By Aaron Wilson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — “Legacy is not what you do; it’s who you develop.”
Todd Adkins, director of leadership development at Lifeway, used this phrase to summarize the 2018 Pipeline conference that drew around 600 ministry leaders to Nashville Oct. 10-12 to learn about leader recruitment and formation.
“A recruiting culture uses a leadership pipeline to develop a person, not delegate a task,” Adkins said, warning leaders that recruitment efforts are often driven more by perceived needs than spiritual gifts.
Conference speakers expounded on Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4, and other Scripture passages to show how churches can develop a recruiting culture that goes deeper than just filling a role for next Sunday’s service.
“Many churches run like mom-and-pop shops,” said Carey Nieuwhof, author and founding pastor of Connexus Church in Ontario, Canada. “Mom and pop run everything. They work 12 to 14 hours a day, barely get a week off, and have no succession plan.”
Nieuwhof said church leaders shouldn’t try to do everything themselves but should instead resemble a supermarket that disperses tasks to many workers and is—as a result—better equipped to serve a greater number of people.
He called on pastors to remember effective leaders focus on what serving can do for their teams rather than on how their teams can serve them. Nieuwhof also encouraged leaders to compensate their volunteers in non-financial currencies.
“Pay your volunteers in gratitude and respect,” he said. “People gravitate toward where they feel most valued.”
Danny Franks, connections pastor at the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., admitted leadership development could be exhausting.
“There’s a soul-crushing weariness that comes with helping living things grow,” he said. “But God doesn’t call us to perpetual exhaustion.”
Franks said a remedy to ministry fatigue comes from helping church members believe they have an active role to play in the church—one that’s tied to their identity in Christ.
“Physical gifts make us passive receivers, but spiritual gifts make us active conduits [of God’s grace],” he said. “Believers should serve the church not because we need them to, but because they need to.”
Franks presented three ways to create an asking-culture of volunteerism: 1) expect volunteers to recruit other volunteers, 2) create easy onramps for service, and 3) focus on a grace surplus instead a volunteer deficit.
Leonce Crump Jr.
“The greatest gift you have as a leader is releasing and activating the gifts of those you lead,” said Leonce Crump Jr., senior pastor of Renovation Church in Atlanta, Ga.
Crump encouraged churches to move from a need-based system of recruiting to a gifts-based model by mining gifts God has placed in the congregation.
One of the ways Renovation Church does this, he said, is by replacing the term “volunteer” with ambassador.
“Theology connects to identity, and identity drives action,” Crump said. “We lead our people to believe that everything they’re doing is as an ambassador for Christ.
“Volunteering means you have the option to opt in or out,” he continued. “But if we’re representing and reflecting Jesus, we don’t have the option of opting in or out of serving the body [of Christ].”
Crump said good theology is paramount to recruiting and retaining good leaders and that tapping into one’s identity as an ambassador of Christ protects a person from serving out of mere utilitarian effort.
Thom S. Rainer
Lifeway President and CEO Thom S. Rainer spoke about how welcome ministries and membership processes can help create assimilating cultures for churches.
“The way we bring people into the church determines the people we have and keep in the church,” Rainer said. “When someone comes to the church, we have to have a clear idea of what they’re there for.”
Rainer said membership classes should frame expectations for how the church anticipates new members will get involved.
“We begin to transform by bringing people in with higher expectations,” he said.
Rainer also shared practical suggestions for making welcome ministries more effective—tips like where to position greeters, how to break up “holy huddles” on welcome teams, and how to employ the services of mystery guests to reveal hospitality blind spots.
“This is not just about methodology,” Rainer said. “It’s an opportunity to see your church go to the next level with the gospel.”
Shannon Miles, CEO of BELAY, Inc., an Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company, brought a business leadership perspective to attendees. She spoke about the need for leaders to give themselves permission to carve out mental space and rest.
“Sabbaticals are awesome, but they’re rare and finite,” she said. “We have to find other space to make ministry sustainable.”
Miles also spoke about churches allowing staff to occasionally work from home and the benefits and challenges that can come with such a transition.
“Our team is much more productive at home because they know they’ve got a finite amount of time to get work done before the kids get in the door,” she said. “It creates focus which leads to productivity.”
But Miles also said leadership has to set clear work-from-home expectations and follow up.
“The foundation of remote work is trust, and on top of that is communication,” she said. “It’s not really a different concept than what’s required for work in an office.”
Other speakers included Daniel Im, director of church multiplication for Lifeway; Tami Heim, president and CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance, Clayton King of Crossroads/Clayton King Ministries; Kevin Peck, lead pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas; Albert Tate, founding pastor of Fellowship Monrovia in Calif.; and Josh Patterson, lead pastor at The Village Church in Flower Mount, Texas.
The conference also included coaching sessions for leadership teams at Lifeway’s corporate office. For details about upcoming leadership and coaching events, visit Leadership.LifeWay.com.
Aaron Wilson is a writer for Lifeway Christian Resources.