All You Need Is Love

The ability to love others unconditionally is certainly a fruit of the spirit. The Bible talks about love quite a bit, and it is clear, that one of the outward signs of spirituality is love. So is love something that can be measured as a fruit? Is it something that our ministry can produce?

I think the answer on both counts is no, not really. As far as measurement goes, outward displays can be motivated selfishly – only God knows the intentions and the motivations of the heart. And for production, again, we really rely on the Holy Spirit to transform hearts to produce love.

So what can a ministry do? How can a ministry be organized to produce or to optimize love as an output?

I think that the best we can do with the personal fruits of the spirit (peace, love, joy, etc) are to model them. That is, our most mature members should be the example that other, less mature brothers and sisters need so that they can see, feel, and smell what these fruits are.

In order for this to happen, we must organize our ministry, so that as many of our new and immature believers have opportunity to spend time with more mature believers, both working side by side in ministry and getting close to them in social settings. Mature believers must understand that it is their role and responsibility to encourage newer, less mature believers by being an example.

Ministry Staffing Model

It is very common to organize ministry programs to align with demographic groups. Men’s ministry, Women’s ministry, Youth Ministry, Single’s ministry, etc. I believe that the theory behind this is that demographics drive similar ministry needs, similar interests. I think that often, the alignment of common emotional, physical or spiritual needs among demographic groups is a compelling argument to align ministries this way.

I submit that there are actually two types of demographically aligned ministries:


  • Internally Staffed – Ministries that (primarily) recruit volunteers from within the demographic group being targeted.
  • Externally Staffed – Ministries that (primarily) recruit volunteers from outside the demographic group being targeted.

I think that this is interesting only because internally staffed ministry programs can become self-sustaining if they are multi-faceted. Self-sustaining programs not only provide opportunities for outreach, but also grow ministry participants sufficiently for them to become volunteers, and eventually equip them to become leaders. In my opinion, a program is not self-sustaining because this happens organically, but only when it happens intentionally.

Externally staffed ministries must rely on some external function, organization, or entity to grow a pool of participants from which volunteers can be recruited, and likely to grow a pool of leaders to replenish the team when burnout or transitions occurr.

As a ministry leader, understanding where your volunteers are going to come from is very important. When designing ministry programs, the staffing model is perhaps the most important indicator of sustainability.

Vocational ministers and church leaders need to pay attention to their portfolio of ministry programs to manage the supply and demand of ministry volunteers, and manage the growing of new volunteers to supply the needs of externally staffed programs. This is especially true for demographics that cannot minister to themselves – Children, elderly, special needs. For other demographics, those within the demographic community are perhaps best suited to serve within the community.

Ministry Staffing Decisions

So how does a ministry (church) decide which ministry leadership positions should be paid and which should be volunteer? What criteria should we apply to this decision? How do we decide which leadership positions require what gifts and talents? How do your paid staff positions align with ministry programs?

Let’s talk about the problems first:


  • Ministry program lead by volunteers only not self-sustaining. Leader burns out and ministry falls over.
  • Ministry program no longer producing fruit, but with one or more paid leadership staff. RIFing ministers stinks. Congregation splits or divides.
  • Congregation has reduced size and/or budget, but not paid staff. Staff salaries are preventing investment in fruitful ministry.
  • Program leadership transitions, and new leader is gifted differently than prior leaders. Some aspects of ministry suffer.

I have watched in churches as ministries founded by non-paid staff evaporate when the leader who had the original vision burns out, or moves away. I have also watched as the paid leader of a ministry program retires, and the replacement is differently gifted, and rather than taking the ministry in a new direction, tries to keep the vision the same as the prior leader. I have seen churches that invest in staffing specific ministry programs, and seen that the programs take the shape of the leaders giftedness. I have also seen churches that invest in giftedness, by hiring pastors who complement each other, but are not directly accountable for ministry programs. With no way for their gifts to bleed into the ministry programs, the hiring strategy comes up empty, as the program leaders are different.

