20 Jun, 2015 Chapter 7


Managing various ministries calls for strategic consideration, in particular because mismanaging them can cause many problems. I have struggled with managing poorly led ministry teams. Maybe you have too. These problems wound our members, and wear out pastors. This chapter talks about avoiding this.
The all important consideration I have discovered is deciding what ‘ancillary’ ministries we might need in proportion to the size and health of our groups.

In my opinion, a Cell Group (small group) ministry is essential, so it is one ministry we are not considering closing down! The ‘one anothers’ of the New Testament (of which there are more than fifty instructions to us) can only be fulfilled in the context of genuine relationships.  Relationships decrease in depth as groups increase in size. Twelve is often cited as the maximum desired size, as modeled by Jesus.  We need small groups!

There are, however, other possible ministry teams – some of which we may need, some of which we may benefit from, and some of which will drain our ministries and cause all manner of problems.

Pastors need to discern at which stage to start which ministry, and have the courage to close them down if they have discerned incorrectly.

For example, we could have teams such as…

– Worship Ministry Team

– Audio Visual Ministry Team

– Outreach (events) Ministry Team

– Mission Trips Team (to promote, organise and lead annual trips)

– Welcome Ministry Team

– Website Ministry Team

– Follow Up Ministry Team (to oversee the follow up of new believers)

– Library Ministry Team

– Drama Ministry Team

– Publicity (Publications) Ministry Team

– Dance Ministry Team

– Video Ministry Team

As a disciple-making ministry, the ultimate goal in any area is to grow people. This is our core business.

The principle challenge is that each of these teams needs (a) a clear vision, (b) a leader capable of leading them to health and fruitfulness.

Thus Pastors need to discern at which stage to start which ministry, and have the courage to close them down if they have discerned incorrectly.

I personally would prioritise them, approximately, as they are listed above. Having made mistakes in these areas before, I would not start, for example, a drama ministry until we had a group of at least 150+ attending regularly, or a video ministry until we had maybe 250 regularly attending.  But we would want a worship ministry from about 50 people onward, and thus would need an audio-visual ministry to begin at the same time (if you follow the logic). An outreach ministry could wait a little longer as small groups or key leaders could ‘sponsor’ different events, each organising one per year. A welcome ministry could wait even longer as key leaders could do welcoming (things are more relational in a smaller congregation, and so there isn’t a need for a strong welcome ministry). Alternately, Cell Groups could take responsibility for welcoming on different weeks. Likewise follow up can be done through the Cell Ministry, so a specific ministry of ‘specialists’ for that area isn’t really needed until the group is bigger, etc.

An overarching goal for ministry teams could be ‘Discipleship through Service’. This means that, as a disciple-making ministry, the ultimate goal in any area is to grow people.  This is our core business (Matthew 28:19-20, 2 Timothy 2:2). Thus, the greatest good of a particular ministry team, more than just their immediate output (what they accomplish in ministry), is the growth of the team members through their service.  If this is our guiding principle, this, in turn, affects how we run (manage) our teams.  Teams must therefore…

1. Accomplish their goals

For example, if a drama team does not produce dramas, there is no point in existing. I note that this is irrespective of how good the ‘discipleship’ of the members might be through being a team. We already have Cell Group Ministry for the purpose of discipling all our members.  Ministry teams must accomplish their ministry goals to justify their existence, especially if they are a drain on already limited leadership resources in a smaller congregation.

2. Grow their Members

The ministry leader then has a broader goal, to grow the members with Christ-like attitudes through their service. Thus they can have training not only in the skill sets which are specific to the area of ministry, but also devotions, seeking to raise a Godly standard of service and future leadership.

But we note that the leader is not responsible to disciple them in their quiet times or outreach goals, etc… These things fall under the Cell Ministry.  The leader is to disciple them specifically in the attitudes pertaining to Christ-likeness in their specific area of service.

