Every person in your church has the innate desire to contribute.
This is true in every area of their lives but the desire is heightened by the fact that the mission of the church has eternal implications for the lives of its people and its community.
Then why is it true that so many people feel so frustrated by not being able to contribute in meaningful ways at church?
Just this week a client pastor told us: “I have these people in our church who are heavy hitters in the workplace, making multi-million dollar decisions and influencing hundreds of people. But here many of them just sit, and the ones who do volunteer are often doing things that are way below their capacity. I’m just not sure how to break the logjam”.
Let’s stipulate this: if people have the innate desire to contribute but they are not contributing, then it is about us as church leaders, not them. Hard truth perhaps, but hard truths are essential ones. We can only change what we can change.
And that starts not with programs or ministries but with the culture of our churches. We get the results that our culture is perfectly designed to get. The most effective church leaders realize that their most important work is culture-crafting.
Here are three things that can help us build a church culture where people are motivated to contribute their best:
- Forget about people’s weaknesses; focus on their strengths. This strategy does not ignore the very real limitations of human behavior and the fact that we don’t always do the best things. But it does recognize the essential emphasis of Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. If God designed work for us to do, then God created us perfectly to do that work, with just the right strengths to do the task. As leaders we want to help people discover their strengths and leverage them for mission
- Embrace a strengths-based culture. This goes beyond just the individual. Such a culture seeks to find what people are good at; what their strengths are and then empowering them to use those strengths to contribute. Everyone has strengths. It is a matter of uncovering them, embracing them and then setting them free.This may include classic formulations such as a spiritual gifts inventory. But a truly strength-based culture will go far beyond this. It will be crafted in such a way that decisions about personnel, resource allocation, ministry opportunities are seen through the lens of “What are we best at? Where can we truly make a difference? What strengths are unique to us in this place at this time?”
- Focus on what people are great at doing rather than solely on what needs to be done. It’s not easy work leading a church. Some stuff just has to get done. Add to that the fact that the vast majority of your workforce is volunteer and it is easy to see why church leaders get caught up in the game of “we’ve got the fill these slots to keep the machine going!” But what if your starting point was different? What if you had a laser-clear focus on where people excel? What if you knew what people brought to every meeting, project and challenge? What if the driving force in planning was not a ministry job description, but rather the strength-profile of the people God has given us? How would your new member/assimilation/ministry development process change if you searched for needed strengths rather than prescribed skills or warm bodies to fill long-standing positions in the church org chart?
Here’s the good news with which we began: every person in your church has the innate desire to contribute. God has given them that desire, a specific calling and vocation borne from that desire, and placed them in your church for a reason. Begin crafting a culture where that desire is front and center – where you are serving and unleashing the gifts of your people rather than scrambling to keep a church machine going – and you will find both missional success and more engaged members!
At Transforming Church and TAG Consulting, we have a process for helping people discover their unique calling and how to unleash it. It’s called Intentional Difference and we’d love for you to read more about it here.