My Dad is 85 years old and still gets early up every morning between five and six o’clock to help milk cows. He has done that as long as I can remember. As kids growing up, we helped Dad with the chores every morning and evening.
You don’t need to fail
I remember one morning I decided to sleep in. Some other kids had talked about that and I wondered how that would be. That morning I did not go out to the barn to chore at five o’clock like normal. I stayed in bed and thought, “This is great! Wow, this feels good!”
Wrong! (Did I ever get the surprise of my life!)
It wasn’t long before my Dad came upstairs and trained me that getting up at the right time was essential and definitely not optional! (By the way, I never did that again!)
Ministry is like farming. In both, someone has to see the big picture and provide leadership to obtain the desired results. Both require someone to be able to recruit and keep good people to help with clear expectations and guidelines given to them.
Some very anointed ministers are hard to work for. It’s not because they are intentionally mean or obnoxious to their staff or volunteers. It’s mostly because of neglect or because they fail to do certain things that enables their helps people to do their best.
In the Gospels Jesus both demonstrated and gave instructions that helping, growing, developing, and training others is necessary. Take a look at Jesus’ statement, “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.”1 No one helping another can go beyond the capabilities or willingness of the leader they are serving. If the leaders don’t do certain things, the people helping them cannot and will not perform at a productive level.
Listed below are eight areas that some leaders and ministers neglect which will contribute to their staff and volunteer people failing to effectively help in their church or ministry.
Eight Areas Neglected
1. Don’t lead by example.
All a leader has to do is tell their helps people what they should do even if it’s not what he does, right? A leader shouldn’t have to serve, but serving is expected of helps people, right?
No, that’s wrong because it’s unscriptural.
Jesus Himself demonstrated that the greatest would have to be servants in the kingdom of God.2 John Maxwell states that “we teach what we know and reproduce what we are.”3 St. Francis of Assisi said, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”4 So, if leaders want better service from their staff or volunteers, they should increase their own level of service and let their example trickle down to influence their helps people. 2. Don’t give helps people any job descriptions.
Shouldn’t leaders just watch their helps people to see if they are doing their job wrong? If they have a job description, wouldn’t they know what to do, and even do it better than the leader can?
Wrong again. This is like letting a blind man drive a car.
Jesus gave the twelve disciples and then seventy more a clear job description of what they were supposed to do before He sent them out in teams of two.5 The apostle Paul gave Timothy clear job descriptions for elders, deacons, and bishops.6 When a person has a clear picture in their mind of what they are to do, it improves their chances of doing it well. Often one of the first things a leader or minister should do is to clarify job descriptions when staff members or volunteers drift from what they are supposed to be doing for them.
3. Don’t establish a criteria or guidelines for choosing the right helps people.
Shouldn’t a leader use anyone who is willing, no matter what their abilities may or may not be for their staff or volunteer positions? If there’s a problem caused by one of the willing volunteers who really doesn’t have the necessary abilities to do the job, shouldn’t a leader just tell people that God loves everyone the same and He will fix all of the problems?
Wrong way to do it. Great prescription for failure!
Some churches use whoever shows up in whatever area they want to do something. However, by doing so, a leader or minister may be inviting trouble into their own organization. Notice that Moses chose men with certain characteristics to help him lead Israel to the Promised Land, i.e. competent, God fearing, and hating covetousness.7 Also, the Apostles in the First Church at Jerusalem chose men who had good reputations, full of the Holy Spirit and had wisdom to be deacons.8 Wayne Cordeiro said, “Don’t wait for volunteers to somehow magically appear uniformed and ready for duty. Challenge men and women you think would fit.”9 Thus it would seem that it is the leader’s responsibility to define certain guidelines for choosing the people for the various positions within their church or ministry.
4. Allow helps people to put their own agendas and programs in place.
God is no respecter of persons—shouldn’t the helps people have as much to say about how to run the church or ministry as the leaders do? After all, since they have the same Holy Spirit as the leader does, wouldn’t they always know what to do?
Wrong again. Perfect recipe for chaos!
In every organization someone has to be the leader. In churches and ministries, part of a leader’s job is to use the wisdom and knowledge God has given him to set agendas (or define the vision) and outline programs within their ministries. Don Shula said, “”A river without banks is a large puddle.”10 There is no direction or progress in the organization without defining the way to go. This does not mean that leaders are not receptive to ideas and suggestions from their helps people for new programs but they should all fit within the framework of the agenda set by the leader.
5. Never check up or demand accountability of helps people.
Regular communication with the helps ministry is to be avoided at all costs . . . right? Shouldn’t a leader expect his staff and volunteers know what they want done by osmosis or a word of knowledge from the Holy Spirit? As Christians, surely they will always do the right things, won’t they?
