For my book Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing, I asked Perry Noble for practical advice for pastors on how to share the ministry load:
Why do you think pastors try to do too much themselves?
A couple of reasons automatically stick out in my mind. The first is insecurity. Many times we fear that by not doing it all we are going to hurt someone’s feelings and/or offend them. We believe that by doing more people will have a higher view of us and thereby overlook any faults or flaws that we may have. Many of us simply need to feel needed, like we are someone’s hero, and being a pastor who does it all can fulfill that area of sin in our lives.
The second reason pastors try to do too much is that we fail to teach people that the church is not effective when the pastor ministers to the people, but rather when the body ministers to the body. Many of us feel that if we teach people that God expects them to actually do ministry rather than critique it that they may leave the church.
So in order not to ruffle feathers we visit hospitals, speak at pet’s funerals, eat food that we don’t like with people who sometimes bother us and change the marquee every week.
Was this ever a challenge for you? What has helped you to grow in this area?
Yes! I used to have this complex that said, “If I don’t do it then it will not get done correctly.” So I would not delegate ministry very often; instead I just took more and more on my plate.
The thing that helped me to grow in this area, first of all, was a better understanding of what Scripture says in Ephesians 4:11-16:
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Our calling as pastors is to train and equip people for the ministry, not to do it all for them.
The second thing was for me to repent of my pride and admit that I am not very good at many things. For me to hold all of the ministry opportunities in my hands and not challenge others to get involved was actually cheating them out of opportunities to further develop their relationship with Jesus.
Are there any areas of ministry in your church that you used to do that are being done more effectively by someone else now?
Yes! I used to lead worship and preach every Sunday. In fact, I did this for about the first six months our church was in existence. It was horrible! I probably knew about three or four chords on the guitar and we pretty much had around 10 songs in our rotation.
We sang the children’s song “Pharaoh, Pharaoh” one Sunday morning because I wanted to introduce a new song, but that’s the only one I could play! We hired a worship leader in May of that year, and by June 1st he had kicked me out of the band!
I also used to do all of our media slides and presentations. I still have some of them on an old laptop computer and they are horrible! I remember releasing that responsibility to someone else about eight months into our church plant and the quality got better really quickly.
What are two or three keys you have found in empowering others to do the work of the ministry?
I would say the first is teaching others that to really develop a solid relationship with Jesus there has to be an element of serving others. It is bothersome to me when people claim they “want to go deep” but have splinters in their rear ends from sitting around all day and doing nothing.
Spiritual maturity is not only measured by knowledge; if that were the case then the devil would be more spiritually mature than any pastor on the planet because he knows way more than all of us! But maturity is developed when people do what Jesus did by serving others.
The second key to empowering others is to teach the church that there are many ministry opportunities that the members can do much better than I can. Many pastors like to believe that we are the best at everything in regards to ministry, and that simply is not true.
There are so many things that others can do better than I ever could dream of doing them. Through teaching and encouragement of that very thing I’ve discovered that people are more than willing to embrace ministry opportunities when they see that they are needed.
What advice would you give to the pastor of a smaller church who is struggling to get everything done?
You do not have to have a large staff in order to delegate ministry. There are people in your church, right now, that would get involved in a skinny minute if you would just ask them. Sure, they might not do ministry the way you would have done it; it might actually be better.
I know there may be a fear that in asking them to “do” something; that you may offend them causing them to leave. Nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, I’ve discovered that by not asking them to assist in ministry you are way more likely to lose quality leaders to a place where they feel as if they can make a difference.
Secondly I would say to trust in God’s Sovereignty way more than your own ability. Way too many times I have put God to the side and not asked for His involvement in something just because of feeling so overwhelmed.
Last of all I would say that all pastors of any church size need to realize that the church would survive without us were we to die in an accident tomorrow. Seriously, the church belongs to Jesus, not us. We are stewards—not owners.
Jesus has been doing this church deal for 2,000 years without us, and it will continue on after all of us are gone. She is his Bride, and he will always make sure she is radiant and beautiful.