We Are Gifted & Called to Minister

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines”

1 Corinthians 12:7, 11

The Bible says that each Christian is given a spiritual gift(s) for use in building the Body of Christ.  But what exactly are spiritual gifts?  Are they the same as our skills and talents?  How do we know what spiritual gift(s) we have?  Why are they important? And how do we know when and how to use them?  These are typical questions many Christians ask when it comes to understanding their role in the church or in the Body of Christ.

What Are Spiritual Gifts?

Spiritual Gifts are those abilities that the Holy Spirit gives to the followers of Christ to equip them for ministry. As we see from the Scripture above from 1st Corinthians 12 they are given for the common good and as the Holy Spirit determines. In other words, we cannot manufacture them ourselves. They are gifts from God. Also, the Holy Spirit gives them as they are needed to whomever He chooses. Our skills and talents may be Spiritual gifts, but only to the extent that we use them for God’s purposes and not our own selfish ambitions.

Spiritual gifts fall into 3 main categories. First, there are Ministry gifts. These are the gifts of Apostle, Pastor, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher. These are mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 4:11 when he wrote that “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers”, and are often referred to as the five-fold ministry. Second, there are Practical gifts. These are the gifts of Service, Encouragement, Giving, Leadership, Mercy, Helps, and Administration, and can be found in Romans 12:7-8 and 1st Corinthians 12:28. These are gifts God gives to enable Christians to minister to others. Thirdly, there are Charismatic gifts. These are the gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge, Discernment, Prophecy, Tongues, Interpretation, Faith, Healing, and Miracles, and are found in 1st Corinthians 12:8-10. They are spiritual manifestations and powers and are the ones most often associated with the general term of Spiritual gifts.

(There are other gifts mentioned through the Bible, but these 21 gifts are the ones that are specifically mentioned in the New Testament.)

Why Are Spiritual Gifts Important?

Spiritual gifts are important for the church because they form the foundation of each Christian’s call to ministry. God has gifted every Believer with gifts He wants us to use to further His Kingdom here on earth. These gifts were given to each of us so that we can use them to serve others according to God’s calling and purposes. Paul says in Ephesians 4:12 that these gifts were given to us “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”  Since all Believers are part of the Body of Christ, we all have a role to play in expanding God’s Kingdom on earth. And that role is largely determined by our Spiritual giftedness. In other words, every Christian is called to be a minister for Christ and is equipped to do so with the spiritual gifts God has provided.

How Should Spiritual Gifts Be Used and Applied?

There are 4 ways we are called to use our spiritual gifts:

1. To build up the church

“Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.” 1 Corinthians 14:12

2. To serve others

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10

3. To glorify God

“If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.  If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 4:11

4. To reveal God’s character

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22

Notice that these are all God focused and not man-focused. Each of us is gifted to serve the Body of Christ. That does not mean that we are called into full-time ministry. Some are and some aren’t. But we are all called to be ministers for Christ in our homes, workplaces and anywhere we may go. And if we don’t use our gifts to minister to others and build up the Body of Christ then we are neglecting our call and responsibility to God.

So How Do We Find Out What Our Spiritual Gifts Are?

There are many spiritual gift assessment tests that are available on-line to determine your spiritual gifts. One that I have used and found to be quite helpful can be found at http://www.kodachrome.org/spiritgift. After answering all of the questions they will email you the results with a nice analysis. They do ask for a small donation to help their ministry if you take their test, but it is not required.

Knowing our spiritual gifts is an important factor in determining how God may be calling each of us to minister inside and outside of the church. I would encourage all of us to know our spiritual gifts so we can prayerfully consider where we may be called to be a minister for Jesus!

8 Fundamentals for Church Management

“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”

2 Timothy 4:5

      The job of being a pastor is not just theological and spiritual. While preaching and teaching the Word of God and ministering to people spiritually is their primary function, they are also called upon to lead people, oversee many ministries, manage church resources, develop plans & budgets, manage church finances, plan & conduct worship services, arrange weddings & funerals, plan ministry events, develop training materials, provide counseling, manage church properties, and the list goes on. One research study estimated that a pastor generally spends 54% of their time on activities other than preparing for preaching & worship or teaching (Pulpit & Pew, Research on Pastoral Leadership, “What Do Clergy Do All Week?” Becky McMillan, 2002).

Because churches are organizations with people and other resources, they must be led and managed well to be effective and to grow. So it is important that pastors have some level of knowledge about leadership and management in order to do so. John Maxwell, in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (Thomas Nelson, 1998), says that “a person’s impact is only a fraction of what it could be with good leadership.” Sadly, a common reason people have for leaving a church is not theological or spiritual, but rather due to personal conflict, perceived poor leadership, or management disagreements. Consequently, the success of a church depends a great deal upon the leadership and management ability of its pastor.

The following 8 key fundamentals below come from our Management for Church Leaders™ training and will provide pastors with some basic Biblical leadership and management principles. When combined with their theological training it can help them avoid many common problems and conflicts in a church that inhibit growth.

Fundamental #1: Use Your Influence, Not Your Authority

The first thing a pastor should understand is that there is a difference between leadership and authority.  They are not the same.  Many pastors assume that just because they have the title of Senior Pastor or Pastor that their title alone makes them a leader. It does not. Their title simply gives them authority or responsibility to do certain things or make decisions within the guidelines for the pastor within their church. To be a leader a pastor must be able to motivate those within the church to follow their direction and support their decisions.

