It seems simple enough: when you give someone a leadership role, you should expect them to take care of the group they’re leading. But often times, we give them administrative responsibility without the privilege of shepherding.
“You track attendance, but tell me who needs to be prayed for.”
“You run the meeting, but I’ll take care of visiting the hospital.”
“You park the cars, but let me handle the marriage problems of the guys in the orange vests.”
If someone carries the title of “leader” in your church, they should also bear the burden of a shepherd. They should be the first line of care when a need arises in their group. They should be the primary champion of spiritual growth for the people they lead. They should be among the first at the hospital or funeral home or wedding celebration when a major life change occurs.
There’s a practical element to this: if you’re a pastor in a church of more than 25, you won’t always be able to cover all the needs. What’s more, you shouldn’t lead your church in such a way that you’re expected to cover all the needs. Andy Stanley (lead pastor of North Point Church, current attendance 1.4 gazillion) says it like this: “If I show up at your hospital bed, you’re much worse off than what they told you.”
We do this a couple of different ways at the Summit. With our small group leaders, we lay the greater burden of care on their shoulders. Yes, we want to be informed of major needs, and yes, we come alongside to help with issues that are “above the scope” of a lay leader. But our elders coach groups in such a way that the leaders are equipped to handle many of the needs that arise.
With ministry team leaders, we expect the same. We’ve recently purged our volunteer rosters on the First Impressions team so there’s not a list of 462 volunteers that haven’t actually served since the Carter administration. Our new rosters are a lean, mean, shepherding machine, designed for leaders to know who is on their team and how their team is doing. They submit weekly attendance reports, yes, but the greater purpose of those reports is to force them to take a look at who is showing up and who has suddenly dropped off the radar…and why.
As a pastor, I still go to the hospital. I still meet with people. I still counsel and pray and shepherd and kiss babies and shake hands and sign 8×10 glossy photos of myself (holding a KJV Study Bible, staring pensively at my bookshelf, order yours today). But I’ve realized that if I’m going to stick in ministry, I have to take seriously Paul’s charge to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
You should too. But how are you doing that? Comment below.