Wrong. Sounds like a great way to be surprised!
In the parable of the unjust steward, when the master found his steward was stealing from him, he fired him. Jesus went on to say that those who are faithful in little will be faithful in much, and those who are faithful in what belongs to another can be entrusted with their own.11 But the question is, how does a leader know if their staff is faithful in the little details or in the things of the ministry unless they check up on them and hold them accountable? It is like one minister said, “With people you get what you inspect; not what you expect.” Leaders should do their best to believe the best in their people, but also use wisdom in putting accountability systems in place.
6. Don’t offer any training or education for helps people.
If staff and volunteers have been in a ministry or church for any length of time, they ought to know how things are done without a leader having to tell them, and if the Lord wants them to know anything else He will tell them. Isn’t that right?
No, that idea is wrong, too.
Continual or repeated training is necessary in working with people. Generally, people intend to do well, but they either forget, or use their own ideas, or simply don’t understand the importance of doing their tasks the right way. The poet Henry Van Dyke stated, “There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world. It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher.”12 Thus, leaders and ministers have the opportunity to take people who are often not self-starters, and encourage them with things like training opportunities, getting more education, or getting fresh ideas from others who do similar things. As the leaders help their staff and volunteers, the organization will reap the benefit of having better people.
7. Give no opportunities for helps people to think on their own.
After all, it’s the leader’s organization, isn’t it? Helps people need to learn that the leader is in charge and it’s “his way or the highway”. . . right? Since God put the leader in charge, doesn’t that mean the leader always gets to say how it is?
Wrong idea about how ministry works in the kingdom of God.
In the children’s movie entitled “The Aristocats” there is a scene where two dogs are lying by a haystack, and one says to the other, “A motorcycle is coming.” The other dog responds by saying, “I’m the leader! I’ll decide what it is.” He listens a little bit and then turns to the first dog and says, “A motorcycle is coming.” Unfortunately, some leaders and ministers are like that when it comes to accepting ideas from their staff or volunteers. If it’s not their idea, they aren’t interested.
Wise leaders open up a whole new vista of possibilities by setting up specific times or systems in which their people are encouraged to give their input into areas of the organization. Laurie Beth Jones said, “Leaders who teach and then train their people to think unusually—to think ‘outside the box’—will have a pool of talent to draw from when times get hard.”13
8. Never give credit or praise to staff or volunteers.
A leader should never talk about how good their staff or volunteers are, and especially not commend their helps people from the pulpit. Leaders should not give credit or share the rewards of the ministry with them . . . right? Certainly, if any honor would be given, it should be to the leader, and not to the helps people . . . right?
Wrong. Sounds like a great way for as leader to end up doing it all himself!
Coach Bear Bryant said, “There’s always just three things I say: ‘If anything goes bad. I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes real good, they did it.’ That’s all it takes to get people to win.”14 People will gravitate to where they are praised. Someone once said, “Even a dog goes where he is appreciated.” Most people are starved for praise, and when a leader does give credit or praise to his helps people, it creates loyalty to the leader and helps to motivate the people to continue doing a great job!
Summary . . .
Several years ago, President George H. W. Bush was being interviewed by news reporter Sam Donaldson while running for re-election. It was well known that Donaldson did not care for President Bush, and in the interview Donaldson fired three or four vicious accusations at President Bush about his presidency. President Bush’s response was memorable . . . with a pointed finger for emphasis, he replied firmly, “Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!” and then went on to defend his presidency and was able to finish the interview successfully.
Sometimes leaders and ministers have to be courageous and take the first step of change by confronting the existing ideologies and practices within their churches and ministries and say, “Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!” Then take another bold step and identify what to do next that will help achieve the desired results.
1 Luke 6:39, 40, NIV
2 Luke 22:26-27, NIV
3 John Maxwell. Developing the Leaders Around You, Nashville, 1995, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 46
4 St. Francis of Assisi, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/f/francis_of_assisi.html, January 1, 2013
5 Luke 9:3-5, 10:2-11, NIV
6 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9, NIV
7 Exodus 18:21, NIV
8 Acts 6:3-5, NIV
9 Wayne Cordeiro, Doing Church As A Team, Ventura, 2001, Regal Books, 191
10 Don Shula, (1995), http://www.qualitydigest.com/oct/blanchrd.html, January 1, 2013
11 Henry Van Dyke, from 25 Ways To Win With People, John C. Maxwell and Les Parrott, Nashville, 2005, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 93
12 Luke 16:1-13, NIV
13 Bear Bryant, from Developing the Leaders Around You, John C. Maxwell, Nashville, 1995, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2
14 Laurie Beth Jones, Teach Your Team To Fish, New York, 2002, Crown Business, 94