Ministry Leaders: A How to Guide

Every pastor knows the backbone of any church is the volunteers. You can’t do ministry without them. These men and women who give of their time each and every week are helping point people to Jesus. They’re awesome…if they’re led well. Without good leadership volunteers may actually do more harm than good, which is why many pastors take it upon themselves to lead them. This is a mistake. You and I both know you don’t have the time needed to lead volunteers effectively, which is why you need ministry leaders.

Ministry leaders are leaders of ministries. I bet you figured that out already.

Sometimes they’re paid, but most of the time in smaller churches you can find more than capable volunteers.

Some examples would be the youth pastor, children’s director, or worship leader.

In the church I serve we drill down even further and have leaders who oversee each kid’s ministry area and each guest services area, like the greeting team, parking team, and ushers.

This allows people to use the leadership gifts God has given them, and frees pastors like me and you up to focus on big picture tasks like preaching and vision-casting.

Get the right ministry leaders in place, and your church has a great opportunity to see big time growth this year.

So, what would that look like? What would you need ministry leaders to do?

I’ve narrowed it down to these six things:

  1. Cast Vision – If you’re the senior pastor, you’re the chief vision-caster at your church, but that doesn’t mean you need to be the only one casting vision. Casting vision reminds volunteers that their serving has a purpose. Spending every other week in a room full of toddlers can become overwhelming, but hearing about a child’s mom getting baptized quickly reminds them what they’re doing matters.
  2. Provide Care – I want my ministry leaders to see themselves as shepherds of the volunteers who serve in their area. I want them to know about their families, what’s going on in their lives, and how they’re doing spiritually. They should be their biggest encourager, and include them in their prayer life. The more volunteers a leader oversees, the harder this becomes. That’s why I recommend a leader not oversee more than twelve volunteers.
  3. Recruit Volunteers – A leader who can recruit volunteers is invaluable to a church. A church can never have enough volunteers, and recruiting volunteers from the stage will have diminishing returns. That’s why it’s so important that you have leaders who aren’t afraid to tap a shoulder and start a conversation about serving.
  4. Train Volunteers – Once you recruit a new volunteer, you can’t forget this important step. You need to train them. Many people have quit serving, not because they don’t love Jesus, but because they feel unqualified because they’ve never been trained. Spend a few weeks training them and making sure they’re comfortable in their new position.
  5. Maintain & Order Supplies – Depending on where you serve, this could be a big part of your responsibility or very small. If you lead the area that serves coffee, you better make sure you have coffee each week. If you lead the nursery, make sure you have extra diapers for the mom who forgot her diaper bag. If you don’t have the authority to order the supplies yourself, make sure whoever does knows what you need in plenty of time.
  6. Deal with Conflict – Hopefully as a ministry leader, you won’t have to deal with this much, but you are serving in a church, so you need to be ready to deal with conflict when it comes. This could be a spat between two parents, a volunteer gossiping about another, or a variety of other situations. Your main priority is deescalating the situation. If that’s not possible let your leader know about the situation so they can help handle it.

I’m sure I probably forgot something, so I’d love to know what you would add to this list. Leave a comment and let us know. Also, make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week, and shoot me an email if I can serve you or your church in anyway this year.

The Three Most Important Pieces to the Kids’ Ministry Puzzle

If kids’ ministry is an afterthought at your church, you are never going to grow. It is the single most important ministry of a church right now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Parents are no longer dragging their kids to church, but if you have a great kids’ ministry, the kids will start dragging their parents.

Let me say this to all my small town pastors out there who prefer to have kids in the adult service instead of having a kids’ ministry, you are making a huge mistake.

Yes, there may be a small benefit in kids seeing mom and dad worship, but it pales in comparison to having a kids’ ministry that is fun and exciting and teaches kids about Jesus on their level.

If this is you, I would beg you to reconsider. The future of your church depends on it.

For the rest of us, it’s not enough to just have a kids’ ministry. Your kids’ ministry needs to be great.

In order for that to happen, we need to focus on these three pieces of the puzzle.

  1. Volunteers. Don’t make the mistake of putting just anyone into kids’ ministry. I know it can be tempting, but unless they are excited and passionate about working with kids, they can do more harm than good. Kids’ ministry should get your best. Kids also thrive on consistency, so keeping them around the same volunteers is ideal. This means I prefer kids’ ministry volunteers serve at least every other week, if not every week. And it should go without saying by now that every kids’ volunteer should be background checked. We use a company called Clear Investigative Advantage, but there are several out there. Just do your research and make sure they’re legit.
  1. Curriculum. Flannel graphs and coloring pages don’t cut it anymore. We’re not just babysitting kids. We’re pointing them to Jesus. This means we need curriculum that keeps their attention and helps them learn. We use a combination of KidSpring and Elevate Kids. KidSpring is completely free. It uses a combination of videos and live acting. You just need to have volunteers who are willing to act out the scripts. Our kids love the KidSpring series, and we would use them exclusively if we had more actors. Elevate Kids is a video based curriculum that is also very good but can be expensive for smaller churches.
  1. Parents. You better care about what parents think of your kids’ ministry because more than likely it will determine if they ever come back to your church. They want to know their child is safe, so it’s a great idea to have a check-in system that only allows the parent to take them out of the room. It’s also important to have policies regarding allergies, sickness, etc. After the service a parent will likely ask their child these two questions about the experience. Did you have fun? What did you learn? If their child gives positive answers, chances are they’re coming back. If not, you probably won’t see them again.