Leadership is about influence.  John Maxwell also said in his book, the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, that “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”  Leadership is not a position and it is not a title.  Leadership is about the ability to influence others to follow you where you are taking them.  Just because your title as pastor infers that you are the leader of the church does not mean that you truly are.  Leadership is measured by influence.  Whoever has influence in the church is the true leader of the church. Pastors need to develop their influence by building up trust and respect among the church members.

Authority, on the other hand, is about power.  According to the dictionary, authority is “the power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior.”  Notice the words power and command.  Authority is the ability to enforce your decisions by use of your power or control.  A pastor gets their authority by virtue of their position, and hence their power is given to them by their denomination or the local church body (via a call or election).  It is usually earned from something they did in the past that qualified them for their position, such as graduating from a Bible College or Seminary, having been ordained, or having pastored other churches.

So, as a pastor, when you are making a decision or a change affecting your church, you have a choice of whether to use your influence or your authority. It is often quicker and easier for you to use your authority because you don’t have to take the time to convince your church members why you are making the change. But it is always better for you to lead with your influence because when you use your influence, people want to follow you.  They come along gladly because they trust you and respect you and know that you have their best interest at heart.

When you use your authority, however, people are forced to follow you, whether they agree with you or not.  This has two important implications for you with regard to those who disagree with you.  First, you could lose people from your church, leaving you with fewer members to carry out the ministry.  Second, and often worse, is that they stay in your church and create opposition.  When this happens church members will work at odds with you and try to thwart your efforts.  This is particularly dangerous as it can divide the church and cause conflict that paralyzes the ministry.

Consequently, using your influence instead of authority to lead people will always be better for you and your ministry.

Fundamental #2: Follow Biblical Principles

Churches are not businesses and pastors are not CEOs. Trying to run a church based on secular business practices will not work because the goals of a business are primarily financial and their practices are designed to maximize profit. However, there are some business practices that are Biblical and would therefore have application for churches. So before making any decision regarding the administrative side of the church, pastors should always ask “is this Biblical?”, and then proceed accordingly. If pastors follow cultural norms, secular processes, or their own beliefs instead of Biblical principles, they will undoubtedly experience a less effective ministry because it is not in line with God’s Word.

Similarly, when Pastors teach they must be careful not to tell their members “what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3) but rather to teach them what the Bible says whether or not it makes sense or is clearly understandable. When pastors rely on their own opinion, intuition, talent, or experience, they often end up in places that not only cause them problems but likely dishonor God as well. Pastors may possess tremendous leadership ability, but if it is not based on the Word of God, then they are likely leading the church in the wrong direction.

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness”.  That means pastors can rely on the truth of the Bible to lead and manage their church as well as to teach others what God wants them to know.  Jesus came and showed us how to apply that Word in our lives and in our relationships with others.  He then left us the Holy Spirit to guide us where God wants us to go.  Following God’s Word is how pastors are called to lead a church.

Fundamental #3: Be Discerning

There is a famous song recorded by Kenny Rodgers in 1978 entitled “The Gambler.” It was a song about the game of poker and for the gambler to know when to take a card, when to keep what they have, and when to give up when they have little chance of winning. In other words: discernment. The lyrics of the chorus say, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. ‘Cause you never count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table, there’ll be time enough for counting, when the dealings done.”

When we think about spiritual discernment, there is a strong parallel to these lyrics. Pastors must know when to ask for help, know when not to abandon their principles, and know when to submit to the wisdom or ideas of others. Discernment also involves the big picture and focusing on the end result. Just as a gambler doesn’t count their money until the game is over, pastors must not quit prematurely. Jesus has already won the victory! It is important for pastors to look at a given situation or decision they have to make and discern its importance, its potential impact, and how their church members might react. This is called situational leadership. And it requires spiritual discernment.

Discernment is what often allows pastors to be effective and successful in their ministry. And discernment takes patience, prayer, wisdom and compassion. The wise pastor knows to turn to God for these things and that “apart from God he can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Fundamental #4: Develop People for Ministry

The most abundant resource a church has is its people. Therefore, the greatest resource that you have as a pastor is your church members. You cannot always do all the ministry work yourself and you will need others to come alongside you to share the burden of leadership and ministry.  Jesus knew this and is the reason he spent so much time with his disciples, teaching and training them for the work they would do in building the church after he ascended to Heaven. The same is true for the church today. It was not designed for you, the pastor, to do all the ministry of the church yourself. You were called to train and encourage others to engage in, and take responsibility for, some aspect of the ministry of the church, whether it’s teaching, praying, evangelizing, or serving the community at large.

So the Lord provides you with people to help you achieve the vision and goals that God has given to you and the church.  Here are 3 things for you to keep in mind when you develop people within your church:

  1. Make disciples first and foremost.

The primary role of every pastor is to focus on discipleship of their church members and attendees.  This is the sole purpose of the church and its #1 priority. The command Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 28:19 before he ascended to heaven was that they should “go and make disciples of all nations.”  You should teach and preach the Word in all that you do.  It is not just about you assigning tasks or responsibilities to others, but it is also imparting the Word to them through that development.

  1. Train and equip others for ministry.

A pastor’s job is not just to oversee the ministries of the church, but to involve everyone in its work. Therefore, you will need to encourage ministry participation by others and try to involve your church members in ministries that can best utilize their giftedness.  1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”  And 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Everyone in the church has gifts they were given to help do the work of the church.  Only by utilizing all of the gifts that are present in the church can you be effective in achieving the mission and vision that the Lord has given to the church.  It is therefore important that you use some form of a spiritual gift assessment to determine the spiritual gifts of your church members. By giving this test to church members you can determine the gifts given to individual church members and direct them into areas of ministry that use those gifts.

