Pastors carry a tremendous responsibility, a constant pressure. Noble as they are, there are at least 10 things we no longer have to do because of our transition to free-market small groups.
1. Come up with new ideas. We no longer have to constantly come up with new ideas. Ninety-five percent of the ministry starts with the idea of one person or a group of people. Within the church my role has shifted from managing programs to equipping leaders to do the work of the ministry. What a relief.
2. Be experts. Pastors no longer have to be experts in everything. Now the "experts" are leading small groups in their areas of expertise, imparting their strengths into the lives of people who are weak in that area.
3. Spend hours counseling. Pastors no longer have to spend countless hours in pastoral counseling. The majority of pastoral care is being handled at the small group leader or section leader levels.
4. Micromanage details. Pastors no longer have to micromanage the details of ministry. The role of the pastor is to equip the leaders and facilitate their ministries. Much easier.
5. Push people upstream. We no longer have to "push people upstream." Before we moved into free-market small groups, we often found ourselves trying to talk people into doing things that we wanted them to do to fulfill our vision. Now we're helping them fulfill their vision, and it's much easier and more effective. As pastors, we're swimming with them instead of against them.
6. Delay ministry. We don't have to delay ministry because of cumbersome boards and policies. If someone has met all of the criteria to be approved as a small group leader, then he works with his section leader to facilitate ministry. Many churches get tangled up in permission-withholding, time-intensive boards and policies that delay or prevent ministry from getting off the ground.
7. Feel alone. No one has to feel alone in ministry. The emphasis New Life places on ministry coming from relationships is reinforced in the effort we make to ensure empowering, life-giving relationships.
8. Mandate discipleship or evangelism. We no longer have to mandate a special discipleship or outreach emphasis. It happens naturally through the free-market small groups because of the passion people have when they like the people in their group and have a high interest in the subject. With this combination, evangelism is easy.
9. Coax people. We no longer have to coax people into joining a small group. When we heard from our own members that the two things keeping them from being in a small group were the lack of relevance and the indefinite time commitment, we knew the move toward free-market small groups was right. Now New Lifers are going to groups that interest them, meet a specific need or connect them with people in a similar stage of life.
10. Recruit leaders. We no longer have to recruit leaders. People are operating in ministry in the areas of their own passion and gifts, and they're doing it willingly.
Simply put, free-market small groups can make your job much easier and effective. They will make your church larger, stronger and healthier, and they will free you to do the things only you can do.
Ted Haggard pastors New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This column is adapted with permission from his new book, Dog Training, Fly Fishing, and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century (Thomas Nelson).