Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Growing Your Own Ministers

Rather than going through the process of searching far and wide for a new staff member, many churches are choosing to select someone from within the congregation who exhibits gifts for ministry.  This is nothing new for Baptists, of course.  In the late 19th century, young George W. Truett was headed in a different vocational direction when his church decided that he should be their pastor.  He went on to be one of the leading pastors in Baptist life. This approach is often found in the early Christian churches where leadership evolved from within the fellowship.

There are pros and cons to this approach, and both should be carefully considered before the call is extended to someone who is already part of the congregation.

One can identify a number of factors on the plus side, but let me suggest only a couple.  First, the person is known by the church so other members can attest to the individual’s character, abilities, work ethic, and passion for ministry.  The candidate is a “known quantity”—the church knows what they are getting!  Second, the person already lives in the community and does not have to relocate.  He or she knows the church, the community, and (hopefully) the ministry challenges in both.

There are potential negative factors as well.  What kind of experience and preparation does the person bring the responsibility?  Very often the person has skills that are transferable to the ministry setting, but they may lack biblical and theological background.  Fortunately this can be easily remedied.  Theological schools such as Central Baptist Theological Seminary provide not only satellite centers across the country but also an extensive offering of online classes that are part of a degree program.

Another possible problem area is relationships.  The candidate might have been “just one of the folks” before, but when she or he becomes a ministerial leader, those relationships change as well as the expectations on the part of other church members. Some may envy the fact that the person is now in a leadership role.  Other may expect favored status based on a long established friendship.

The most significant challenge may come if the homegrown minister has to be terminated for incompetence, moral failure, or budget concerns.  If the person has an extensive network of friends or family in the congregation, the stage is set for conflict and division.

Despite potential problems, the trend to “hire from within” is strong and seems to be increasing. Such decisions should be made prayerfully and without haste.  Church leadership and those dealing with personnel issues can increase the possibility of success for such a candidate by clarifying relationships, responsibilities, and opportunities for continuing education as well as providing space for the person to “grow into” the role. 

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