Jennifer was a young worship leader at a vibrant and growing church in suburban America. Her enthusiasm for her own walk with God was off the charts. She was genuinely hearing from the Lord and seeking Him with great authenticity. She longed to share all that she was learning with her volunteer musicians, as well as with the congregation she led in worship week after week.
Before every worship service, she would enter into worship band rehearsal bubbling over with all that God had been teaching her and showing her. The Spirit of God was real and active, and she wanted everyone else to experience all that she was experiencing. She would passionately share from her heart in an effort to see that passion sown in the lives and attitudes of her volunteers. Most often, however, her fervor was met with respectful yet blank stares. Her volunteers appreciated all that she had to share but could not match her level of excitement in the moment.
Discouraged, Jennifer began to question her calling. She began to question her leadership. It seemed as if she were in the right place, serving God at the right time. If that were true, however, why weren’t those she was leading able to join her zealous pursuit of a powerful and active relationship with God?
After sharing her struggle with her husband one evening, he replied gently, “You have to meet people where they are.” This was the key point she was missing. She needed to bring people along in their own personal journeys until they were at a place where they could share in her joyful experience of God. Many times we as church leaders are like Jennifer. We have worked so diligently on a ministry project or prepared so deeply on a spiritual level to serve, that we are unable to relate to those we lead. We are faced with blank stares and what seems to be a general lack of interest. This can lead to discouragement and confusion if we are unable to attack this problem in a whole different way.
Thankfully, people can be led. They can be brought to a place where they’re ready for you to lead them. They can, in time, learn to embrace all that God has for your church or your ministry. It will take time, however, and a whole lot of effort. As leaders we simply need to walk alongside each of those under our leadership and treat them uniquely, observing just what God is doing in each individual life.
1) Cast a vision. The first step in bringing people along and helping them to create personal ownership for the ministry is to cast a compelling vision. Start small, but help your team see the big picture. What impact will your ministry make? What roles are required to move the ministry forward? How will you see transformation take place if everyone plays their part? What is God doing in the lives of those to whom you are ministering? Casting vision is essential to help those under your leadership realize that their efforts are indeed worth all the hard work and dedication they’re putting in week after week. Make sure they know that every single person is a vital part and that they understand exactly what the outcomes will be.
2) Remember your journey. None of us as leaders started out with the vision and enthusiasm for God’s work that we have today. As we journeyed with the Lord and experienced His great love for us in all situations, we were able to gain much-needed perspective and maturity that has brought us to where we are. We must remember our own journey when we feel frustrated with the supposed lack of progress those under our leadership might be making. Their fervor for the ministry will grow over time. As they gain valuable experience and see God work in their own lives, they will be able to better understand higher levels of God’s work in the church and in the ministry. As you continue to lead them, you will see fewer and fewer blank stares as they are replaced by knowing nods and even increased positive verbal feedback. This takes time, but it will happen. As you build your relationships together, the team will embrace the journey and that excitement will finally be reflected in their attitudes and ability to serve well.
3) Allow for feedback. One of the best things we as leaders can do to create ownership and increase the excitement of our people is to ask them for feedback. People want to be heard. They want to be allowed to give their opinions. They want to know that their leader truly cares about what they think and how they’re feeling. Take time frequently to ask people to contribute. Make sure they understand what God is doing in your midst by asking them to reflect upon all that is happening. Be sure to listen carefully during these times of feedback. Honor each team member by taking their feedback seriously and helping them to feel valued. By doing this, you as a leader will begin to create a spirit of excitement in your team as they personally grasp God’s movement among you. Sure, there will be times when the feedback is not helpful or even discouraging to the group. Those times call for an extra measure of grace and kindness. However, most feedback will be helpful and will create unity and trust that will last for a lifetime.
4) Be patient. Seeing people make progress in their personal and ministry lives takes time. It takes experience. It takes effort on their part. None of this is truly in our control as leaders. Therefore, we must simply be patient and wait with great longing for the transformation to happen. God’s timing is so much different than our own personal timing. He will bring people along when He is ready. Be patient. Wait. All good things take time. We must simply be faithful to our calling as leaders, setting a good example as we share together with them in our collective journeys as believers. Your patience will be rewarded by people who display passion and a real zeal for God’s work in the world.