I have often had church members say to me, “Pastor, don’t you think we ought to start this ministry or that ministry in the church?” When I first began pastoring, I thought I had to take all the good ideas and do something about them. I was headed for rapid burnout! One day it dawned on me that if God gave a good idea to one of my members, maybe He wanted them to do something about it. But what should I do to encourage them to get started? That’s where the four connections approach comes in.
If someone comes to me with a great idea (or what they think is a great idea), I tell them “God has given you this idea because He wants you to do something with it. And here are the steps to take to get started with a ministry:
1. Make sure your connection with God is up-to-date, that you are surrendered to Him, and that you seek His will each day.
2. Next, find a partner who will help you plan and carry out this ministry. Even if the idea seems wild or weird, if you follow this process, you and your partner may be able to reach some wild and weird people for Jesus–and there are plenty of them we need to reach!
3. Once you have developed a plan of action with your partner, ask a church board member to be your coach. The coach’s role is not to run or do the ministry, but to listen to the ideas and to give counsel to keep you from going into the ditch. As soon as a church board member agrees to be your coach, you are an official ministry of the church. On the other hand, if your coach ever lets you know they can no longer serve as your coach, you must find another church board member to serve as coach in order to remain an official ministry of the church. Your coach serves as your link to the official leadership group of the church, and represents you on the board as needed.
4. When you have your connection with God, partner, and coach, your final connection is with your flock–those you will minister to. Go recruit them!”
I had recently baptized Jim. He was excited about being part of his new church family. I told him it was very important for him to find his ministry soon. About three weeks after baptism he told me, “Pastor, I love computers, and I want to teach a computer class as my ministry.”
“Great!” I said. “Are you keeping your connection with God up-to-date?”
“Now you need to find a ministry partner to help you plan and do your ministry, and a church board member to listen to your plans and give you counsel and encouragement.”
The next Sabbath after church Jim could hardly wait to talk to me.
“Pastor, Doug is my partner and Rick is my coach. What’s next?”
“Next, you need to recruit your flock. Invite members and nonmembers to join your class. Then go for it!”
“Pastor, I’ve already lined up 11 computers and talked to the church secretary about a room for Thursday nights!”
Jim ran the class for 12 weeks. What were the results? Two of the 11 who signed up were not church members but came regularly and made friends with the members. One of the church members who attended got a better job because of the skill learned. There was no cost to the church. Several people were mobilized in ministry, and a new member discovered how to use his gifts in ministry.
Using the God-partner-coach-flock connection approach could help a church quickly mobilize members in recreation ministries (e.g., cycling, skiing, rafting, basketball, volleyball, skateboarding, motorcycle ministries), ministries targeting those with specific needs (homelessness, blindness, deafness, terminal illness, recent divorce, etc.), and more direct soul winning (Bible study groups, Bible seminars, video seminars, new Sabbath school classes, and even baptismal classes). It all begins with one person to whom God has given one idea and who is empowered to act in an accountable way. And that person can be any of your members!*
Ellen White urges us in this direction. In a powerful series of quotations collected in Christian Service, page 72 she counsels us…
“Time is short, and our forces must be organized to do a larger work.–Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 27.
“The formation of small companies as a basis of Christian effort has been presented to me by One who cannot err.–Testimonies, vol. 7, pp. 21, 22.
“Let there be in every church, well-organized companies of workers to labor in the vicinity of that church.–Review and Herald, Sept. 29, 1891.
“In every city there should be a corps of organized, well-disciplined workers; not merely one or two, but scores should be set to work.–General Conference Bulletin, 1893, p. 37.
“In our churches let companies be formed for service. Let different ones unite in labor as fishers of men. Let them seek to gather souls from the corruption of the world into the saving purity of Christ’s love.–Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 21.
“The church of Christ on earth was organized for missionary purposes, and the Lord desires to see the entire church devising ways and means whereby high and low, rich and poor, may hear the message of truth.–Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 29.
“If there is a large number in the church, let the members be formed into small companies, to work not only for the church members, but for unbelievers. If in one place there are only two or three who know the truth, let them form themselves into a band of workers.–Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 22.”
During every Harvest Cycle our churches and schools need as many small groups as possible to meet needs, build relationships, share Jesus and open God’s word. Why not talk with your board and congregation about using the 4 Connections to mobilize as many of your members in ministry as possible this spring?
Blessings to you,
* (Adapted from Adventist Review, January 27, 2005 “From Basketball to Bible Studies”)