I am frequently asked the question about the best way to train people in the church. My answer is always, “On the job.” The pastors and church leaders of thriving churches create a culture of equipping and training members to do ministry and evangelism.
My research in church growth has shown that it’s the key leader who leads the way in training. These five trends also surfaced in our study:
• They constantly pray and search for new leaders.
• They provide resources for success.
• They have a win-win attitude.
• They view people as partners to share ministries with, instead of competitors.
• They understand the need for change and timing in leadership development.
The life of Jesus reveals to us the ultimate model of leadership building. His method was more than what people do; it was about what people can become through His transforming power. Often in our attempt to get quick results, we focus on techniques and strategies. Jesus always focused on the being, thus He spent considerable time developing His followers in spiritual growth. Jesus knew that if He would sculpt a better person, who is filled with His presence, grace, and attractiveness, He would have someone who is willing to be molded to do great things for God. Through His example of spending time with His disciples, we are inspired to invest our lives in others, building relationships with them, loving them, encouraging them, and challenging them.
Through instruction and modeling Jesus showed His disciples how ministry is done, then He said, go out and do likewise (See Mark 6:6-13, 30). Jesus trained and equipped the twelve disciples and the seventy, who were to develop the next generation of leaders. The next generation will develop the next generation and so on, until Jesus comes. Every leader should pray that God will raise up another leader to do their ministry. Paul, commenting on the legacy of modeling, says, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2 NKJV).
Ellen G. White also stressed the concept of training and equipping in numerous places in her writtings. “Ministers should not do the work which belongs to the church, thus wearying themselves and preventing others from performing their duty. They should teach the members how to labor in the church and in the community.”1 If you want to define the role of the pastor as White saw it, it might well be someone who preaches the gospel and trains others to share their faith. “Every church should be a training school for Christian workers... One example is worth more than many precepts.”2 White views every church as a mini seminary for the training of its members.
THE LIFE OF JESUS REVEALS TO US THE ULTIMATE MODEL OF LEADERSHIP BUILDING.
When it comes to equipping and training, the most important rule is that no one should do ministry alone. It’s a lot more convenient to go to the hospital, teach Sabbath school, or give a Bible study alone, but it’s not biblical. It’s a lot more effective to take someone with you to do ministry.
The simplest model to train people is to show them on the job. Pour your heart and passion into them. Show them what you are doing and explain to them why. Then turn the ministry over to them as you become a prayer partner and mentor. Training should always lead to a chain of events that trains someone else. Here is one way of doing it:
I teach you you learn
I do you watch
I do you help
You do I help
You do I watch
You teach someone else learns
When I learned about these methods, I started to create a system of raising new leaders. Every one of our church leaders was supposed to train, mentor, and motivate another one to carry on their ministry.
To lead through modeling, I prayed that God would send me someone whom I could train. The Lord put a particular name on my heart, so I approached John and cast the vision that God had given me. He told me that he had been praying for someone to mentor him in giving Bible studies. We agreed to go out on Mondays and spend a few hours giving Bible studies and sharing our spiritual journeys. I took the time to inspire him to mentor others as I had been mentoring him.
About three months later, I felt that he was ready to carry the torch, so I told him to take Ted and duplicate the model. I began the cycle again with Glen, who was more interested in visitation, so every Tuesday we went out ministering in the hospitals, nursing homes, and to shut-ins. Three or four months later we continually multiplied ourselves by finding new people to train.
Seven years later there was ministry happening every night of the week by a total of 57 teams, something that is impossible for one person to do alone. Build that system everywhere in your church. Your members will grow in love and ministry. Your church will grow in grace and numbers.
1 Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists (Basle: Imprimerie Polyglotte, 1886), 291.
2 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1905), 149.
S. Joseph Kidder is professor of church growth and leadership at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.