe of the gospel 24/7, especially through running Sunday meetings that tried to impact their whole week).
- (Kelly moved to under Richard in Maturity – just focusing on raising and equipping and helping Growth Groups).
- (Richard also wore the Ministry hat – helping people get equipped and find their way into serving with church).
- After 2 years, we found a guy at Church (Pete Witt) who was already helping me do Magnification 1 day a week. We put him on 4 days a week to replace me, and I started looking after Ministry (as Richard had too much to do in Maturity). We also re-titled my role to Executive Pastor, simply because I was finding myself taking on a whole heap of pastoral responsibilities that were the foundation of the Ms structure; facilities, database, planning, association, legal. (I’ll write a later post on why this is Executive Pastor stuff and not General Manager stuff).
We’ve made heaps of mistakes along the way, and spent 6 years refining what we’re doing… with loads of really healthy arguments along the way. If there’s one huge positive that came out of going to Team Pastoring around the Ms it is that our team is really tight and loves one another in the midst of the fight.
And God’s been amazingly gracious and allowed us to grow in size and grow people’s faith.
After catching up with some Moore College students who just finished first year, I was reminded how the type of MTS experience you get is so important.
College doesn’t teach you how to “do ministry”; it doesn’t teach methods, principles or how to apply God’s word to people’s lives. It doesn’t even teach you “the bible” like a Sunday sermon does. College teaches you to be an expert of the bible, it’s language, it’s doctrine, and supporting disciplines.
That’s why the ideal MTS experience gets you to read the bible (1:1) with as many people as you can. It’s basic ministry; bible, you and someone to love. It’s the best prep for preaching, because you’re learning “how” to teach the bible. It’s the best prep for college, because you spend heaps of time in the bible. It’s the best prep for ministry because you learn how to become dependant on God and his Word and prayer.
The principles and methodologies you take to college will likely not change, college will simply deepen them.
There’s a few things to think about before you give people access to contact details and other data.
- You’re not giving them access, you’re appointing them with responsibility.
- If you’re appointing someone to a position of significant authority, it’s appropriate they have access to data.
They might not need access to the database to fulfil their responsibilities, but the very fact they already have such responsibility means that access is appropriate. For example, our senior pastor rarely uses the database to do his job, but he has access.
- If someone’s smaller roll would be much, much easier with access to data, its loving to let them have it.
There’s no point asking someone to organise a person from every growth group to be a contact person for a particular event, and then telling them they’ve got to find all those people the selves, or bounce that administrative hassle back to the growth group over seers. Administrators are great people to give access to the database.
If there are two types of reasons “why” you might do something (see previous post) can you focus on one of those types of “why” too much?
If you focus too heavily on the “functional why” (because we want this result, because we hope this will happen, because this will help that, because they will be able to…), what might happen then? Some might tell you that you’re just a short step from simple pragmatism – doing whatever works – the end justifies the means. That’s a pretty catastrophic conclusion to make. Remember, this isn’t abandoning “whys of purpose”, we’re just talking about having a focus on one over the other.
What is more likely to happen is that you’ll drift into traditionalism. You’ll do what worked once before, and you’ll just keep doing that, because it worked. You’ll be reluctant to alter the methods – methods that really were built on solid theological reasoning and good intentions. But methods that don’t work any more because you’re not willing to re-think the principles.
What about the other way?
If you focus too heavily on the “causal why” (because God is like this and that, because the gospel gives us this heart, because this is our identity in Christ…), what might happen then? Some might say you’ll be out of touch with reality… that you’ll just preach the truth and not care about tailoring it to the people who’re listening. Again, that’s pretty catastrophic. More likely, (if it’s simply an over-focus) you’ll take risks and try things out, without being so hung up about whether they work perfectly or not. You’ll try things out and watch them fail a few times before you land on something that does work.
There’s good reason to lean in that direction, heh?
There are two ways you can answer the question “why?” There’s the cause and the function. The motivation and the outcome. The purpose and the result. They are both right answers to the question “why?”. Both need to be addressed. Both need to be answered.
For example… Why should bible teachers be regular bible readers themselves?
The functional reasons are important… so they keep learning, so they keep being humbled, so they understand better, so they can be a model and an example, and so on.
But the causal reasons are also important… because God has spoken and he’s worthy of our attention, because God is their father who speaks for their good, because the word God speaks is lovely to hear.
Both are right aren’t they? But what happens if you focus on one?