  1. Recruit and develop other leaders.

It takes a leader to raise up other leaders.  Every great leader has been mentored by another leader, whether it’s a parent, boss, pastor or someone else. It is therefore important for pastors to develop the next generation of leaders in order to sustain and grow their church.  The more leaders there are, the greater the chance for success there will be!  So, you should always spend most of your time with other leaders of the church so that they can be equipped to take on more responsibility in the ministry of the church. This will enable the church to grow as the burden is shared among more leaders. If you are the only leader, then the church will only progress as far as your capabilities. John Maxwell refers to this as the “Law of the Lid,” meaning that you will become the limit on how far your church can grow when your abilities and time are exhausted.

Fundamental #5: Have a Compelling Vision

Vision is about foresight, looking ahead and seeing the possibilities of what could be or where God may be leading you.  A vision can be defined as a statement about the future, an imagining of something specific that does not exist today. A pastor needs a clear vision of the future in order to guide and lead the church.  Without a vision a church has no direction, and the people “cast off restraint” (Proverbs 29:18), which means to simply go their own way or do what they think is best.  A vision provides focus for the church and will enable the pastor to keep church members moving together in one direction towards their ultimate goal.

A vision also quantifies the goal and objectives of the church.  It defines what the church’s ultimate objective is and what specifically it is trying to accomplish.  Consequently, the vision has to be measurable in some way.  Because if you cannot measure it then how will you ever know if you’ve reached your goal?   Many churches falter or stagnate because they do not have a measurable vision of where they are going. A pastor with a measurable vision is one who has received that vision from the Lord and understands where God wants him to lead his church.

The primary reason a vision must be measurable is so that you take the necessary steps and plans to see it come to fruition. It must drive your actions and behavior and become the main focus of the church. Without a clear and measurable vision it becomes too easy to drift off course, chase after less meaningful goals, and use valuable resources ineffectively. And the consequence from this is that you end up not achieving the vision for the church.

Fundamental #6: Think Strategically and Plan Accordingly

It is not enough to simply have a vision of where you are going.  A pastor must also have a strategic plan on how to get there. The vision provides the goal a pastor is trying to reach and the plan provides the means and strategy on how to get there. Without a good strategic plan pastors will likely not achieve the vision that God has placed before them.  A simple way of saying this is that pastors need to manage God’s resources for God’s vision.

So what exactly is strategic planning? Strategic planning is the process of setting goals, organizing activities and deploying resources to achieve a vision. A Strategic Plan tells you what resources you are going to use, when you are going to use them, and how you are going to apply them, in order to accomplish the vision God has given to you.  All of your available resources are provided by God (James 1:17) and His desire is that you invest and manage them wisely in order to grow His Kingdom.  A strategic plan helps the pastor and the church to do just that.

Your objective, then, is to plan the work and then work the plan.  Some plans will be long and detailed, while other plans may only need to be short and summarized.  A strategic plan is meant to be flexible so it can adjust to current trends and changes in the environment in which it was made, so that as the situation changes the plan can be modified to take those changes into account.  Failure to do so will result in completing plans that are no longer viable or fail to achieve their objective.

There are two more points that are worthy of mentioning.  First, a good plan helps you make better decisions.  When you have a plan and something changes or a new opportunity arises, you can more easily assess the impact of the change based upon the existing plan.  Second, a good plan avoids wasting God’s resources.  Having a plan gives you the ability to put God’s resources to the best and most effective use possible at any given point in time.

The strategic plan is not for God’s benefit, but for the church’s benefit.  It is a tool that will help pastors and churches stay focused on the vision that God has given to them and enable them to manage their resources wisely and effectively.

Fundamental #7: Optimize Your Resources

Besides people, Churches and pastors have several other resources that God has given them to help grow the church. These resources include time, money, and information. The key to managing these other resources effectively is to optimize them. In other words, to use them in such a way as to maximize what they can produce for the Kingdom.

Money

The Bible says that we cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24).  So it is clear that we can only have one Master, and that is God.  It also means that money, or the love of it (1 Timothy 6:10), is what often draws us away from God and into sin.  And often money can represent other things that we worship or covet instead of God.  So how you act with regard to money is a key indicator of how you worship, obey and honor God.

The key to optimizing money is to see it as God’s first and foremost.  When we see money as ours we begin to worship it or treat it differently than what God intends.  When viewed from His perspective it allows us to think more clearly about how God would have us manage and invest His money.  It puts the focus on God and not us. God tells us this truth in Luke 3:13-14 when He says, “Don’t collect any more than you are required to.  Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely-be content with your pay.”  He is saying to be content with what He has given us to use for His purposes.  He also tells us to invest it to produce a return (Matthew 25:14-30).When we treat money as our own, our sinful nature will expose our hearts and lead us to covet what money can give to us, rather than what it can produce for God.

Time

Time is one resource that can never be bought or refilled.  Once time is gone, it is gone forever.  Therefore, we must be very careful as to how we spend our time and what we use it for.

Time is always a matter of priorities. If we ask someone to do something for us, or do something with us, a common response is often, “I don’t have time for that.” But that is not really true. They do have the time. What they are really saying to us is that they have something more important they need or want to do with their time. It may be getting rest, spending time with their family, working on a major project at work, or something else. Whatever it is, it is what they believe is the most important thing they can do with their time at that moment.

Optimizing time is about managing priorities – the importance and urgency of what you need to do.  The problem with time management arises when we attach too little or too much importance or urgency to an activity.  When that occurs we end up spending time on one thing when we should have spent our time on another. It is always a matter of our own choices.  So in order to make better choices, pastors need to thoroughly think through the importance, urgency, and impact of each activity so that they use their time effectively.

