I have the rare perspective of having planted two churches and having two very different experiences. In our first church plant, my wife and I did everything and did it alone. In our second church, we raised up a team and have worked together with the team to reach our community. In both churches, God did amazing things, but when we raised up a team, more abundant fruit has grown in a faster amount of time because of God’s favor and grace.
Here are five practical steps to go from the Lone Ranger to The Magnificent Seven.
In Exodus 18, Moses had just led the children of Israel out of Egypt. We know the story well, and now they are in the wilderness. A new venture. Uncharted territory. Moses has been leading sheep in this area for decades, but now the situation is different: He has people. Both sheep and people need guiding. Both sheep and people will follow a confident leader. Both sheep and people get hungry and thirsty. But when that happens, sheep begin to “bah,” and people complain against one another. So to counter this, Moses merely got in the trenches and worked and worked and handled all of the various issues by himself. That’s when Jethro, his wife’s father, showed up. He exhorted Moses to build a competent, qualified team to help handle the day-to-day demands of ministry (Exodus 18:13-24).
Notice from this passage the benefits of a team versus working alone: working alone is not good (v.17). There is too much work for one person (v.18). You will wear yourself and your people out if you lead alone (v.18). God will be with you when you raise up a team (v.19). It will be easier for you (v.22). Others will bear the burden with you (v.22). You will be able to endure (v.23). People will be in peace around you (v.23).
There is something amazing about church planters. They are kind of like decathletes. A decathlete can do 10 different Olympic events but normally doesn’t stand out in any one area. I am amazed when I see church planters because often they are leading worship, teaching, casting vision, setting up/tearing down, doing the website, creating graphics, making the bank deposit, teaching home fellowships, teaching a mid-week, calling new visitors back, making the coffee, organizing the outreach events, even teaching the youth. It’s like a one-man band: the guy who plays the tuba, while kicking his foot on the drum and using his elbow to strum the ukulele. Last time I checked, there’s not a lot of people paying big money to see a one-man band at a concert hall. These are just people on the street making a lot of noise and doing everything alone. Listen: It’s wrong. Do we need to wear various hats? Yes. But we will wear ourselves out. And worse, we may discourage people from getting involved when we are locking them out of ministry opportunities because of fear, selfishness or pride.
In my first church plant, I moved to an unknown city and started from scratch. Zero volunteers, except my wife and I. I threw her into the kids’ ministry, and she was open to it and enjoyed it (I think…). I led the worship and taught. I handled all the graphics. She followed up with new people. Neither one of us touched the offering, but we together made most of the financial decisions. And the church was hindered because we had our four hands all over it.
I remember we were so exhausted one night that we took some people to dinner and literally begged them to help us get the church organized and going. They say 10% of the people do 90% of the work? Well we had 20-40 people, so that meant 10% was my wife and I doing all the work!! So we realized first-hand that we needed to let go and listen to Jethro’s advice. You can’t do it alone, at least for very long. You need a team. But first you need to be worthy of following.
1. Be Worthy of Following
President Eisenhower said:
“In order to be a leader a man must have followers. And to have followers, a man must have their confidence. Hence the supreme quality of a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, on a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man’s associates find him guilty of phoniness, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose.”
Before we consider leading a team, we need to be men who follow Jesus. Who live lives of integrity and stand before God and for people unashamed and unhindered. Then, we need to raise up our team by prayerfully and carefully selecting who belongs alongside us. Every Doc needs the right Marty. Every 3PO needs the right R2.
2. Choose the Right People, Slowly
“Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness” (Exodus 18:21).
Does this not remind you of Acts 6? When the apostles were holy busboys and needed to raise up deacons? They were looking for similar qualifications.
At our first church plant, I mentioned that we went to some people in desperation for help, and we ended up laying hands on some men very quickly. We didn’t know their background but later found out they had caused division in churches prior to ours. Raising up the wrong leaders will cause a tremendous amount of hardship and destruction to the body. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever endured, so I admonish church planters to take things slowly.
Find out the testimony of those who want to help in ministry. Don’t give titles but give assignments. Inquire of the team on what they thought about the service, about the study, the event, the church in general. See what they say. Ask them questions and take your time before giving them a role. Jesus prayed all night to select His disciples, yet He still ended up with a Judas.
At one time, Andrew Carnegie was the wealthiest man in America. He came to America from his native Scotland when he was a small boy, did a variety of odd jobs and eventually ended up as the largest steel manufacturer in the United States. At one time, he had 43 millionaires working for him.
