Does just being able to “get the job done” qualify someone to be a leader in Jesus’ Church? Is it wise to assume that someone volunteering to fill a leadership role knows how to do it well without training? The answer to both questions is, “No.” Large churches as well as small churches need to provide leadership training for everyone who is overseeing a ministry team, activity, or project. All training should include not just “what you will do” but also “who you are to be” as a servant-leader in Jesus’ Church. This might help to circumvent the “it’s my ministry” mentality.
I received a phone call from a friend who is the women’s ministry team leader for a small church. The church had been around for many years, and the women’s ministry had become a “silo ministry,” meaning it had been operating basically on its own disconnected from the church leadership. Various women would bring their ideas of what each wanted to do, help the group to raise money for the projects, and then spend it on those projects. They love their Lord, have good hearts and have supported several local missions.
The elders of the church realized this structure was not healthy so they suggested a reorganization of the women’s leadership. The congregation members recommended women of character and faith to form the new team (2 had been part of the old structure). I met with this wonderful group of ladies to talk over how they would transition from the old “silo ministry” format to one that was integrated with the mission of the church, including a greater emphasis on disciple-making. We also talked over how to carefully affirm the value and service of those who had previously headed up the old way of doing things. We knew this would take lots of prayer, love and patience.
Most of those who had been part of the old structure welcomed the changes once the purpose was explained. No one was making them stop their individual ministries; it was just that not all of those activities were going to be incorporated into the new women’s ministry structure. However, the new team was really concerned about the response of one particular woman who didn’t like anyone messing with “her ministry.” For several years, she had been getting away with this “it’s my ministry” mentality and would intimidate anyone who got in her way. This woman had a heart for a particular local mission, had been allowed to lead this public ministry, and she got the job done—her way.
Since my friend’s church was a small church (<200), there had not been the leadership training for women heading up various activities that larger churches usually offer every year. The New Testament is pretty clear concerning the character qualities necessary for anyone in leadership in Jesus’ Church. From 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, we get that she should be humble, teachable, and Christ-focused. From 1 Timothy 3:11, we see that women in any kind of leadership position should be worthy of respect, temperate and trustworthy and definitely not malicious talkers. Such qualities of a servant-leader should certainly be included in leadership training.
The new women’s ministry team met privately with the “it’s my ministry” woman so they could carefully tell her about the changes to the women’s ministry structure and allow lots of Q&A opportunity. Sadly, the “it’s my ministry” woman responded as anticipated. She called other women who had been part of the old structure to complain about it and even slandered the church and the pastor to a visiting family. Not exactly the kind of advertising to make someone want to come back!
As I spoke with my friend, we both agreed it was time for the elders to step in and confront the “it’s my ministry” woman with her behavior. I am praying that she responds with humility and a teachable spirit. My friend and I also agreed that it was important to provide leadership training to all the women in any leadership role at her church. This would include not only Bible study small group leaders but also women who oversee outreach events, fundraisers, and the retreat. Based upon my past experience in church ministry, I emphasized this leadership training should include the New Testament character qualities necessary to be a leader in Jesus’ Church. Check out The 5 C’s of Small Group Leadership handbook and other sources found here on Bible.org.
Whether you have a large church or less than 100 attendees, it’s always a good idea to offer training on what it means to be a servant leader in Jesus’ Church. This at least will put everyone “on the same page” of approaching ministry as a team and hopefully help to avoid the “it’s my ministry” mentality.
For more information, read "Pitfalls of Leadership" by Dianne Miller.