Subpar or non-existent kids’ ministries are one of the top reasons small town churches don’t grow. You can fix this by making kids’ ministry a top priority.

What does the kids’ ministry look like in your church? Do you think it’s attracting families or pushing them away? I’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment below. While you’re here make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

4 Reasons Rural Churches Should Consider Going Multisite

Guest Post: Brett Bixby

There are lots of multisite churches in America today, and they are predominately located in cities. I think smaller, rural churches need to consider going multisite as well. Thom Rainer recently wrote, “Multisite used to be something only large churches tried. Now, smaller churches are getting in on the strategy.” Here are four reasons why adding an additional campus needs to be on your radar as an option for your growth needs.

  1. There is a need for the people in the next community over to be reached with the gospel. Whether we like it or not, our church will only reach people in a certain proximity. Sure, we can point to that family that is driving from 45 minutes away to attend our services, but they are usually the exception. They are usually not the ones who are inviting their neighbors to make the drive and check out our ministry. I believe people who are far from God will not drive over 15-20 minutes to attend a church with any regularity (most of our regulars won’t drive that far either). With this in mind, there is a need to take the ministry of the Gospel to the surrounding communities where our people are driving from in order to help them invite their neighbors, friends and co-workers to church. If the community is large enough to have its own elementary school, then it is large enough to handle an effective ministry in the town. The elementary school shows there are enough young families with children to warrant a ministry geared to reach them.
  2. Launching a second campus doesn’t have to be costly. There are ministries out there that are dropping $8 million on each campus they launch. This does not have to be the case. Being creative in a small community can enable a ministry to start a campus with very little money invested. There are usually buildings around that can be used, and the start-up costs are mostly in the renovations. We have launched sites in a True Value Hardware store, an American Legion building, and a church building that had been closed down. For under $100,000, a new location can be launched, and this would include the additional staff expenses for the first year. Almost immediately, new people in the area will be invited and reached to begin financially supporting the ministry.
  3. Launching a second campus is just like starting an additional service, except the service is held in a location 25-30 minutes down the road. When 80% of the chairs in your auditorium are taken, you are perceived as full to any new person who walks in your doors. As you watch your seats fill up, you will want to begin talking about your next move. One of those options is to start a second service. If you are from a small town like I am (1,400 people and a stoplight), you begin to realize people are driving over 15-20 minutes to get to church. Learning where your people are coming from will help you identify where you could potentially start a second campus. We had around fifty people who were driving from a town about 25 minutes away called Hallstead. Hallstead does not have a stoplight but does have 1,100 people and an elementary school. We sent those fifty people to start a Bridgewater site inside an American Legion building in their town. We said that we were just starting a fourth service, and it was meeting in a different location. They preach the same sermon, sing the same song set, and are named Bridgewater just like we are. We are one church meeting in many locations. We now have done this four times and have five sites with ten services on a Sunday morning. We are committed to reaching communities for Jesus by starting additional services this way all over our geographic area, and many of your ministries could do this as well.
  4. Starting a second campus will offer twice as many of your people an opportunity to use their gifts and abilities in serving ministries. I realize this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there will be many ministry roles that need to be filled once you start a campus in the next town. The flip side of this is that there will be many opportunities for people who are currently standing on the sidelines of ministry to get involved! We have found that if people have a role or responsibility on Sunday, there is a greater chance they will attend regularly. We do not struggle with a surplus of people who desire to serve. I don’t know any ministry that has this problem. But, we have found that when ministry opportunities are available and when we ask people to step up and take on a larger responsibility, they will. When we ask some who are helpers in children’s ministry to become teachers or classroom leaders, we see them stepping up and taking on the responsibility. We ask each person in a ministry at Bridgewater, whether paid or unpaid, to be working to find their replacement even before they need one. This allows us to have someone available to serve when we launch another campus.

There are many reasons why I believe smaller, rural churches need to consider going multisite. It has been a growth engine at Bridgewater and has allowed us to see God reach far past our community and into several additional communities around us.

Brett Bixby is the Executive Pastor at Bridgewater Church. They have 5 campuses spread across Northeastern PA and the Southern Tier of NY. He has been a pastor for 20 years and has been at Bridgewater for the last 8 years. He is married to Nicole, and they have 5 children.