Information

The Bible says in Proverbs 10:14 that “Wise men store up knowledge.”  One of the most overlooked resources of the church is information.  This may be information on church members, or information about its ministries, activities or available resources.  There is a wealth of information available to help pastors do the ministry they are called to and it is important to know where that information is or how to access it.  Some information must be collected and stored by the church, especially information on its members and their activities or giftedness, etc.  Other needed information is often available on the internet, at a library, or at a bookstore.

Many churches assume they know where information is or how they can access it only to discover that it is not being collected or stored or it is more difficult and time-consuming to find. In order to optimize information, you need to access it in a timely fashion. That means you must have it readily available or know where it is to get it.  A computer comes in very handy for doing this, but you don’t need a computer to store or access information.  You can use other methods that can be just as effective, such as paper files or individuals.

For you as a pastor, information, or knowledge, gives you an advantage in decision making and use of your resources.  The Bible says in Proverbs 16:13 that “Every prudent man acts out of knowledge.”  Additionally it says in Proverbs 24:5 that “a wise man has great power; and a man of knowledge increases strength.”  So there is wisdom and power in information and God is encouraging you to pursue it.

Fundamental #8: Focus on Accomplishment

Setting goals and working towards them is what enables successful people to achieve their goals. Lou Holtz did not all of a sudden become the head football coach at Notre Dame in 1986. After an early setback in his coaching career he made that one of his goals. So he kept working and progressing as a football coach for 20 years before being hired for that position. He kept his vision in focus and kept working at it daily until his goal was reached.

So as a pastor you must maintain your focus on achieving the goals and producing the results that God desires.  You know that Satan wants to distract you (1 Peter 5:8) and so you should always keep the vision in mind and keep pressing forward. To do that, you must measure success by the results that you produce.  You know that God is the one who produces the fruit (1 Corinthians 3:7), but it is through you and the church that the fruit is produced.  You cannot be effective for God, or the church, if you are drawn away or distracted from your goals.

To make sure you are progressing towards your ultimate goal you must also track your results. This enables you to channel resources into areas of greatest success, because that is obviously the place where God is at work in the ministry.  And you should abandon non-fruitful ministries for the same reason – that God may not be at work in those areas.  Spending time in unproductive areas of ministry generally waste resources and do not produce tangible results or move your church towards its ultimate goal.

Conclusion

There is an anonymous saying that says, “Those who know, and yet do not do, do not yet know.” In other words, we all learn to a great extent by doing what we have learned. The 8 fundamentals for church leadership and management contained in this article are primarily Biblical principles and tools. They must be applied and practiced in order to be learned effectively. We call them fundamentals because they are basic and foundational to understanding leadership and management as they relate to a church. And it is my belief that when these fundamentals are practiced, pastors will experience less conflict, more ministry participation, church growth, and greater effectiveness in their ministries.

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” – Philippians 4:9

 

*For a free copy of our Management for Church Leaders™ Training Book, please click here!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

     Barry Voss is the President and co-founder of FaithLife Ministries.  FaithLife Ministries is a ministry dedicated to training and equipping pastors and church leaders around the world.  Barry has been training pastors and church leaders in the mission field since 1996 and was the developer of the Management for Church Leaders™ training manual in 2001. He has trained more than 12,500 church leaders in over 40 nations. Please visit their website at www.faithlifeministries.net for more information.  He is a member of Christ the Shepherd Lutheran Church in Alpharetta, GA and serves as an elder, a guitarist & worship leader, and as an adult ministry teacher. He and his wife Kim live in Cumming, GA and have two adult children and four grandchildren.

Leading and Managing People in the Church

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Luke 6:31

The Golden Rule.  It seems that we all know Luke 6:31 so well yet are unable to keep it most of the time. The church is a people business that is based upon relationships – with God and with each other.  Jesus taught us this principle so we might live in harmony with each other, and with God, and to demonstrate to the world the love that He died for.  When you lead or manage people, you are in a relationship with them, not just in a position of authority over them.  Managing people is not about telling others what they can do for you, but rather asking them what you can do for them.  It is a daily practice of the Golden Rule as Jesus taught us.

Why is learning how to lead and manage people so important for the church and its leaders? It is because the church is all about people. It is also because people are the church’s most abundant resource and the means by which ministry takes place. It is people who minister to others and are ministered to. Money can’t minister. Buildings can’t minister. Only people can do that. So it is imperative that pastors and church leaders be effective in how they lead and manage their church members, staff, ministry leaders and volunteers so that they are all discipled and the church can grow.

There are a few key principles about managing people that leaders should know:

#1. People are unique. Every person was uniquely created by God (“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” – Psalm 139:13). No two people are exactly alike, not even twins. Each of us has different personalities, different experiences, differing education and differing work history. A pastor or church leader must not assume that everyone believes or thinks the same about activities or issues in the church. Each church member must be viewed as a unique individual with different needs, thoughts and perspectives. Knowing each member individually helps church leaders learn how to best motivate, direct and encourage each of them.  Using only one method to motivate every church member seldom works.

#2. People want to participate. Most people prefer to be participants rather than spectators. God has gifted every person to make a contribution to the body of Christ (“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” – 1 Corinthians 12:7). Participation in the ministry of the church enables church members to see how God is at work in them and in others. And that is a powerful discipleship tool. People learn best by doing. Failure to engage members in the ministry of the church causes them to miss opportunities to experience and affirm their faith and often leads to their withdrawal from the church.

