Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” So true! One consistent message I hear from churches is how they are struggling with training leaders. Does your church struggle with this same issue? Most churches do. Yet, many churches have no processes or systems in place to identify, recruit, equip, or deploy leaders. Too often we underplay roles, responsibilities, and outcomes of ministry teams and committees in order to convince a potential person to say yes to serving. The pursuit becomes more about getting “the yes” from a volunteer than it does about identifying the right people and equipping them for an effective ministry outcome. We have focused on the wrong result.

The identification and equipping process does not have to be complicated, but it does need to be intentional. First, we must move away from our secular expertise approach to a more spiritual maturity approach especially for the church council/board members. How can a church be led to fulfill its mission of making disciples who transform the world if the church is not being led by spiritually mature disciples? Second, ministries teams should be filled with people who have the gifts and passion for the ministry. If those people do not exist, then this is not a ministry the church is called to offer in this season. Third, there should not be standing ministry teams/committees just because we’ve always had that ministry team. The ministry should exist because it moves the church towards God’s preferred future for the church (aka the vision of the church). Fourth, every ministry needs to have a job description outlining its role, responsibilities, purpose, intended outcome, and how it ties into the church’s mission, vision, and core values. Each ministry should be evaluated against its purpose and intended outcome semi-annually or after each event.

People are much more likely to serve if they know what to do and what is expected of them. Showing them and walking alongside as they learn is even more effective. From my book, Gear Up: Nine Essential Processes for the Optimized Church, here is the very easy and well-known set of steps to empower and equip laity for ministry:

I do. You watch. We talk.

I do. You help. We talk.

You do. I help. We talk.

You do. I watch. We talk.

You do. Someone else watches. You talk. I move on…

In addition to these equipping steps, introduce the “ICNU” process. Train your staff and ministry leaders to consistently look for traits in people for leadership and serving. When a staff member, leader or pastor notices spiritual giftedness in another, they approach the person explaining what “I see in you” (ICNU). The leader goes on to explain what giftedness s/he sees in that person and how s/he might be able to use that giftedness in a particular ministry. For example, you might share with Sally that you just love watching her interact with other people. She is one of those people that never meets a stranger. She is always so friendly, upbeat and has a smile on her face. You go on to share with Sally that you see her using her spiritual gift of hospitality. Therefore, you believe she would be a great addition to the hospitality team. You ask her to think about it, pray about it, and you will call her a couple of days. Indeed, call her back in a couple of days to check in and see about her discernment and desire to use her gifts in ministry.

ICNU is a one-on-one process that is authentic, personal, and specific to the giftedness in relationship to ministry. This is a recommended process over the typical “cattle call” process begging for volunteers from the pulpit, newsletter, or email. The cattle call and similar approaches are impersonal and often ineffective, too. These approaches also do not help people identify their gifts through the eyes and experiences of others like the ICNU process does. On the other hand, the one-on-one invitation is always personal, specific, and working alongside another. Remember, you will never recruit well until you first identify well.

If you are looking for quality on-demand resources to equip and empower laity and ministry teams, check out this library of resources.