A couple of weeks ago I was in Georgia and saw flowering trees. As I look out my window I see daffodils and tulips trying to emerge. All this gives me hope that our harsh winter is about to end as spring erupts. Just as these flowers are responding to their environment, I have found I must create an environment for my team that allows them to flourish. I operate on the premise that a happy staff is a fruitful staff. When I equip them to do the ministry God has called them to and provide the kind of support they need, good things are released. From this perspective, I don’t need to push and prod, but create opportunities and an environment that releases ministry.
That was written by my dear friend and colleague, John Criswell, in his recent newsletter. John currently serves as a Regional Director at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship but, as I reflected on John’s words, I remembered that he had this same philosophy when we served together on the staff of a large church not so many years ago. What’s more, it worked! As my supervisor, John didn’t have to push or prod. Rather, he invested in me and good things were released in and through me.
As a leader, what are you doing to create opportunities and an environment that releases ministry? Here are a few investments that will yield good results:
- Help those you lead discover how God has uniquely designed them for ministry. I know I write this over and over, but this understanding is critical to fruitful ministry! Teach them to listen for and recognize God’s calling on their life.
- Regularly re-visit that discovery process with those you lead through reflection exercises designed to reveal their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their current serving role. Don’t be afraid of losing your volunteer minister! Instead, set them free to pursue something more fulfilling, all the while trusting that God will bring someone who is better fitted to that role.
- Provide opportunities for ongoing equipping. This can be in the form of conferences, workshops, seminars–if they can’t attend a live event, consider purchasing a video or audio recording for your volunteers. Instructional materials can also be found in books, magazines, ezines, blogs, YouTube, etc. Consider that volunteers have limited time, so be strategic when choosing these resources.
- And speaking of resources, make sure your volunteers have what they need to do what is expected. Case in point: At the end of the Toddler Church lesson, our little ones look forward to their snack. Believe me, it’s not a pretty sight when the Goldfish snack container is empty! It makes for some pretty unhappy Toddler Church teachers.
- Be accessible. John had a comfy blue chair in his office that held many of his supervisees when they came to share a frustration or recount a moment of fruitful ministry, and everything in between. John was always willing to listen, counsel, exhort, and celebrate. Yes, he was my supervisor…but he was also a trusted friend.
- Dream with those you lead. Don’t just settle for the low-hanging fruit. Encourage them to dream bigger dreams for their ministry. Help them reach for more of the kingdom.
How are you investing in your people? What kind of return are you getting on that investment? If ministry isn’t being released–if you aren’t seeing good fruit as a result–perhaps it’s time to review your investment practices.