Rick Warren on How to Structure Your Church for Ministry

RickWarrenA couple of weeks ago, I shared 10 of the books that have had an impact on my life and leadership (click here to see the list) and The Purpose Driven Church held a prominent spot in that list.

Most of you know that I had the privilege of serving on staff with Rick Warren at Saddleback before starting The Journey and I’m constantly keeping an eye on what he’s up to.

Here’s a great article from Rick that I read recently:

Structure your congregation to encourage more ministry
By Rick Warren

“The more organizational machinery your church sets up, the more time, energy, and money it takes to maintain it. That is precious time, energy, and money that could be invested in ministry to people instead. ”

Rick Warren

I love my congregation and so this past weekend I told them I needed to be honest: “If you just want to sit around passively over the next 10 years and waste your life on things that won’t last, you probably want to find another church because you’re not going to really feel comfortable here. Because if you’re in this church, I’m coming after you to be mobilized.”

I want them to know that a non-ministering Christian is a contradiction of terms. God calls all believers to minister to the world and the church.

But here’s a common mistake I’ve observed over the years with churches who want to mobilize their members: we teach our people that every member is a minister, but then we take the brightest and best and turn them into bureaucrats! They aren’t able to mobilize for ministry because they’re too busy attending meetings about the budget or taking care of the building. They have no time left for frontline ministry.

You can drain the life out of people by scheduling a constant string of committee meetings. In fact, when I meet cantankerous and critical Christians, I usually discover that they’re not involved in a ministry that fits their shape, strengths and abilities. Yet, I’ve seen again and again that all it takes to change their attitude is to get them directly into ministry where they can see how God uses them to change lives.

“Biblical Christianity uses everyone’s gifts. At Saddleback, we teach that every Christian is created for ministry (Eph. 2:10), saved for ministry (2 Tim 1:9), called into ministry (1 Peter 2:9-10), gifted for ministry (1 Peter 4:10), authorized for ministry (Matt. 28:18-20), commanded to minister (Matt. 20:26-28), to be prepared for ministry (Eph. 4:11-12), needed for ministry (1 Cor. 12:27), accountable for ministry, and will be rewarded according to his or her ministry (Col. 3:23-24).”

Rick Warren

Here’s what I want you to think about — most churches are structured where the lay people do church maintenance and the paid staff do ministry. So you end up with, say, two hundred members responsible for the maintenance of the church while one pastor is supposed to do all the ministry! How stupid is that? This kind of structure will not only burn-out the pastor, it will also keep members, who God gifted to minister, from being mobilized to serve.

This is how we’ve conditioned people to think that their responsibility as a church member is fulfilled by simply voting on church business!

If you’re serious about mobilizing your members for ministry, you must create a church structure that maximizes their opportunities to engage in ministry. The more organizational machinery your church sets up, the more time, energy, and money it takes to maintain it. That is precious time, energy, and money that could be invested in ministry to people instead. The kind of structure your church has does not cause growth, but it does control the rate and the size of your growth.

If you release people for ministry, and relieve them of the maintenance, you’ll create a far happier, harmonious, high-morale church. Fulfillment comes from ministry, not maintenance.

Is there anything about your church’s structure that’s limiting your potential to mobilize for ministry?

What steps can you take this week to release more of your people for ministry?

P.S. For more on structuring your church’s Ministry System and mobilizing the maximum number of people for ministry, check out The Ministry Seminar.

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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church growth strategist, pastor, church planter and coach, consulting with churches around the world. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has personally trained more than 3,500 church leaders in over 45 denominations through live events, seminars and monthly coaching. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in Boca Raton, FL. Nelson and his church routinely appear on lists such as “The 50 Most Influential Churches” and “The 25 Most Innovative Leaders.” He is the author of over 100 church growth resources and 18+ books, including The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life, Ministry and The Difference Maker: Using Your Everyday Life for Eternal Impact, and At the Cross with the People Who Were There. He and his wife, Kelley, have one son, Alexander.

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