Two years ago I joined the staff of a relatively small church. Having served exclusively in large churches, it was quite a shock to my pastoral system. The biggest shock was the realization that I simply couldn’t do it all. My job description included far more than I could accomplish on my own—and there was no support staff to help with whatever I didn’t get done. It brought me to my knees. “Lord, please bring me people who can lead!” I prayed.
The need for lay leaders came into sharp focus with a married couples group that formed a year ago. The group meets on Sunday morning, and even though it is in my job description to provide oversight and care for the group, I cannot lead it. In fact, I cannot even be part of the group other than briefly stopping by to say good morning. Sunday mornings I am tied to the church sanctuary where I am either leading worship or preaching.
As I created a mental list of people I could ask to lead this group of married couples, I had a troubling realization: all of the godly, mature leaders in our church were already overextended. They simply didn’t have time to do more. How could I find and develop new leaders who could shepherd ministries on their own?
As I hunted for people to lead the group, my mindset about leadership was shifting. As a rookie pastor, I had expected people to step into leadership on their own. After all, if someone is truly a leader, they will prove it, right? I’d also seen lay leaders as my personal support. They were there to help extend my reach. Now I was starting to question that view. In fact, I had it exactly backwards: my position existed to serve others. As Andy Crouch puts it in Playing God, “Power is not the opposite of servanthood. Rather, servanthood, ensuring the flourishing of others, is the very purpose of power.”
I was also realizing that not every leadership role had to be filled by one person. After all, my own experience was showing that I couldn’t do everything by myself. How did I expect others to?