Most of my early years in ministry were invested in college students on three campuses—Middle Tennessee State University, Mississippi State University, and Carson Newman College. I learned very soon that if you want to build an organization on student leadership, you have to work quickly. They come in as freshman or transfer students and before you know it, they are gone! You have to recognize potential and gifts in these young adults and find places for them to use those abilities while providing coaching and support. And they are volunteers, so you have to know how to motivate and encourage them in meaningful ways.
Even though most churches don’t have the kind of turnover that one experiences in a collegiate ministry (some may argue with me about that!), the challenges are similar: recognize a person’s potential, find a place for him or her to serve, support their service, and provide reinforcement and appreciation.
With tighter budgets, many churches are becoming more committed to developing their own leaders and using volunteers. The future of the church’s ministry will be based on committed lay leaders, part-time or bi-professional staff, and “promotion from within”—moving gifted lay leaders into full-time ministry roles.
Andy Stanley made the comment, “You should always be training someone to take your place.” This is not a threat to the ministry leader but an opportunity to discover, equip and, empower others. The only way for Kingdom work to be sustainable is to pass the ministry along to others.
Certainly, this comes naturally to many ministry leaders, but some have such a passion for what they are doing that they often fail to “give it away” to others. As talented as one may be, he or she should always be looking for someone to teach and in whom to invest his or her experience.