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By: Rick Warren

I believe we have a sleeping giant in our churches today. If that sleeping giant awakes, the world won’t be the same. The sleeping giant is lay people who aren’t serving somewhere in ministry.

Our greatest need in the church today is to release an army of lay ministers to do what God is calling them to do.

You don’t need a big budget to awaken that giant. You simply need a process.

How can your church release an army of lay people? These 10 steps have been critical in helping us release lay people into ministry at Saddleback.

1. Teach the biblical basis for lay ministry.

There are four biblical principles from Romans 12:1-8 that sit at the foundation of what we believe about ministry.

-Every believer is a minister: A non-serving, non-ministering Christian is a contradiction.
-Every ministry is important: Although every ministry has a different function, they are all important.
-We are all dependent on one another: We must cooperate to get the job done.
-Ministry is an expression of a person’s unique SHAPE: We believe function follows form. Our ministries flow from our SHAPE—Spiritual gifts, Heart (passion), Abilities, Personality, and Experiences.

2. Establish a ministry placement process by helping people understand their SHAPE.

An effective ministry placement process has three parts. First, you need a course that unpacks the biblical basis of lay ministry and helps people discover their SHAPE. At Saddleback, we do this through CLASS 301. Second,  you need a placement process. Third, you need leaders to administer it.

3. Streamline your organizational structure to maximize ministry and minimize maintenance.

Your members have a limited amount of time to give to the church each week. Make the most of what they give to you. That’s why we don’t have committees at Saddleback. Committees talk. Ministries do. We want to help people do ministry, not just talk about it.

4. Provide on-the-job training.

Instead of wearing people out with training beforehand, spend the maximum amount of time training people who bear the maximum responsibility. At Saddleback, we let people get involved with minimal training beforehand, but once they start in ministry, they participate in ongoing training.

5. Never start a ministry without a minister.

At Saddleback, we don’t create ministries and then try to fill them. Leadership is the most important factor in a ministry’s success. Until you have a leader, don’t start a new ministry.

6. Establish minimum standards and guidelines.

You don’t want to bury ministries with procedures, but you do need to make sure your new ministries are compatible with your church’s strategy and philosophy. You must ensure they won’t harm the testimony of your church.

7. Allow people to quit or change ministries without guilt.

We give people the freedom to do three things in ministry: examine, experiment, and exercise. We want people to try new ministries without needing to make a long-term commitment. We never call it a failure if a ministry doesn’t work out. It’s an experiment. We let people try as many ministries as they would like.

8. Delegate authority with responsibility.

Ownership helps to motivate ministries over the long haul. People respond to responsibility. Trust people and expect the best of them. Don’t meddle in the ministries of your church. Instead, let your leaders be entrepreneurs.

9. Provide the support needed.

Your ministries will need material, communication, promotional, and moral support to thrive. They’ll need everything from access to copy machines and technology to budget support and encouragement. Do what you can to help.

10. Always keep the vision before your lay volunteers.

You’ll need to recruit people to a cause greater than themselves. They’ll never find a greater cause than the Kingdom of God. When people get involved in ministry, they’re not doing us a favor. They are getting involved in God’s work in your community and around the world. Nothing any of us will ever do is more important than God’s Kingdom.

About halfway through Nehemiah’s work of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, the people he led began to feel discouraged. About 26 days into the project, Nehemiah needed to recast his vision. I call it the “Nehemiah Principle.” Vision must be renewed about once a month.

Your church gets to be part of the greatest cause in all of history. For many in ministry, that feels overwhelming. But you don’t need to do it all on your own.

God has called you to equip and empower others.

When you do that, you’ll awaken the greatest sleeping giant this world has ever seen.

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About the Author
Rick Warren
Purpose Driven is a framework to help you structure your church around the purposes of God. These stories aim to inspire and better equip leaders, make disciples, and help transform the world.
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