Wednesday, May 16, 2012


With the growth in the workload on many pastors in the last few years, there has been an ever-increasing number of lay people ministering in church – and all-member ministry has become more of a reality. All to the good – until something goes terribly wrong, because the untrained are being entrusted with tasks they simply cannot do.

Why are we so suspicious of training in the church? There are three main reasons.

The first is that training is seen as unspiritual. The disciples never went to Bible College, we quip, and they started a church that had three thousand members in its first week or so. True, but they had three years of day by day instruction from Jesus. Paul trained those he worked with – we wouldn't have some of the letters if he hadn't seen the passing on of his wisdom and experience as crucial.

The second reason can be because, it seems to take so long. Most of us are far too busy doing the job to have time to train others to do it. And when we do delegate, they make a mess of it, so it’s obviously better to do it ourselves. Right? Wrong! In the long-term, it is much better to get ten people to do the work than to do the work of ten people.

The final reason can be the leader's insecurity. ‘What if people discover others are more gifted than me?’ ‘Will the congregation respect me less if others start doing certain aspects of my job better than I do?’ Let’s pray that both these things happen!

So how do we get on with training? The following four steps can form a framework for action:

1. Envision

The church family must be made aware of the needs and their responsibilities in relation to meeting them: workers are needed to maintain current ministries and to develop new ones. God’s plan has always been to use leaders to train His people to do the ministry – not for His people to watch the leaders do the ministry!

Perhaps a sermon series could be preached, or a series of Bible studies planned. In as many different ways as possible the congregation needs to be alerted to their biblical responsibilities. One small, practical way to envision the church in this area is to publish a ‘jobs list’. That is, a complete list of everything that is done in church life to keep its ministries going.

Add to this list tasks the church should be doing and tasks you would like it to be doing, and you have a clear indication that there is something for everyone to do! Some of the jobs can be done simply enough, but most will require an element of training, some quite extensively.

2. Recruit

Asking for volunteers can be dangerous! It often results in the wrong people volunteering. It is sometimes useful, however, to ask for volunteers on a ‘just looking’ basis – giving people an opportunity to ask questions about a particular ministry without being committed to it before they are ready.

Leaders should not be afraid, though, of making a direct approach to people they think God might be wanting to use in particular ministries. A direct, non-manipulative, request to consider being committed to a particular task is especially valuable for busy (often gifted) people. They may well never volunteer for anything but might be stirred into accepting a role by a fresh challenge. Besides, sometimes we are the last people to recognise our own gifts and need someone else to point them out to us.

One key principle to remember when we are trying to recruit people for training is never to minimise the work and commitment involved for the recruit.

3. Train

Leading in worship, teaching a children’s group, running a youth group, serving communion – it all looks so easy, until you try it. Our enthusiastic recruit must be trained. One of the most effective methods of training was created by Jesus; ‘show, tell and do’. This avoids the sterile, unreality of simply ‘reading up’ about the subject area, and overcomes the bias and idiosyncrasies of a totally subjective ‘thrown in at the deep end’ approach.

4. Review

Training needs to be ongoing. We ought always to be developing our skills and growing in grace. No one in the church family should be exempt from this need for performance evaluation followed by continuing training. This will keep us fresh, relevant and increasingly effective in God’s work. As we submit ourselves to this process, our fellow leaders will do so more readily, and so will other workers at every level of the church family.

When we review, God has the opportunity to renew.


Article first published in The Baptist Times (UK) October 2010
Stephen Gaukroger is a senior church leader in the United Kingdom, having pastored two of the largest Baptist churches and served as President of the Baptist Union. Stephen is the Founder and Director of Clarion Trust International, a Christian charity working in the UK and overseas, involved in leadership training and development, advocacy, networking and the communication of the Christian faith.

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