I was talking recently to a lady who has been involved in a wonderful ministry for years. I asked her whether they needed extra helpers and her response was interesting. She said that at the start of each year they are always quite desparate to find people to take the different roles the ministry requires.
I’m sure that is quite a familiar situation. Whether it is the youth group, Sunday school, Bible in schools classes or Bible study groups – as the new year gets underway, the need becomes increasingly more urgent – even desparate – to find people who will lead and be involved in running these ministries.
Ultimately it is the Lord of the Harvest who provides workers for these harvest fields, and so the first thing we ought to be doing about this need for leaders and people to teach God’s word is be asking the Lord of the Harvest for workers. However, rather than asking rather desparately the night before first term begins next year – it is worth asking the Lord of the Harvest earlier on than this, perhaps even asking Him in the year before!
What we ought also perhaps do is change our thinking about the ministries we are involved in. There can be a tendency to be needs driven rather than resource driven in Christian ministries. Let me explain. Let’s say a church had six Bible study groups last year, and three leaders will be stopping leading this year. It can be thought the three new leaders are needed so we can have six groups again next year.
However, instead of asking how many leaders are needed to keep doing what we’ve always done, we can perhaps ask a different question. And it is a particularly good question to be asking at the end of October as ministries have been operating over the year and hopefully the buds of fruit are beginning to be evident. The question to ask is, who do we have whom it would be good to invest time into in order to train them further in the ministry of the word of God? That is, who do we have from our ministries who are faithful, available and teachable?
Perhaps from our six Bible study groups we can identify four people who are faithful, available, and teachable at this point. What ought we do with them? Train all of them in ministry so they might be able to be Bible study leaders! It may be that all four are then able to lead a study – in which case we’ll then have seven groups; or perhaps only two will be able to lead – but then our groups we should still be able to have just as many people studying the Bible only in larger groups – and hopefully we’d have two other people who could step in if they needed to occasionally, having been trained up.
But the key issue is that rather than being driven by a desparate need in February, we are being driven by thinking about how we can further spur keen Christians on to love and good deeds in October – November (or indeed, earlier in the year!).
But if we identify people who are godly, eager and available to learn and be trained in Christian ministry – how do we train them?
There are many good things we could do with people. However, an excellent thing to do for people in this position is to encourage them to attend YLC in the first full week in January each year (ylc.org.nz). YLC is a week-long conference which has as its aim training Bible teachers. People who attend YLC will learn how to read, understand and apply a passage of the New Testament for themselves, and then teach it to others. If people return in following years they will learn the same skills for a passage from the Old Testament (year 2) and on a topic (year 3). In addition, delegates will hear excellent talks on the parts of the Bible they are studying and be further equipped as they mix with like-minded and enthusiastic people eager to be trained as workers for the Lord’s harvest field and also attend various workshops on ministry.
The pastor, youth group leader or ministry director who prays, plans and sends godly and faithful Christians to YLC in the spring may find that when February the following year comes there are still leadership shortages in some church ministries. However, the Lord of the Harvest may also have provided more workers for His harvest fields in ways they never expected.