This post deals a bit more with pastoral issues rather than “social issues” – I guess that’s what the previous post falls under. This one is not so much a fear as it is a worry. It’s not that big of a worry either, but it has come onto my mind several times over the course of this the last few years and so I thought perhaps I should try to figure this one out too.
Today’s worry deals with, I suppose, the “requirements” of a youth group leader, or someone with a leader role at church. At next gen (check the links at the right) at the beginning of this year, I remember we had a seminar on how to grow youth groups and we started off by discussing what qualities a good youth group leader should have. We were given a few things to rank in order of importance and at the top, the majority decided that a key trait for any leader at church is “willingness” – or I guess you can say “a heart to serve”. Simply put, if you want to pick someone to hold a leader role at church, they should first be willing to do it.
That sounds fair. You wouldn’t really want to pick someone to be a leader if they didn’t really want to do it. A person unwilling to serve would not do their job well. Note the word “job” here; I’ll expand on that a bit later. What I put down as the most important trait needed for a leader is “competence” – that is, someone who has the necessary skills. And though of course at the end of the day, you don’t pick your leaders based on ONE trait but on many traits, I still felt that “skills” was more significant than “heart”.
The difference between serving in ministry – so being a church minister or pastor – and doing a normal job is indeed the heart. Because I discussed before that Christianity is based on relationships (with God and each other), the heart is an essential tool for the work of ministry. For everything else, you don’t really need to like your job to be successful at it, or to bring some form of economic benefit for your employer. Money can be a factor that outweighs your willingness to do your job – sometimes you’re motivated to work because of the money. But with ministry, you don’t get paid (much) at all; in my situation at least, youth group leaders don’t get paid anything for planning things on Sunday, and also to be there at church on Sundays. Our “reward” isn’t something especially tangible either. At the same time, you cannot call our ministry as volunteer work; that is, sharing the good news of Jesus is not something you do “just because you feel like it”. All Christians have a duty to share the Word of God with people around them. For us young adults, we do this through our youth groups.
Having said that, not every Christian has to feel extremely positive about sharing the gospel, in order to do so. We have an obligation to Christ, our Saviour, but at the same time we also see the goodness and benefits from sharing the good news of Jesus with others. I think I dealt with the joys of being a youth leader elsewhere once, even if only briefly, so I’ll leave this small topic aside.
My question is this: “Can we just pick leaders at our church based on the one trait we deem as most important?” Because implicitly from this we ask two more questions:
1. If someone wants to serve, do we automatically let them be a leader?
2. If someone has a lot of potential, do we automatically make them a leader?
There are clearly problems with the second one. A person with a lot of talent and skill will indeed be really useful at church, provided they actually want to use those gifts to serve God. If they aren’t willing then they may be bitter about what they do and as such will not create good relationships due to their attitude. And of course bad relationships makes it hard for Christians to grow and spur one another on.
At the same time I believe the answer to the first question is also a “no”. A person who may be really motivated to serve God will definitely be a person who can foster really positive relationships, and that’s a good thing. But if they don’t have any skills, how tangible will their motivation be when they try to forge relationships? Picking just one random example that’s not based on anyone, you could have someone who was really passionate about serving God through music. But if that person doesn’t have any musical talent then they won’t be able to lead the congregation in song such that the congregation feels the vibe from the music. No matter how passionate that person is, they wouldn’t be able to play any better and make the congregation feel any more passionate about worshiping God.
You could say that the above scenario is a mis-match in roles. If you took a passionate person and put them in a role that they’re more suited for then we wouldn’t have as much of a problem. The thing I’ve noticed many times over the last few years is that people were being chosen to hold some sort of leader role when it feels like they weren’t suited for it. You had people who were inarticulate, who didn’t know much about the Bible, and who had never been to RICE (to lead RICE) holding the same roles which the rest of us have had to gradually become experienced and trained in over time.
I’m not saying these people can’t serve alongside us, but that they simply show themselves to be more competent, reliable and able before we give them more responsibility. The fear in letting inexperienced people do certain jobs (at church) is that they won’t be able to build effective relationships, and in some situations I reckon they can even cause damage to a relationship or simply make it awkward for the people they are leading. Furthermore, it can also mean that the other leaders have to pick up the slack for the task that the inexperienced person did not complete satisfactorily. I’m trying to not make this sound like a legalistic issue, but it can be annoying when you delegate a task to someone and they can’t do it right, forcing the other group members to use more of their energy to get that extra task done.
At the end of the day, even if the situation in Sydney is that we desperately need more leaders and more ministers to evangelise the people and youth of Sydney, I don’t think we can just let the incompetent people fill these roles just because they have some willingness to do so. And by incompetent I mean below some sort of standard that church leaders would regard as a bare minimum for the role.
I really feel privileged at the training and teaching we receive at church and at uni, and how it really does help us make a change at church for the benefit of others. But at the same time there is this worry that there are many others who don’t have enough training and teaching, who try to teach, but end up teaching something wrong or unhelpful because they themselves haven’t been taught enough.