All ministry programs need certain gifts:


  • Evangelism – the ability to relate the gospel message of hope and salvation to those without hope and who don’t understand their need for salvation.
  • Teaching – the ability to communicate the truth of God’s word, with a view towards application in the life of the believer.
  • Administration – the ability to plan activities, coordinate resources, measure fruit, build systems that allow others to focus on expressing their gifts.
  • Works or Helps – the ability to do any physical or menial work required to keep the ministry happening with joy and love.
  • Hospitality – the ability to make people feel welcome and loved and cared for.

None of these gifts alone are sufficient to run a ministry program. Every ministry program requires each of them in certain portions, and when they are missing, it can show in the fruit.

So how are your ministry programs equipped with these gifts through leadership? In a small paid staff organization, you need to rely on volunteer leadership, but paid staff can be used to “speak” some of these gifts into the programs. This can be done by having paid staff (pastors, especially) participate directly in mentoring relationships with volunteer program leaders. This can also be done, by having paid staff “equip” through regular seminars that help volunteer program leaders grow in understanding in areas of weakness. Even smaller organizations can have gifted volunteers “equip” each other, or participate in denominational or other equipping events.

Ministry Programs

Why do churches have trouble dropping or changing ministry programs? Often I think it is because people forget or misunderstand why we started the program in the first place. In essence, because they forget the plan. The ministry was started to produce certain fruit. When it is no longer producing that fruit, it needs to be changed or replaced with something that will produce that fruit.

Here is an example:

Our ministry plan needed an outreach ministry. We needed to attract unbelievers from our community to our congregation so that they can hear the Gospel message. We targeted youth, hoping that we will not only get youth, but parents as well. We started a youth basketball program. We had the church members invite their neighbors to the program. In the first year, we got 10 unchurched kids and from this five new families come to hear the message, and were saved. That is some fruit. Somewhere along the way, it stopped being about outreach and became about basketball. We soon had teams and kids from other churches coming to play, but not very many neighborhood kids and very few families continued to invite their neighbors. We went from 8 teams to 24, and the program took 10 volunteers to keep running, and went from 3 hours on a Saturday morning, to all day each Saturday. The program felt successful because it had grown large, and it had a very committed team of volunteers who believed strongly in the program. During the last two years, however, only one family came to know Christ as a result of the program.

Here is the worst part. Most of the boys and girls in the church look forward to when they are old enough to be in the basketball program. The church families see the program benefits to them and their kids, not the outreach. So when the elder board recommended that the ministry be changed or replaced, there was tremendous resistance and friction within the body. There was dissatisfaction and divison. Several families left the church, including some of the leaders of the program, because they felt that the church was no longer meeting their needs.

The purpose of the program changed, and we didn’t recognize it. It went from an outreach to an inreach without our recognizing the change, and we did nothing about it.

We ended up spending lots of resources maintaining the program, and it displaced other ministries that could have used the facility during that time. We produced very little fruit. So were we good stewards of God’s resources? No – we became selfish and inwardly focused. The program became a club to serve our needs, rather than the community.

I think that this is a story that is repeated over and over in churches and ministries. Without consistent focus on the reason we are doing ministry programs, and an consistent measurement of the fruitfulness of each program, without keeping both the volunteers (resources) and the participants aware of the purpose and effectiveness of the ministry, through initiation and celebration, programs tend to lose some fruitfulness over time. If we are good stewards, we will make necessary adjustments before the program totally stops producing, and can evolve a program over time to keep it productive. When a program stops being productive, and adjustments are not possible or effective, replacing the program is the right thing to do, but unless your volunteers and participants are aware of the purpose of the program, they may react poorly.

Outsourcing Parental Responsibility

Sometimes children’s ministry is seen by parents as a means of outsourcing their role in providing spiritual leadership for their children.

