Every year the United Methodist churches in Western North Carolina participate in a church leadership nomination process. Jan Brittain, pastor of Williamson’s Chapel UMC in Mooresville writes about a process that she has utilized to help ensure that the right people are serving in the right places.
by Jan Brittain, Senior Pastor, Williamson’s Chapel UMC, Mooresville
It’s probably the best way to begin any task in the church but it’s definitely the best way to begin identifying, nominating and inviting people to be leaders in the church. How to pray — Pray first for the ministries themselves — The financial ministry, the facility ministry, the people ministry, the worship ministry, the nurture ministry, the outreach ministry. (We categorize our ministries as community, worship, grow, serve and foundational. You probably have your own nomenclature.) Pray about the successes, the shortfalls, the potential of those ministries including thanksgiving, confession, intercession and petition.
- Thank God for all that has been accomplished in the past year. Thank God for the leaders who have been His instruments — by name.
- Confess the failures in the specific area of ministry and specifically your part in any failures. Identify the shortcomings and conflicts — and seek forgiveness.
- Intercede — ask God enable those who lead in this area to recognize His intentions and purposes and to embrace those with commitment. Intercede on behalf of those who will remain in leadership and for the new, though yet unnamed, leaders. And pray for those who are rotating off. Pray that they will find new, meaningful ways to serve that match their gifts and graces. Pray for the staff members that lead in these areas.
- And finally don’t forget petition. Ask God to give you and your Lay Ministry (Nominations) Team the wisdom and vision to recognize His chosen leaders for this ministry. Ask God to give you the capacity to offer pastoral leadership in each area to nurture leaders and facilitate success.
Begin with this kind of prayer and you are already well on your way to achieving a God honoring, ministry enabling, people affirming nominations process. Now all you have to do is Identify, Match and Invite. Read on if you’d like more details.
FIRST identify the actual ministry position or “job”, itself. Every position, paid and volunteer, should have a concise (preferably one page) job description that is distinctive to the DNA and culture of your particular church. Click here to see an example of a job description at my church. Of course, there are job descriptions for some positions in the Discipline and little booklets you can order. BEWARE! Those are written with the intent of being applicable to every size church in any and every situation. They can be helpful but they can also be overwhelming. I’m referring to a job description that is specific to your church at a specific point in time. It should include a tie to the church’s mission statement, qualifications for serving (member?), meetings times, current goals or projects, and staff liaison or leadership. No one should ever be asked to do a job in the church without being given a job description. If you do not have these, pray and get started writing them. Ask the current committee or team to provide the info needed for each category on the job description, then edit so that they have some degree of uniformity. (We use the same template to produce a one-page job description for staff, including the pastors. It’s one of the ways we express our belief that clergy, laity and staff are partners in ministry.) I began using these job descriptions in the nominations process over 10 years ago and the acceptance rate immediately increased.
SECOND, identify people in your church who should be leaders.
- Ask members of your Lay Ministry/Nominations team to first pray and then begin making a list of people who they believe would be good leaders in the church.
- The larger the church, the more people who need to be contributing to this list. Ask staff members to pray and then submit names, and other key leaders not on the nominations team. (I have a Pastor’s Advisory Council and I ask for their input.)
- When I moved to my present location in October, I discovered there was no functioning nominations or lay ministry team. I had no idea who was suited for service. I invited a diverse group of people in the church meet to simply brainstorm names.
- And be sure to pray and add your own identified candidates to this list.
- If you have a Spiritual Gifts or Talent Data Base (We call ours GPS which stands for Gifts, Passions and Skills – go through that to lift up names.
Next go through the full list to identify those who are already leading and those who might need a break. Remove these names. This is also a good time to pray and then remove people who you know should not be in leadership for reasons you cannot share with others. (Someone else is writing the article on how to remove ineffective and toxic leaders from leadership but I’ve found the best practice is to never put those folks into leadership in the first place.) I also have my financial secretary check to see if the people on the list are regular givers to the General Fund. This will not eliminate them from all areas of service, but I rarely put those who do not give regularly in positions required by the Discipline. When all this is done, you should have a good list of potential leaders. Alphabetize this list and add a short description of each person — Age range (I just use Older, Middle, Young Adult, and Youth), longevity in the church, (Long time — 15 plus, Medium time –3-15 years, new — less than 3 years. This is relative to church age.), past service, special attributes, etc.
THIRD, identify what positions need to be filled.
Now you have three lists.
- A list of the names and descriptions of potential leaders, all of whom you can fully support.
- A list of the positions that need to be filled.
- A list of job descriptions for each of those positions.
This is the point at which I like to have a face-to-face meeting with the Lay Ministry/Nominations Team. I give them the three lists. We put them in front of us, lay our hands upon them and we pray that God will give us His wisdom to recognize the people He has already chosen for ministry among us. It’s important to express to your team that you believe the leadership we need is already part of the church and simply needs to be identified and asked.
After some discussion of the specific needs, I ask them to take all three lists and prayerfully attempt to match leaders to the right slots and to send me their lists by a set date. When these are received, I go through and match up a set of leaders to the needed positions, working for diversity of gender, age, longevity in the church. I list names in my suggested order of invitation, with alternate names in place. I send this out to all members of the Lay Ministry/Nominations team and ask for their approval. HURRAY! We have the names of those we want to invite to serve!
PRAY. Then, invite those who have been nominated to serve. I’ve done this in different ways through the years. I’ve had members of the Lay Ministry Team do the inviting. (They need digital copies of job descriptions to do this.). I’ve had staff members invite people in their areas. And I’ve at times done all the inviting myself. Now I do a combination of those things. But— for the key positions and for those teams that are required by the Discipline, I issue a personal invitation. Click here to see an example of the first letter/email I send. It’s very important to make these invitations personal. I attach a job description to the email or enclose with the letter and I offer to have a direct conversation with them after they’ve had time to pray and consider their response.. And I pray as I push the send button or lick the envelope. If I don’t hear back from them, I call.
So there you have the steps —
- Pray beginning, end and in between and make sure others are praying too.
- Identify — the jobs, the potential leaders and the open positions
- Match potential leaders to needed positions
And the result? Well, as I have followed these steps, I have discovered a couple of things: Remarkable agreement among those doing the nominations. Remarkable level of acceptance. In fact, last year something unprecedented in my ministry happened. Every single person I asked to serve said yes — with excitement and passion. That probably won’t happen again this year and might not happen for you either. It helps me to remember that statistics show that if you ask seven people to accept a task, you will get a yes. I’ve never had to ask that many though I think I once got to five. And here’s something else I’ve discovered — something that is important to share with all those who are inviting people to serve. A thoughtful and prayerful “no” is as important and valuable as a thoughtful and prayerful “yes”. One way to get the wrong person into a position is to talk them into it. I’d rather leave the position blank, and I have.
We do a lot of important things in our work for the Kingdom. But, it’s hard for me to think of something more important than helping committed Christians find the right place and way to serve in the Church. And I’m praying that something in this article might help you to do just that. To God Be the Glory.