Hey Church Leader - That Team Member Might Be the Next Pastor

During college, my husband and I served in children’s ministry within a large church in Baton Rouge. In the middle of finishing upper-level classes and an upcoming graduation, we found ourselves also teaching Bible stories to fifth graders alongside blowing up watermelons and playing a life-size version of Angry Birds (you know, typical kids’ church fun)

During the season that we began serving, our intent was not to become children’s pastors. Our motives weren’t to make this a life-long career. In fact, it all truly started because the pastor was wrapping up a series on serving and challenged the congregation to get involved.

One year later, it was in the midst of that same position that we answered God’s call into ministry and devoted our lives to leading in the local church.

Like most busy transitions, the moments to follow happened fast. Graduation came and went. We phased out of kids’ ministry, packed up our lives, and moved to the church where we would serve for the next three years.

It all passed so quickly, in fact, that we failed to mention anything about our new vocation to the children’s ministry team who still believed we were following different career paths. Like most updates now-a-days, they came to learn about all the new changes through social media.

It only took a few Instagram pictures for the messages to start pouring in.

Overflowing encouragement was the best way to describe each conversation. From the head children’s pastor to our team members, many congratulated, affirmed and talked vision with us during the next couple of months.

At the time, I felt special. We considered ourselves exceptional and distinct. Our story even seemed unique! But, the more I’ve mulled over this story in my head, the more I realize how remarkably common it is than seemed at first glance.

National leader in the Assemblies of God and pastor in Chicago – Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesus – started off by serving in his local church as a teenager.

Marty Hoey, tenured Children’s Pastor at Crossroads Church, began his ministry story by mowing the church’s lawn and overseeing maintenance.

My own pastor, Den Hussey of Crossing Place Church, took on his first role by straitening chairs in the sanctuary between weekly services.

These three examples all popped in my head within a mere few seconds. The list is probably longer than we could even compile.

Put plainly, not all pastors started as pastors. Not all pastors started even knowing they would one day be pastors. I would argue just from observation that a significant percentage began just like you – serving within and leading a team or ministry in the local church.

Now, I’m certain the anointing or call on many of these people was very evident to their leaders, and because of this, leadership was pulled out of them. Divine encounters set them on the pathway to pastor.

Still, what if it’s not always so obvious? What if, people in your own church and on your own team, have that supernatural skillset or self-esteem buried deep within and require extra training and devotion?

Jesus was forward about the treatment of others due to personal bias. In Matthew 25, His words speak beyond just good works and generosity. Jesus knew if His followers saw greatness in someone, they would offer exemplary treatment. But how should they respond to those viewed as less-than or ordinary?

“I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.” - Matthew 25:40

The reality is not everyone we train on our team will became a pastor or the pastor. Still, how would our behavior toward them, our leadership abilities, and our reactions shift if we treated every person as if they would be?

1. We would give each person our full attention.

I would argue that the most difficult people to spend intentional time with are those we come in contact with the most.

In the back of our minds, they are the first to cut off the to-do list. At the end of the day, we can just reschedule or have that conversation later because we know we’ll see them next week. Slough off on appropriate focus long enough, and it might be possible they aren’t there anymore.

While we may not be able to devote our entire week’s schedule to any one team member, what we can offer is a listening ear and our undivided focus during the times we do encounter them.

If our current pastor or future pastor were speaking to us, we wouldn't cast off any idea or comment as too big or too small. Instead, we would consider their point of view, their new thoughts and their life happenings.

2. We would let them serve within their strengths.

Stand outside your church door immediately following service, and you’ll hopefully hear a roar of individuals carrying on conversations. The Local Church is never in shortage of people who can talk – we are in fact in short supply of those who will speak in a microphone. 

In our experience, finding someone who carries a strength of public speaking paired with an anointing to clearly communicate truth is like discovering pure gold.

You’ll see those people very quickly scheduled for video announcements, pre-service greetings, transitions, bible studies, small groups, etc. It’s easy to connect their strength to the action, especially since it’s not a common trait.

If we knew a future pastor was serving in our midst, we would do anything we could to give them opportunities to speak.

Applying this to all of our team members, I’m reminded of the words of Peter in 1 Peter 4:10:

“God has given each of [us] a gift from a great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”

For this conversation, let’s put some emphasis on variety. Not everyone is going to have a gift of speaking, but how many on your team are itching to use their problem-solving gift? Or their helps gift? Their faith gift? Or even their healing gift.

It’s easy in the sake of getting the job done to reduce our team to menial tasks camouflaged as important works. This isn’t about one person being too good for one task. Rather, it’s about creating margin to let those spiritual gifts shine.

So, hand your administrative team member an obstacle and give them time to find a solution. Schedule time for that faith-filled team member to give the team a pep talk and pray for them before starting the day.

Bring along your gift of healing team member, no matter where they serve, to pray for others. No plan is too outrageous when it connects those serving to their strengths.

3. We would find more fulfillment in the ordinary.

The life of a leader in the church can honestly become quite monotonous thanks to the ever-returning Sunday. Schedule your team. Train new helpers. Outline upcoming lessons. Email out announcements. These are the basics that help us manage those under our care that can unfortunately become boring out of repetition.

It’s needed, but it’s still ordinary.

Being a part of a pastor’s story brings significance. Leaders find purpose in knowing that their part of leading a small group, teaching a Sunday School lesson, or hosting a youth hangout played some part into this person taking on such a spiritually led role.

Applying these same feelings of fulfillment though to all of our team members is where we can find significance in our weekly duties.

You’re not just scheduling an usher. You’re building an opportunity for an introverted person to take a first step in interacting with their church community.

You’re not just sending out a kid’s lesson. You’re providing insight for true discipleship to happen as one believer teaches another.

You’re not just training another round of new members. You’re giving care and leadership examples to the person you’ll hand your role off to one day.

What I’m suggesting is what Matt and I love to coin as a perspective shift. Can we shift our perspective to see the absolute best in our leaders? While the common respect and adoration for pastors is admirable, pastors are ordinary people too.

Can we shift our admiration from them and apply to every person who leads or serves with us?