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Home > Interpreter Magazine > Archives > 2011 Archives > September-October 2011 > Developing Lay Leadership

Equipping the saints to lead

By John Michael De Marco


Identifying and developing church leaders is as old as Ephesians 4 and as new as a Starbucks barista helping laypeople embrace new ministries.

A growing contingent of United Methodist clergy and laity cite Paul's declaration in Ephesians to guide their ministry with others in the congregations.

The apostle wrote, "The gifts (Christ) gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ." Ephesians 4:11-12 (NRSV)

Rev. Troy Bowers
Rev. Troy Bowers
OLAN MILLS

"We are attempting to equip pastors for equipping," says the Rev. Sharon Schwab, superintendent of the Indiana District in the Western Pennsylvania Conference, "That's not really what pastors are trained to do." Schwab cites Ken Blanchard's leadership and management material as a major influence.

"Equipping" is also heard frequently in conversations about leadership with the Rev. Derek Jacobs and the Rev. Troy Bowers.

"Our staff has really bought into this vision of moving from being a pastor-centered or staff-centered church to being an equipping-centered church," said Bowers, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Salina, Kan. "At staff meetings we challenge each other: ‘Are you being a doer of tasks or a developer of people?'"


Equipping begins early

Rev. Jim Pond
Rev. Jim Pond
DEBBIE POND

One key way to ingrain an "equipping" mindset throughout the congregation is to plant leadership seeds—grounded in a deep awareness of one's spiritual gifts—as soon as people show up.

The Rev. James Pond, who serves in Schwab's district as pastor of First United Methodist Church of Punxsutawney, observes, "The business of developing and nurturing and training leaders really begins with people as they come into the church. Every time we do a new members' class we invite existing members to walk alongside them. This is giving us better insights into the gifts that people have, where they can fit into the ministry of the church or inspire the church to do some new things."

In this same spirit, all new members at Salina First work through the S.H.A.P.E. (Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experiences) process pioneered by the Rev. Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in California. They then meet with a "consultant" — essentially, a layperson trained by a core equipping team of other laypeople — who helps them find a best-fit ministry. The consultants apply principles from a book by Sue Mallory, The Equipping Church (Zondervan).

Jacobs, who serves the recently launched South Campus of St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas, uses a spiritual partners ministry to equip new members to become leaders in the church. A team of laypeople helps people plug in where they perceive God is leading them. Formal gift inventories are only a small part of the process. Jacobs contends, "Most people know where God has gifted them."

Rev. Jim Pond
Sang Kim (on right)
COURTESY SANG KIM

Sang Kim, a member of Chicago's Journey Community Church (a new United Methodist congregation composed primarily of young Korean-Americans), co-facilitates a small group of 20-somethings. He became involved in leadership when the Rev. Daniel Park, co-pastor with his wife, the Rev. Isaiah Park, "just kind of asked me. He saw some qualities in me. (Park) tries to figure out what our talents are, what our passions in life basically are."

In her Western Pennsylvania district, Schwab uses four Bible passages that address spiritual gifts in depth to begin exploring the topic. "We work on what gifts are listed in the Bible. How are they visible in our world today? Which ones do you see in the people around you?" Schwab says she will sometimes use an inventory to confirm others' gifts, and is particularly fond of "The Spiritual Gifts Profile with DISC Personality Overview" (The Institute for Motivational Living).

Teach, train, trust

Formal training and on-the-job learning further equip the new leaders after they have discerned and embraced their gifts.

The Rev. Brittany Isaac emphasizes hands-on experience as she plants the Andersonville congregation of Chicago's Urban Village Church, a new United Methodist congregation. Working with a core of 15 individuals, Isaac and the team brainstormed their mission and potential partners. One team member, Scott, showed an interest in learning more. Isaac took him on a tour of several organizations and had him present his findings to the full core. Two other members, Aiden and Maggie, have organized community events, such as a food pantry fundraiser.

Rev. Britanny Isaac
Rev. Britanny Isaac
MONICA ISAAC

Isaac's passion and talent for developing leaders were brewed as a manager at Starbucks, where she empowered her assistant managers to run the store.

"Then I got to do what I loved, which was talking to customers and looking at the big picture view of what's going on. As a result, I had a very good track record of promoting assistant managers to store managers and shift managers to assistant managers," says Isaac, who moved from manager back to part-time barista once she began serving the Andersonville plant.

Park notes leaders such as Kim "might need help figuring out certain things. They ask a whole bunch of questions. I don't just throw them in the water and say ‘sink or swim.'" However, Journey Church also gathers its lay leaders for structured training, opportunities to address topics such as recognizing the appropriate time to send a pastoral care need to one of the clergy.

Creating places for new leaders

At First Church Punxsutawney, inaugural small group leader training will occur this fall. At St. Luke's South Campus, Jacobs requires all leaders to participate in bi-annual retreats while children and youth lead worship once a month.

Rev. Derek Jacobs
Rev. Derek Jacobs
NLG PHOTOGRAPHY

A crucial aspect of growing and equipping churches is helping the veteran church leaders — even those on a planting team — make room for the new people.

Park gently resists requests for "more meetings" by directing the focus back to Journey's specific vision for reaching unchurched and "de-churched" people.

"As young as our church is, it gets old very fast," Park says. "We spent about the first year getting our first 10 people to unlearn everything about the church."

Schwab advises churches to make it very clear how long leaders will serve in a role before being asked to pass the baton.

"As we've grown in our outreach to the community, in some regards people have recognized that there's plenty of room for everybody," observes Pond. "There's perhaps even a sigh of relief that others have come along to help."

And as they assist new and existing church members to discover their gifts and equip them to follow their calling, United Methodist pastors are also firmly committed to seeing that leaders know Wesleyan heritage and theology.

"I believe it's very important to understand who we are and why we do what we do," says Jacobs. "When we're all on the same page, we're more effective in ministry and across the world."

The Rev. John Michael De Marco is a United Methodist deacon, writer, coach and facilitator based in Franklin, Tenn.

Laity Sunday is Oct. 16

"Disciples Transforming the World – through Gifts" is the theme for Laity Sunday 2011. Oct. 16 is the day set for this year's observance to celebrate the ministry of all Christians as their lives are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Writing on this year's theme, Sandy Jackson, director of ministry of the laity for the General Board of Discipleship, encourages thinking beyond giving money when considering one's gifts. "Think about the value of your spiritual gifts," she says. "Think about the wide reach and effect of those gifts on the world!"

Read Jackson's full article and find Laity Sunday worship resources, bulletin covers, inserts and posters at www.gbod.org/laity.




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