A reporter asked Carnegie how he had hired 43 millionaires. Carnegie responded that those men had not been millionaires when they started working for him but had become millionaires as a result.
The reporter’s next question was, “How did you develop these men to become so valuable to you that you have paid them this much money?” Carnegie replied that men are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold; but one doesn’t go into the mine looking for dirt – one goes in looking for the gold.
That’s exactly the way we pastors need to view our people. Don’t look for the flaws, warts and blemishes. Look for the gold, not for the dirt; the good, not the bad. Look for the positive aspects of life. Like everything else, the more good qualities we look for in our people, the more good qualities we are going to find.
3. Train People
Once the right people are in place, we need to train them in the tasks we expect from them. Jethro said to Moses in verse 20:
“And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do.”
One of the biggest mistakes we can make is just to throw people into the job and expect them to figure it out. We must teach the Scriptures, and we must impart vision; but we also need to give the how-to’s. Notice the three aspects of Jethro’s advice:
Teach them the statutes and laws: (Doctrine): Orthodoxy
Show them the way in which they must walk: (Philosophy): Philosophy of Ministry
Show them the work they must do: (Practice): Orthopraxis
You have to teach all three. If you have someone on your team that is reading prosperity gospel content, you have a doctrinal issue. Do you have someone who is right on doctrinally, but they don’t understand why kids can’t just be in the service on Sunday morning? That’s a philosophy of ministry discussion. And you can teach the Bible verse-by-verse for decades and impart lots of vision, but that doesn’t mean people will learn how to roll sound cables correctly or nail ProPresenter or how to stack the chairs, so they don’t lean like the tower in Pisa. Those are practical ideas.
At our church, it is the responsibility of our team leads to ensure everyone is trained and doing their role on their team. It is the responsibility of the team members to show up and execute when they are scheduled, and if they can’t make it, it is their responsibility to find their own replacement. And they are also the ones recruiting for their team, to find people to replace themselves. Then the lead of each team can be seeing who is faithful, so they can also replace themselves. So we have three tiers for every team in our new church plant. That isn’t just for practical training. It is also how we view discipleship and spiritual growth in our church.
Is this not what Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2?
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
Did you catch that? Paul taught Timothy. One tier. Timothy committed the teachings to faithful men. Second tier. The faithful men taught others. Third tier.
4. Delegate, then Delegate Some More
You can’t do it all alone, which means, like Moses, you need to delegate (v.21). By delegating, Moses now was freed up to take the most important or difficult cases and could lead the people and not be bogged down in the details. In Acts 6, when Stephen and the other deacons were appointed, the practical ministry was handled, so they could focus on prayer and preaching.
The definition of delegation is: to entrust (a task or responsibility) to another person. Notice that word “entrust.” Usually pastors don’t delegate because they don’t trust. How many of us have said this, “Well I don’t want to give this to others because I can do it better myself. It takes more work to get others to help and to train them.” I would say, “Yes, in the beginning there is more work. But in the long run there is exponentially less work.”
Delegation looks like this in my ministry:
What is a list of all the things that MUST be done for the church? (List out all the verbs, like “print bulletins,” etc.) What are the things that ONLY I can do? I have identified this list as the “3 P’s: Prayer, Preaching, People Development.”
Who can I assign to handle all the items left on the to-do list?
Have I made the expectations for this task clear? What would make this a “win?”
When is the deadline for these tasks to be done?
We use an app called Planning Center Online to handle our volunteers. We also use a free online app called Asana to do any bit of event or project management. Literally, every week I know exactly who is scheduled for each ministry in the church, and for an event, I know what we have completed and what is left to accomplish for the event to be successful. Every task is listed and assigned to a person’s name. I may still follow up and equip and come alongside, but notice now I’m not the one doing the work—I’m the one equipping and teaching. I’m shadowing and giving feedback, so people can grow. I’m being the educator not the worker. I’m working on the church not just in the church. And the team is growing and becoming stronger, which means the church is growing and becoming stronger. Is this not a beautiful picture of Ephesians 4?
5. Don’t Lose Heart
Some reading this may feel alone and discouraged and not sure where to start. It isn’t going to happen overnight, so don’t lose heart; and don’t give up on people. The truth is, many of us aren’t alone: We are just loners. Let’s stop bearing the weight by ourselves like Frodo and start inviting the Samwise’s of our churches to share the load with us! (Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto).