As the pastor walked me through his church building with its huge classrooms, he paused and grimaced. “God just hasn’t given us very many teachers,” he said.
In scores of churches I’ve heard leaders complain, “A handful of us are doing all the work. We need more workers.”
Even Jesus said, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few” (Matt. 9:37 NLT). The need for more workers is real, and it’s not going away.
What can we do?
1. Shift focus from recruiting to equipping. Paul says that God has placed pastors and teachers in the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12 ESV). He doesn’t say “to recruit the saints for the work of ministry.” Our primary assignment is not recruiting leaders but growing them.
“Leadership training” often conjures up pictures of classes or workshops. While classes can help, most ministry skills aren’t learned in a classroom. They’re learned by doing ministry with others.
When someone asks me, “How do I become a leader in this church?” I say, “The first step is to join a ministry team.” Most of our ministries are team-based. New team members don’t just do an assigned task. They fully participate in strategizing and planning as well as doing ministry alongside experienced teammates. They learn leadership skills by doing.
We mentor children’s teachers, apprentice small group leaders. I love it that most of our leaders today had never led anything before. They are homegrown leaders!
2. Pray for workers. After saying that the harvest needs more workers, Jesus continued, “So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” (Matt. 9:38 NLT). Each night my wife and I pray for youth workers, small group leaders, and more. And lately we’ve done a lot of thanking God for the workers he’s providing.
3. Pray to be made trustworthy. A few years ago a friend shared a way of praying that has made a huge difference in his church. Rather than just asking God for people and resources, they began praying, “God, make us trustworthy to receive the people and resources you want to send us.” As we have begun praying this way, we have become aware of ways to become more trustworthy. We’ve raised the bar for key leadership roles. We‘ve seen gossip decrease and unity increase. I’m confident that the crop of new leaders we’re seeing is in no small part because we are becoming more trustworthy.
Thank you, Lord of the harvest.
- To fill leadership needs, have you relied more on recruiting or equipping? How can you be more strategic about equipping?
- What leadership roles do you need to pray the Lord of the harvest to fill?
- Would you like to start praying daily, “God, make us trustworthy?”