The team leader is also seeking to protect the members from bad experiences in ministry. A general guideline I once read (source unknown) said that…

“If one of your leaders fails in a task you gave them, it is your fault.

If one of your leaders does ok in their task, then you did it together.

If your leader fully succeeds, then they did it.”

In other words, a leader’s job is to ensure their people ‘succeed’ – that their experiences are positive for building faith and confidence for serving God with in the future.  A team leader is the ‘shepherd’ of their team, responsible for both their development and protection. We want our young people to  go on to serve the Lord for many decades to come because of the character and skills they developed, and the positive experiences they had.

3. Grow as a Team

Developing healthy teams requires true leadership skill. It is thus the goal of the Pastor or key leaders to develop the leaders of the various ministry teams to set clear, measurable and realistic goals for their teams, and to lead their teams so as to accomplish their goals. Training could include:

(a) Vision casting and maintaining skills (how to keep a team motivated for its goals, and healthy in its mission),

(b) How to strengthen team work and relationships,

(c) Identifying members particular gifts,

(d) Delegation skills,

(e) ‘Monitoring’ skills,

(f) Rebuking skills (when needed).


Ministry Team Leaders meeting:

To help the ministry team leaders develop various leadership skills, and the heart of disciplers, we have held a monthly (or six weekly) ‘ministry team leaders meeting’ (called the ‘youth ministry committee’) for their encouragement and equipping. This meeting has followed approximately the same format as the Cell Group Leaders meeting. It exists for the discipleship, equipping, encouragement and support of the leaders.

I believe you are getting the picture that healthy ministry teams do not happen by chance. They are the result of healthy, clear thinking, spiritually minded ministry team leaders! We can thus only sustain as many ministry teams as we can sustain healthy and effective ministry team leaders. If we do not learn how to train leaders, we will have few leaders capable of leading healthy teams. If we learn how to train leaders, we can have a greater number of such leaders – and thus more ministries, more service from those ministries, and more youth being discipled through their involvement in them.

But, as the precaution – the moment we do not adequately guard and watch over what is happening in the discipleship of these leaders (if we are not doing that ourselves) we may find ourselves again with unhealthy teams. Unhealthy teams, for a Pastor, equates to problems. In my experience, it is better to shut ministry teams down than to let them continue in an unhealthy state. This is why I caution against over-stretching ourselves by running too many ministries at once, in proportion to the size of our congregations, and the effectiveness of our senior leadership training. We need to assess which ministries are a priority for us, and to maintain focus, proportionate to our supply of quality leaders.

As a final comment…

How we manage these teams is of particular importance when working with younger people as,

(a) They often do not have the skill sets or maturity to succeed without help, and so are much more vulnerable to perceived ‘failure’ and discouragement

(b) They do not have the life experience or depth of character to deal well with those discouragements!

In other words, we need to protect the future service possibilities of our youth diligently.

If they become hurt, disillusioned or discouraged through their service when in their youth years, this may jeopardise their future service as adults because of the loss of confidence, or fear of feeling the same way again.

Sometimes less really is better than more.

While some might justify the risk of having many ministries as synonymous with ‘faith’, we also have to consider at what cost that risk comes.  Sometimes ‘great risk’ (with inadequate monitoring) is simply not worth the many decades of lost service that might result through the wounding of young disciples!

Should we take risks in Cell Ministry?  I think yes. The goal of the groups is in their relationships, and they can grow through all experiences.

But in allowing multiple, ill-managed ministry teams to continue to exist?  I caution against it.


Something to reflect upon

1. What ministry teams do you have?

2. What ministry teams do you really need?

3. How healthy are your existing teams? (Are they (a) accomplishing their goals, (b) growing their members, and (c) maintaining healthy relationships?)

4. Which teams can be redeemed? Which teams need to be redeemed?  Which teams could be ‘let go’?

Consider what your next steps might be toward establishing a sustainable ‘method’ for the discipleship and care of your various ministry teams leaders.

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