In a recent article for Ministry Toolbox, Rick Warren writes: “To bring out the best in people, it is extremely important to give them control.
Every church must eventually decide whether it is going to be structured for control or structured for growth. For a church to grow, both the pastor and the people must give up control. The people must give up control of the leadership, and the pastor must give up control of the ministry. Otherwise, you create a bottleneck for growth.
This is especially true once a church grows beyond about 500 people, because then no single person or board can know everything that’s going on in the church. I haven’t known about everything that happens at Saddleback for years. I don’t have to know about it all!
“You might ask, ‘Then how do you control it?’ The answer is: I don’t! It’s not my job to control the church. It’s my job to lead it. There is a very big difference between leading and controlling. Our pastors and staff are responsible to keep the church doctrinally sound and headed in the right direction, but most of the day-to-day decisions are made by the people actually doing the ministries of the church. Every lay ministry is assigned a staff liaison but, as much as possible, our staff stays out of the decision-making process in each ministry.
When Saddleback was just a few years old I found myself running out of energy. The church had grown to several hundred people and I was still trying to do most of the ministry myself. I literally helped with every job in the church. I stored all our equipment — cribs, chairs, etc. — in my garage. Every Sunday morning I would borrow a truck to haul that equipment to the school we were renting. I printed the bulletin. I swept the school auditorium. I stocked the bathrooms with toilet paper. I set up the sound system. I cleaned up after everyone else had left. I did all of the counseling, baptizing, weddings, funerals and most of the hospital visits. I was burning out physically and emotionally.
“At a midweek service, I confessed to our congregation that I was out of energy and that I couldn’t continue trying to meet all their needs myself. I went on to say that God didn’t expect me to do all the ministry. The Bible is very clear the pastor’s job is to equip members for their ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). So I said, “I’ll make you a deal. If you agree to do the ministry of this church, I’ll make sure you’re well fed!” The people liked the deal and that night we signed a covenant that, from that day forward, they would do the ministry and I would feed and lead them. When we made this decision, Saddleback exploded with growth.
“If you want your church to be a place where all sorts of talents and abilities are expressed in a creative way that draws multitudes to Christ, you have to give up control and trust people with ministry.”