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An Equipping Facade

Last year my friend, Sandy, and her family began attending a prominent church in their community. She shared with me recently her experiences with exploring ministry opportunities at this new church. The church seems to have it all together, with several ministries that have an impact on the city. Listening to Sandy’s tale, however, leads me to believe that all is not as it seems!

First, let me tell you about Sandy. She is undoubtedly one of the most capable women I know: a well-respected teacher, blessed with the somewhat illusive combination of incredible intelligence matched with a generous helping of common sense. Sandy is spiritually mature and generously gives of her time. She has done an outstanding job of cultivating a serving mentality in her family. In short, Sandy is the kind of leader any church would be thrilled to add to its roles!

Sandy’s first attempt at getting involved in ministry through her new church was to volunteer at a local clinic. She showed up at the appointed time, only to find that the ministry had been misrepresented. Her time was not valued; her evening wasted. And no one took the time to debrief the experience with her.

Sandy’s next venture resulted from her daughter’s desire to participate in a ministry opportunity that entailed filling children’s backpacks for a local mission. When they arrived, they had to search for the room where the group was meeting. When they walked in, no one approached to invite them into the activity. No one explained to them what they could or should do to help. So Sandy observed for awhile and, being the intelligent, capable woman that she is, soon understood the process and found a spot where she and her daughter could participate. After a couple of hours of stuffing backpacks, they left, having never been spoken to. Literally, not one person had spoken to them from the time they walked in the door until the time they walked out.

Sandy’s latest attempt to engage in ministry was to enroll in the church’s program for training lay counselors. She completed the training and has been waiting for months for an assignment. No one has contacted her. If there is a periodic meeting of these lay counselors, she has not been invited.

Here are three conclusions I would draw about this church, based on Sandy’s story:

  1. The leadership of this church does not understand its responsibility to equip the saints for the good works God has prepared for them to do.
  2. This church apparently has no process or structure in place to successfully connect volunteers to ministry opportunities.
  3. This church has a limited vision for the future. They do not appear to be looking for new leaders to assimilate into their ministries, which will lead to burnout of existing leaders.

Though disappointed, Sandy will be fine. She is mature in her faith and, because the rest of her family likes this new church, she will stay. Sandy will persevere until she finds her ministry niche, though it will most likely be outside of this church body. Sadly, this church will miss the blessing of having a capable leader in their midst.

What about your church? Is your equipping ministry a facade? Here are four questions to help you evaluate:

  1. Are folks getting connected to meaningful ministry opportunities?
  2. Are we diligent about following up and following through?
  3. When did we last review our systems/processes?
  4. How many new leaders are we raising up and incorporating into leadership roles?

Answer fearlessly!

4 thoughts on “An Equipping Facade

  1. A powerful story illustrates the point very, very well. Someone without Sandy’s maturity and diligence would head for the door. Often, when we are inside our church, we can’t see how it looks to someone on the outside. Your questions will help a church look through a different lens at how people are assimilated into ministry. I’ve been in Sandy’s spot recently. Because I wasn’t ready to join, there wasn’t a place for me to serve. Beautiful worship, but no way to serve. That leaves a hunger in one that we as leaders in congregations need to be ever conscious of.

    Thanks for points to ponder.

  2. You are so right, Rhonda. People who are excited and anxious to serve need to be encouraged, not neglected. And it is always wise to have some serving opportunities that are appropriate for someone who is not ready to officially “join” the church. What a wonderful way for a seeker to connect to the church by kneeling in the dirt beside a believer as they plant flowers together, or standing next to a believer elbow-deep in soapy water as they wash dishes together. These things are easy to do and help a newcomer feel like they belong, without risking a ministry train wreck!

    • Thank you, Ed. I run across so many ministry leaders who understand equipping as simply filling slots–tasks–with warm bodies. True equipping requires investing in those we lead in such a way as to encourage their spiritual formation so that they, in turn, influence the spiritual formation of others.

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