#3. People want direction. In any organization, members desire to know what the organization is about and where it is going. The same is true for the church. Members need to know what the church’s vision and goals are and how they can make a contribution or participate in reaching those goals. The Bible says in Proverbs 29:18 that, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.”  Without a vision or goal to attain, people will simply do what they think is best or what they think should be done. Pastors and leaders must have a vision and then share and communicate that vision to the church so that everybody can work together towards the same vision or goal. This will enable church members to work together and coordinate their efforts so that the church can progress and move forward.

So, what should pastors and church leaders do to lead and manage people more effectively in the church? Here are 5 simple steps:

  1. Include them. Make every attempt to include all church members in the ministry of the church, using their gifts where appropriate or needed.
  1. Respect them. Invite ideas and suggestions from everyone and value those contributions. Great ideas often come from the most unlikely of people.
  1. Train them. Be sure to equip people for the ministry work you are asking them to do. Provide training yourself or send them to external training seminars or classes as needed.
  1. Recognize them. Be sure to give people acknowledgement or credit for their contributions to the ministry. Failure to do that often leads volunteers to withdraw from serving.
  1. Reward them. A little appreciation goes a long way. A small gift or just taking someone out for coffee or lunch affirms their contribution and will encourage future involvement.
(From Chapter 6 in our Management for Church Leaders™ Volume #1 Training Manual, ©2010.)

Being a Biblical Leader

The 10 Attributes of a Biblical Leader

 

“I am the vine, you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5

When leading others, following Biblical principles is perhaps the most important thing a leader should aspire to.  Although it doesn’t always appear to make sense to us, if we follow God’s ways instead of our ways, we will have a more effective ministry. As Jesus’ words above teach us, “apart from God we can do nothing.”  When we rely on our own intuition, talent, or experience, we often end up in places that not only cause us problems or harm, but likely dishonor God as well.  We may possess tremendous leadership ability, but if it is not based on the Word of God, then we will likely lead our followers in the wrong direction.

A Christian leader, therefore, is someone who stays connected to God by reading and applying His Word, who relies on the Holy Spirit working in and through them, and leads others into a deeper walk with Jesus.  The Bible provides us with many examples of leaders who demonstrated effective leadership skills.  A review of Scripture reveals that there are 10 attributes that an effective leader exhibits:

  1. An effective leader must be a Visionary. The Bible says in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” A leader must look to God for the vision or goal He wants them to achieve. Without a vision or a goal to works towards, the leader is not likely to achieve anything significant for the Kingdom.  A leader must be able to communicate and articulate that vision in a way that inspires and encourages others to come along with them.
  1. An effective leader must be Mission Minded. An effective leader must remain concerned with reaching non-believers.  No matter what ministry one is leading, it is imperative that the leader continues to reach out to those who need to know Jesus and receive His free gift of grace. (Matthew 28:19)
  1. An effective leader must be Passionate. As a leader you must care deeply about your ministry and be committed to it. Your passion for the ministry will encourage others and enable you to succeed when obstacles arise. And when these times occur, the only thing that will get you through them, besides the Lord, is your passion. (Proverbs 16:3)
  1. An effective leader must be Spirit-led. The effective leader knows that ministry is a partnership between the leader and God. God gives us our part to do and then He does His part.  But we can never work alone or trust in our own power or abilities. An effective leader also knows that they must seek God first in all they do to make sure they are in the center of His will and purpose for their ministry. (John 15:5)
  1. An effective leader must be a Servant. As our Lord and Savior “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28), we too must serve and not be served.  This runs contrary to what the world teaches leaders to be.  So, a leader is called to serve his followers and not be served by them. Consequently, a servant leader helps his followers grow & succeed.
  1. An effective leader must be Focused. A leader often has many responsibilities and duties to carry out in their position. It is critical for a leader to avoid being distracted by issues unrelated to their vision and mission. When your vision and mission are clear it is easier to stay focused on the goals God wants you to accomplish for the Kingdom. ( 3:13-14)
  1. An effective leader must be Courageous. Courage is the ability to stick to one’s beliefs when they are under attack, and to lead with conviction. The world is full of leaders who pander to the wishes of their followers, which is not really true leadership at all. A leader with courage demonstrates that they are willing to step out in faith, and to rely on God to equip them and give them the strength they need to do what God has called them to do. (1 Cor. 13:16)
  1. An effective leader must be Trusting. A leader trusts in God, who alone is faithful and true.  It can be said that faith is a measure of how much you trust God.  So an effective leader puts his trust in God and God alone, and relies on Him to do what His Word has promised. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5
  1. An effective leader must be Prepared. A leader must expect the unexpected and be prepared to lead, manage or minister as needed in any given situation.  Preparation takes sacrifice and planning ahead.  Virtually all successful leaders have had a major crisis that required their leadership, and being prepared for that situation is what allowed them to be successful. (2 Timothy 4:2)
  1. An effective leader must be Opportunistic. Successful leaders are those leaders who are able to navigate through difficult times as well as take advantage of new opportunities. Leaders should take advantage of the opportunities God gives them today and not just plan for the future or stay stuck in the past. In order to do that a leader must be prepared and alert for those opportunities. Success happens where opportunity meets preparation. (1 Peter 3:15)

 

While this list is not exhaustive, it does provide a good foundation for the attributes a Biblical leader should pursue.

 

(From Chapter 2 in our Management for Church Leaders Volume #1 Training Manual, ©2010.)

Building Successful Teams

teamwork“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

We all enjoy watching individuals achieve success in sports, business or entertainment through hard work, dedication and perseverance. It’s often called the American way because of our nation’s culture of self-reliance and rugged individualism. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We marvel at the accomplishments of people like Michael Phelps (swimming), Bill Gates (business), and Tom Hanks (movies) for what they have achieved in their respective fields.

