Who are the leaders in a church? Is the pastor the only leader? At churches, when members talk about leadership, it is usually about pastoral leadership alone. It seems an uphill task to make members understand that each member is a leader in a church. This article presents how each member can be a leader in their respective church.
Nominating committees1 of each church appoint ministry leaders once every one or two years. Besides the ministry of elders, deacons, and deaconesses, there are several ministries such as Sabbath Schools, personal, family, health, social, community, prayer, hospitality, choir, Pathfinders, Adventurers, and women’s ministries. In some small churches, all these departments may not be in function. Members of the church are nominated to be leaders of these ministries.
The following is a nominating committee outcome I observed in a large church. On October 8, 2017, the prenominating committee met with the church board members to choose a nominating committee to elect ministry leaders for the years 2018 and 2019. There were twenty-five people in the conference room. The chair of the combined committee proposed to choose five individuals among the men, women, and youth/ young adults, totaling fifteen. The chair suggested that everyone write three names for each group. If each of the twenty-five had suggested different names from the congregation, then they would have suggested 225 names. But in total, when the suggested names were arranged, there were only about sixty unique names suggested. One of the prenominating committee members questioned why certain names were repeated again and again by many of the committee members instead of suggesting different names. The simple answer was that only about 20–25% of the members were actively involved. Therefore, only such visible active members’ names were suggested to be on the nominating committee. This percentage correlates with a survey I conducted for my own research, which indicated that about 21% of members were actively participating. The survey also revealed that 84% of members wanted to be involved in some ministry or other, but they themselves did not know what they could do. It is important that each church does a spiritual gift audit to help the members know what gifts they are imbued with.
GOAL FOR THE CHURCH
The goal for each church should be to create a leadership path that engages more and more members not only to take leadership roles, but also to actively participate according to their skills, talents, and gifts. I believe the design starts with the leader who intends to create the involvement path, as well as the ones who want to be leaders.
Every organization has its leaders. Organizations do talent audits to identify individual and organizational strengths and weaknesses, assess strengths in key roles, evaluate talent capabilities, and identify new talents from the pipeline. Talent audits are done in organizations to create a better match between people and roles, resulting in higher performance. The simple reasoning behind creating a better match is that people perform at their best when their abilities are well matched to their roles. An organization can get the best out of people if they know what they can do, what they could be capable of, and where in the organization their abilities are best put to work. It is similar and different in church organizations: it is similar in that the church organization wants to best match talents with the assignment of responsibilities; it is different in that the church is not recruiting to employ, but attempting to match talents with ministry roles so that the member will accept the call to serve efficiently and interestedly.
The tool that church organizations have in hand to assess talents is the gift assessment. We believe every believer is imbued with gifts of the Holy Spirit. Peter says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet 4:10, ESV). Paul writing to the Corinthians states,
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills (1 Cor 12:7–11, ESV).
“AS EACH HAS RECEIVED A GIFT, USE IT TO SERVE ONE ANOTHER, AS GOOD STEWARDS OF GOD’S VARIED GRACE” 1 PET 4:10, ESV
Yet when the nominating committee sits to nominate leaders for various responsibilities, the committee struggles to find the suitable or right person to assign each responsibility. Many members with different gifts are not brought to the forefront because they themselves have not assessed their gifts and the church does not have them in mind to appoint and use. As I observed among several of the Adventist churches in the Washington, DC, area, gift assessments have not been initiated and done for many years. Thus, only about 20% of the members are used and rotated every year by changing them to a different role. Therefore, I propose to initiate a gift assessment process to make people aware of their gifts and also to help the church identify God-given gifts in the membership. The names with their respective gifts could be kept on record to tap their gifts for engaging in the ministry and mission of the church.
CREATING LEADERSHIP PATH
I propose the following steps toward assessing gifts and creating a leadership path among the members:
- Preach sermons on spiritual gifts to create an awareness that God has imbued His gifts to all believers.
- Prepare a contextual assessment tool to be administered to the church.
- Set up online booths to encourage members to do the assessment.
- Offer a hard copy assessment for people who do not wish to do it online.
- Take an inventory of the prevalent gifts in the church.
- Assign responsibilities according to the gifts for effective ministry and mission engagement.
The challenge will be for churches to create sufficient opportunities to serve. Nelson Searcy advises that churches give ample opportunities to become involved, take on responsibilities, and thrive in a service environment.2 Ellen G. White puts it beautifully: “God has set in the churches different gifts. These are precious in their proper places, and all may act a part in the work of preparing a people for Christ’s soon coming.”3
“GOD HAS SET IN THE CHURCHES DIFFERENT GIFTS. THESE ARE PRECIOUS IN THEIR PROPER PLACES, AND ALL MAY ACT A PART IN THE WORK OF PREPARING A PEOPLE FOR CHRIST’S SOON COMING.” ELLEN G. WHITE
1 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 19th ed. (Nampa, ID: Review and Herald, 2015), 72.
2 Nelson Searcy, Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2007), 139.
3 Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1915), 481.
Paulasir Abraham, PhD, DMiss, is an associate pastor at the Southern Asia Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, MD, USA.