One of the most difficult tasks of any leader is training additional leaders. After all, leaders are busy, and taking the time to train someone else is not immediately productive. It takes time — often years — for the person being equipped to be as well equipped as the leader doing the training.
And yet, Thumma and Travis find that a willingness to train others is an essential characteristic of pastors of megachurches —
These leaders grant great responsibility to associate pastors within their church. They provide training, mentoring, and resources to get the job done. They spend significant time with staff pastors and key volunteers. Our experience with many pastors of smaller churches is that they tend to do the opposite and spend little time training and nurturing staff and key volunteers. … We feel that 25 percent [of the pastor’s time] is a minimum for this type of activity. Many pastors of smaller churches spread themselves too thin and endeavor to do too much of the frontline ministry themselves instead of equipping others.
The authors point out that even in a church so small that it has only one minister on payroll, the minister can multiply his effectiveness by training volunteer members, especially retired members with substantial time to invest in the church.
This is an extremely important point. No church has enough ministers. No church has a surplus of men and women with leadership training. But many churches have ministers and volunteers who are woefully under-utilized because they lack opportunities and training.
A minister who embarks on such an effort has to realize that it will be, initially, counterproductive. At first, he’ll lose more productivity than he gains. Therefore, he should begin by advising his eldership of his plans and asking for their patience.
Moreover, the church has to get used to the idea that the preacher won’t be doing everything. Members have to learn that they aren’t disrespected because a deacon visits them in the hospital rather than the preacher.
In fact, there are larger churches that do this so well that most of the marriages and funerals are conducted by elders and other members who’ve been given pastoral responsibilities.
Whether it’s the management of adult education, small groups, inner city ministry, or visiting shut ins, training is the critical first step. For a while, less will get done. But soon enough, the church will prosper from having so many well-trained leaders.
Finally, I’m persuaded that the difference between ministers who train and those who do not is vision. If the minister is truly motivated to help his congregation attain a defined goal, he’ll quickly realize that he can’t lead the church by himself, and he’ll do what he needs to do to find the help he needs.
Moreover, he’ll be upset when other ministers on staff fail to perform and when volunteer ministry leaders don’t get the job done. As a result, he’ll step in, train, and recruit to see the vision realized.
However, a minister with no vision has no way to tell whether the job is getting done. He can, subconsciously, scale back expectations and no one — not even himself — can say that his church is underachieving.