But I think in many ways we have a greater appreciation for team success, watching several individuals work together to achieve a common goal, whether it’s in sports, business or the entertainment industry. That’s probably why we like watching television shows with ensemble casts or team sports in America. And people watch and celebrate team championships more than almost anything else, whether it’s the World Series, Super Bowl, or the World Cup. There’s just something about teams competing and succeeding that draws our attention and admiration. We value and enjoy seeing people work together, combining their different skills, personalities and experiences in ways that produce success. As Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

The same thing is true for the Christian Church. In order to achieve ministry success, pastors and church leaders will often need to build teams from among their members to work together for the common good of the church (ref. 1 Corinthians 12:7). Churches frequently use teams to oversee ministries, lead worship, develop future plans, or build facilities, just to name a few. Jesus built teams among his disciples and they rarely did anything individually. Teams also enable a church to distribute the workload to more than one person and generate a collaboration of ideas. This is important because each member brings different skills, gifts, and experiences to the church that when combined provide greater opportunity for the best outcome. It is also common that future church leaders will often emerge from within teams.

Churches and ministries should use teams for a variety of purposes, including strategic planning, budgeting, ministry oversight, adding staff, researching new ministry opportunities, or to analyze ministry problems and come up with solutions.  Teams are most effective when the purpose is broad, the project is large, or the objectives impact many people, because they ensure that many perspectives and ideas are considered and discussed. Teams are not as effective when the project scope is narrow or requires specific technical skills.

When building teams it is important to have a clear vision and set of goals with defined outputs and deadlines. It is also crucial to designate a team leader.  The success of any project will depend heavily upon the skill of its leader. Team leaders should select people with differing skills and backgrounds to enable differing ideas and solutions, and to assign each team member specific roles and activities so that everyone on the team participates and is committed to the project. The goal of the team leader is to manage the team like a sports team coach, getting everyone to use their individual skills to work together to produce the best outcome.

In my own personal life I have experienced the greatest joys and successes when working on teams, whether it was a business project, a basketball team, a short term mission trip, or serving on a church board. Close personal bonds are developed, different contributions are celebrated, and achievements are more satisfying. I would guess that many of you would say the same thing.

So when you are faced with a big project, problem or opportunity in your ministry, I would encourage you to build a team to tackle it. You will increase participation in the ministry, develop tighter relationships among your members, and create the possibility for greater ministry success!

(From Chapter 6 of our Management for Church Leaders™ Training Manual, Volume #2.)

Managing Your Life

Balance

“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.”

Colossians 1:10

Usually as pastors or church leaders we spend most our time trying to manage the people and resources of our ministry. We constantly think about how to lead others, train others, or develop them into leaders as well. Consequently, we often forget to manage the one person who also needs help – ourselves!

God has given each of us one life to live.  How we live that life is a measure of our love for God and what He has done for us through Jesus Christ.  There is so much that God wants to do in and through each of us, if we simply let Him.  But so often the cares and worries of this world enter into our lives and either distract us from His desires or strip us of His joy.  Even ministry workers can get so busy being busy that they can lose sight of the blessings God wants to give them or the opportunities he puts before them.  Sometimes we are so preoccupied with ministry work that we neglect our families, our health and even our responsibilities.  As important as ministry work is, it does not negate our responsibility to care and provide for our families, or take care of ourselves.  We are doing ministry when we fulfill these responsibilities.  Therefore, we must strive to keep our lives in balance and to honor God in everything we do, not just our ministry calling.

There are 4 basic areas of our lives that we must keep in the proper balance. They include God, family, work and ministry. Of course, our first priority as Christians is God, and His presence must exist in the other 3 areas of our lives if we are to stay in balance. We don’t just put God first in our lives, we must put Him everywhere in our lives. All areas of our lives need to be submitted to God if we are to call ourselves Christian and be followers of Jesus Christ!

The issue then becomes one of prioritizing the other 3 areas of family, work and ministry. If we are parents as well as church leaders, then our next priority must be our family. God put us in charge of specific people (spouse and children) and we must take care of them first. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Timothy 3:5 that “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” So it is clear that family must come first for pastors and church leaders. Failure to meet the needs of our family is neglecting our primary responsibility.  Leaders must never put work or ministry above their families.

For pastors and some church leaders, work and ministry are the same thing.  It is for me as President of FaithLife Ministries. But for those of you who have a secular job, I believe that it should come before ministry. Why? Because work is the way you meet the needs of your family, which is your first priority. Without work your family would suffer. If you only do ministry and do not provide for your family, the Apostle Paul also says that this person is worse than an unbeliever (“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” –  1 Timothy 5:8Therefore, our work should always come before ministry.

Although ministry should come after family and work, it does not mean that we should abandon it or minimize it. It simply means we have to keep our  priorities in the right order and seek to find the proper balance among them. That balance will differ for each of us and also sometimes in various seasons of life. That balance is not static, but shifts according to our circumstances and the needs at the time. If we manage our time and lives properly it can be done. Finding the proper balance will lead to less stress, better health, more effectiveness, and a life that truly honors God in all that we do.

So the next inevitable question is how do we find that balance? I would suggest the following:

1. Keep specific work hours as much as possible. Limit your work or ministry time to what is essential.
2. Make time for family events.  Be present at birthdays, school functions and kids activities.
3. Take time off as needed to rest and recharge. Take a class and learn something new, read a book, or take a vacation.
4. Eat well 3 times a day. Keep to a healthy routine that is appropriate for your culture.
5. Get a good night’s sleep. Fatigue can lead to poor decision making and illness.
6. Get physical exercise. Play sports, walk or swim. Your body needs it to function properly.

