A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal printed an article on Nick Saban and how he had led the turn around of the Alabama football team. Of course, as a Bama fan I couldn’t wait to read the article. I was fascinated by what I read. Saban is known as a meticulous planner, a fanatic about details, and I was surprised to see the level of planning that goes into recruiting. He and his coaches have exact size and speed requirements for every position. They interview family and friends of the recruit to make sure the player has the mental and emotional capacity to become a Division 1 player. They are exacting standards. And if a recruit doesn’t meet these standards, Saban doesn’t recruit him.
Saban spends enormous effort making sure he brings the right players to his team. His emphasis on getting the right people in the right places reminded me of Jim Collins’ book Good to Great and his emphasis to get the right people on the bus and then, making sure the right people are sitting in the right seats. Here’s what Saban and Collins both know — the most important role of the leader is finding the right people to put in the right places. No organization — whether a church or a football team — can achieve its purposes without having the right people engaged in missional critical work.
And this is the place where most pastors fail. For a lot of pastors, finding people to do the ministry of the church is rarely more than a panicked last minute effort to fill holes in the church programs. The results are rarely stellar. In fact, most of the time they’re disastrous. People are put in places where they lack the gifts to serve well and worse, people with the needed gifts are never identified and assigned. Most pastors I know (and I was one for a very long time) don’t spend enough time thinking about those who lead and serve in the various ministries of our churches. We want to spend our time preparing to preach and teach (a noble goal), but we are called to deal with people (and there is always an endless line of people who want the pastor’s attention).
Study the ministries of Jesus and Paul. You’ll find they spent their time doing three things: preaching and teaching, praying, and developing leaders. Yes, Jesus did a lot of miracles, but most of His time was spent training the disciples.
I’m convinced our churches would be stronger if our pastors spent their time in these three buckets. In my experience, the intentional process of identifying, developing and deploying leaders is the most neglected aspect of most pastors’ ministries.
- What happens in our churches if we change our way of thinking and working?
- What happens if pastors understand one of the most important things we can do is call out the gifts of our leaders and release them to kingdom building ministry?
- What if pastors began, as Jesus commanded, to pray for workers?
- What if we had written expectations of deacons, Sunday School teachers, outreach workers, ushers, pre-school workers, etc.?
- What if, as we visited with our congregations, we changed the conversation from what the church can do for them to why God brought them to the church?
- What if we had processes in place to allow our members to discover their gifts and find the places where they could best use those gifts?
The first Reformation gave the Scriptures back to the people. The second Reformation (the one we’re in now) is giving ministry back to the people.
I know what you’re thinking, pastor. “Wow, this will take a lot of time.”
Yes it does, but finding the right person to do the right thing takes less time than fixing the damage the wrong person did.
As pastors, we’re stewards of the congregations entrusted to us. The role of the steward is to maximize the Master’s investment.
- Who are those people God has entrusted to you to maximize their God-given potential?
- What’s your strategy to do that?
- What’s your next step?