I am not talking about particiating believers who feel underqualified to teach their children spiritual truth, while they themselves are trying to grow spiritually. I am talking about parents who want to impart a belief system to their children, especially one that they no longer value. Parents who are no longer practicing Christians, but who feel that their children should have some exposure to “the faith”, and who bring their kids to church, specifically because they have a vibrant children’s ministry. Parents who show up on Sunday, sit through a worship service, when they would rather be at home, watching tv, doing yard work, or going out for breakfast.

Why does this happen? Because couples marry with differences in faith and practice, and quickly decide that religious differences are not their greatest problem, until the kids arrive, and they are confronted with it, again. Because individuals decide after wandering away from the faith of their childhood, that religion is not for them (they are “too far gone”), but believe that their kids still have a chance to get it right. Because I don’t believe that “stuff” anymore, but it is important for my kids to be “exposed” to it.

In response to the thinking that leads to this behavior:

1) If you think that spiritual tendencies of parents will not be understood by children, you are mistaken. Belief systems are more frequently “caught” than “taught”, meaning, children learn by observation. While they may not have the words to describe your particular state of apostasy, they understand it, and when you bring them to church, they learn how different mommy and daddy are from what the Bible teaches. But mommy and daddy are their reference point, and most kids will reject something that is too different from their reference point.

2) If you think it is important to “expose” your children to something you no longer believe, then one of two things is happening: a) you want to teach your children something that is a lie – or b) you really still believe it, but are to lazy, scared, or selfish to act on those beliefs and ask God to re-inhabit your life. Neither of these positions makes much sense. Either decide that you still believe it, and ask God to restore your faith, or be honest with your children.

3) You have wandered away from God, and you think you can’t now come back, but you want your children to have an opportunity to get what you threw away. You are now too far from God to ever come back, there is no hope for you (untrue). You are not qualified to lead your children spiritually (if you value spiritual things, they will observe and learn to do the same). You are not a good influence on your kids (this may be true, but you cannot escape this responsibility. You will be an influence on your kids would it not be better to try to be what you believe they need?). Come back to God, accept His forgiveness, earnestly seek Him, and you will be a role model to your kids.

Publish Your Own COntent

This is the fifth and perhaps the last post in the series: using the world’s tools:


Publish your own content is not about promotion. It is not about getting more people to come “in”, it is about pushing the boundaries of “in” to include the “out”… So stick with me. If you have anything excellent, make it available as a resource to others. This is using the worlds tools to multiply your fruit… This is missional thinking – helping others produce fruit. Continue reading “Publish Your Own COntent”

Brochure Website

This is the fourth post in a series about using the world’s tools.

I expect that in 2011, most churches already have a brochure website. So I don’t necessarily think it would be valuable to talk about the value of building one. But I do want to talk about some ideas that can make a brochure website more valuable.

What is a “brochure” website? A brochure is a piece of marketing literature that describes the goods or services you provide in terms of the value proposition to the recipient or consumer. A brochure website is basically the same thing, only on the internet. If you have a “new” attendee packet that you physically hand out to people when they attend your ministry for the first time, it would probably have the same comment. Continue reading “Brochure Website”

Locator Services are Smart

This is the third post in a series about using the world’s tools to produce fruit.

OK – what on earth is a locator service. In internet terms it is a mapping website. I like Google Maps, some people like Map Quest – both work. If I want to get directions, or figure out where something is, I go to a locator service. I also use them for location sensitive searches. When I am at home, and I want to find a new asian takeout restaurant, I look at google maps, find my address and click the “search nearby” link. I type in asian restaurant, and it maps out my choices based on proximity to my address.

Why wouldn’t someone looking for church, or kids programs or preschool do exactly the same thing? No reason – they would. Best part is, they can do it from their phone, their laptop, anything.

You can get google or mapquest to link to your church website from the search. You can have your congregation put in reviews. It is a different way for someone to find you.

Make sure that this listing gets them to somewhere where you can tell your story.