The balance we need in our lives is different for each of us. It depends upon the nature of our family, work and ministry. And that balance can change depending on your circumstances or season of life. I encourage you to find the balance that works best for you in your particular situation. If you are not in balance, you will notice more stress, more fatigue, and less effectiveness. However, when your life is in balance then you will experience the kind of life that Jesus calls abundant in John 10:10!

Barry signature

Leadership Character

trust

“Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” 
1 Timothy 3:2-3

With this being an election year, the American people are looking for a leader. But what exactly is a leader? A leader is someone who not only is effective in positively influencing others, but who also demonstrates the character of a leader. People want  leaders they can trust to do what they say.  One’s character is what makes trust possible.   This is true for all leaders, whether they are political, business or church leaders.

I believe that there are 5 basic characteristics of a leader:

First, they must have integrity. It means they say what they mean and do what they say. Too often leaders lose credibility because they do not follow through on their commitments.

Second, they must have wisdom. This is more than knowledge and reflects a leader’s ability to analyze information and make positive and correct choices and decisions. Leaders lose influence when they make poor decisions or bad choices.

Third, they must have humility. Leaders must put the needs of others above themselves. Nobody likes a self-serving leader. Leaders lose support when they focus on their goals instead of the needs of their followers.

Fourth, they must encourage others. Leadership is not about the leader, but it is about the followers. Leaders who serve and encourage their followers are more successful than those who don’t. Leaders lose followers when they focus on themselves.

Fifth, they must empower others. Leaders who won’t delegate or develop other leaders restrict their own potential and that of others. Leaders lose momentum and growth when they don’t tap into the capabilities of others.

The conduct of a leader is also reflective of their character. There are 7 ways a leader ought to conduct themselves according to 1 Timothy 3:2-3 above:

1. Be above reproach – no one doubts their character
2. Be self-controlled – they are disciplined
3. Be respectable – people look up to them
4. Be hospitable – they are open and welcoming
5. Be able to teach – they instruct and educate others
6. Be gentle – they respect others and are not harsh with their words
7. Be a servant – they focus on people, not money

These qualities from the Bible define the conduct of a true leader. We must always endeavor to look for them when following leaders or electing them.

Barry signature

Managing Information

  Information

“Wise men store up knowledge.”

Proverbs 10:14

One of the most overlooked resources of the church is information. This may be information on church members, or information about its ministries, activities or available resources.  There is also a wealth of information available from outside sources to help churches do the ministry they are called to and it is important to know where that information is or how to access it.  Church information must be collected and stored by the church, especially information on its members and their activities or giftedness, etc.  These will not be available unless it is gathered. Other information may be available on the internet or at a library or bookstore.

With the advent of the internet the amount of information available to us is enormous. With one click or one google search we can find out the answer to virtually any question we might ask.  The internet also enables us to find information very quickly but we must be discerning about its accuracy.  The point is, we have information at our fingertips today that we did not have 25 years ago.

However, in order to access or assess the information we need to plan or make decisions in a timely and accurate fashion, we must have it readily available or know where it is to be able to use it.  This is the process of managing information.  A computer or smart cell phone comes in very handy for doing this, but you don’t need a computer to store or manage information.  Paper files and other methods can be just as effective.

Why is managing information so important you might ask? Well, the Bible says in Proverbs 13:16 that “every prudent man acts out of knowledge.” Having knowledge is essential for making better decisions, developing strategic plans, and assessing the ministry opportunities that a church may have. Not having accurate or timely information could lead to poor planning, wasted time, and misuse of the valuable church resources that God provides us with.

There are a few principles of managing information that are helpful to know:

1. Collect and store only the information you will need or use. This would be information about your church members or activities that are necessary for decision making, planning or running the church. Avoid gathering information that is nice to know but not useful.
2. Update information on a regular basis.  Information ages very rapidly so it must be kept up to date. When was the last time your mailing address, work location, email address or cell phone number changed? For many people one of them has changed within the past year. Have a process in place to update information each year.
3. Protect personal information. Do not publish or print personal information (address, phone number, offerings, etc.) without permission from the individual.
4. Store information so that it can be accessed easily.  Use a computer or file system that is organized and cataloged. Remember to bookmark useful websites and save reports and documents to your computer or file for quick access.
5. Have a plan for using the information. Don’t just collect information but know the purpose, the process, and who is responsible for collecting it.
6. Manage the information.  Make sure information is being collected, stored and updated.  Do not assume that it is. Evaluate your data needs every year.

Finally, it is a good idea to give someone the responsibility for managing your church’s information.  This will ensure proper management and maintenance of this valuable church resource.

If you are interested in learning more about Managing Information, or our other Management for Church Leaders training topics, please visit our website or contact us at 770-492-4903.

Developing Leaders

Developing Leaders

So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua, son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him.”

Numbers 27:18-20

With church or ministry leadership comes a huge responsibility for completing the ministry work that the Lord has called us to. More often than not, we assume that as a leader we need to be intimately involved in every aspect of our ministry if we are to lead it effectively. But the reality is we can’t. We cannot lead every meeting, oversee every detail or make every decision. As leaders, we need to enlist the support and abilities of others if we are to meet the goals God has given to us. That means that we need to identify other people who are potential leaders and develop them so that they can lead, act, and manage according to our objectives and authority. Just as Moses laid his hands on Joshua, you too will need to identify other leaders who are “in the spirit,” and commission them to act on your behalf, and with your authority.

The first thing we must do is to determine what a leader is according to the Bible. I believe there are 4 factors that describe a leader from a Biblical perspective:

  1. A leader knows their identity is in Christ (1 Peter 2:9)
  2. A leader acknowledges that they are to help others employ their spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10)
  3. A leader understands that their job is to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16)
  4. A leader is committed to spreading the gospel (Acts 1:8) and making disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:19)

Knowing how to develop other leaders is extremely important for the growth and success of any ministry. If there is only one leader then that leader will be the “lid” on the ministry according to John Maxwell in his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. In other words, the ministry will not grow beyond the leader’s own abilities. Enlisting the help of other leaders enables a ministry to multiply and to go places where one leader alone cannot go by themselves. It also unleashes the power of the Holy Spirit as it works through more people!

The first step in developing leaders is to identify those who have potential. Often in our culture, churches rely on secular criteria, such as education, experience and personal references. But the Bible says there are only 3 criteria we should use:

  1. People of character (1 Timothy 3:2-3)
  2. People of faith (1 Timothy 3:9)
  3. People full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3)

Failure to use these criteria often results in bad leaders. And removing bad leaders is one of the most difficult things to do in ministry. The only way to avoid that is to choose wisely and use God’s criteria for a leader and not the world’s criteria. If a potential leader exhibits the Biblical criteria, then we can use education, experience and references to select the best candidate. I would add that it is also good to select people with a passion for the ministry, people who are trainable, and people who have the appropriate spiritual gifts to ensure the best fit for the position.

Once a potential leader has been selected the development process begins. It starts with discipleship and making sure their faith is mature and that they have the knowledge to lead. Next they should be given a responsibility to see how they handle it. The leader should also clearly communicate their expectations to them and hold them accountable to complete the tasks they are assigned as agreed to. Start with small tasks and then gradually increase the level of complexity. After they have proven their capability and knowledge and as their leader you are comfortable with their leadership, release them into ministry by assigning them a responsibility. This is what Jesus did with the disciples when he sent them out in Matthew 10.

Raising up other leaders is one of the most gratifying accomplishments of any leader. But be sure to do it according to Biblical criteria, take your time in selecting the leader, and pray for God’s wisdom to make sure you have the right leader!

By  Barry D. Voss

Managing Conflict

Conflict

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

Matthew 5:9

Every church or ministry leader should know that conflict is inevitable in any organization. It is even more likely in the church, because the church is about people, and whenever there are people there will be conflict.  Since Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, church leaders should be prepared for it and have a Biblical way of dealing with it. So learning how to manage conflict is important for every church leader because it exists in the church, causes problems and divisions, and often results in ministry stagnation.  Confronting and dealing with conflict effectively will enable a church to move forward.

There are also sources, reasons and causes for conflict, and leaders must understand the difference.

Sources of conflict are related to the different people groups in a church.  They arise between individual church members, between the pastor and church members, between generations, between genders, and between ministries. In many churches people group together according to their preferences, interests or abilities. Some examples include worship style, home fellowship groups, children’s ministry, or choirs. They are like special interest groups whose participants have a greater concern about their particular part of the church ministry. When special interests collide, there is conflict.

Reasons for conflict are related to the actions or in-actions of a church.  They arise when there is no vision or goals being pursued, there is no strategic plan in place, there is inadequate discipleship, there is poor communication, or when the church does not deal with problems. In other words, poor leadership. When the people are not sure of what the church is trying to do then they will generally decide for themselves what is best, and hence conflict will ensue. As it is stated in Judges 21:25, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”

Causes of conflict are related to spiritual forces that are at work (Ephesians 6:12). There are 3 underlying causes for most conflict: Satan, our sinful nature, and our sinful world. The Bible teaches us in 1 Peter 5:8 that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” That’s Satan at work trying to cause us to sin or pit us against each other. In Galatians 5:17 Paul writes that “the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit.” Our own humanness is always working against us and against God’s will. And finally, the Bible says in 1 John 2:16 that “everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.” So the world in which we live is corrupt and always trying to corrupt us and lead us away from God. As a result, these 3 causes drive most every conflict. So we must be careful not to hate those whom we are in conflict with, but rather to recognize the underlying cause and to hate it instead. “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)

Most conflict is obvious, such as  emotional outbursts, written complaints, or gossip. When a leader sees them they can deal with them.  But some conflict is not so obvious, like withdrawal from church activities, project delays, or no communication. Leaders must be mindful of these and often explore them for their hidden conflicts so they can be dealt with as well.

How are we to resolve conflict? Fortunately, Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 18:15-17 where he outlines a process for dealing with conflict and sin between people.  It is based on repentance and forgiveness. Jesus also says in Luke 6:42 that we are to “first take the plank out of our eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  So first, we go to the person and try to resolve it between us by first repenting of our sin and asking forgiveness. If there is no repentance or forgiveness from the other person, then we are to gather 2-3 witnesses and try again. And if that does not work, we are to take the issue before the entire church.  Church leaders are also sometimes called in to mediate a conflict. In that case, it is important for the leader to get all the facts, to encourage both sides to repent and forgive the other, and to follow the process that Jesus has outlined.

The key to resolving conflict, therefore, is found in humility and forgiveness. Both of these are very powerful spiritual tools that when used can overcome Satan, our sinful nature, and the sinful world, and lead to peace.  But remember, we are only responsible for our own actions. We cannot force others to forgive nor can we change their hearts or attitudes.  Only God can do that.

So let us all seek to be peacemakers through our spiritual actions of humility and forgiveness!