Explosive growth: Unleash the creativity of your congregation by Rick Warren
once pointed to a map of China and said, "There lies a sleeping giant.
If it ever wakes up, it will be unstoppable." Today the American church
is a sleeping giant. Each Sunday, church pews are filled with members
who are doing nothing with their faith except "keeping" it.
The designation "active" member in most churches simply means those who attend regularly and financially support
the church. Not much more is expected. But God has far greater
expectations for every Christian. He expects every Christian to use
their gifts and talents in ministry. If we can ever awaken and unleash
the massive talent, resources, creativity and energy found in the
typical local church, Christianity will explode with growth at an
I believe that the greatest need in evangelical churches is the
release of members for ministry. George Gallup once took a survey and
discovered that only 10 percent of American church members are active
in any kind of personal ministry. But he also discovered that 40 percent of all members have expressed an interest in having a ministry. They would like to be involved in ministry, but they have never been asked or they don’t know how.
This group is an untapped gold mine! If we can mobilize this 40
percent and add them to the current 10 percent already serving, your
church could have 50 percent of its members active in a ministry! Would
you be happy if half of your church were fully-functioning lay
ministers? Most pastors would think they’d died and gone to heaven if
One of the key challenges facing a pastor is positioning his church
as a creative place that needs the expression of all sorts of talents
and abilities, not just singers, ushers and Sunday school teachers. And
one of the reasons enthusiasm is so low in many churches is that
creativity is discouraged. Great ideas are shot down with "We’ve tried
I’m very hesitant to tell people a ministry idea won’t work. I like
to be surprised. When somebody comes to me with a ministry idea, I try
to always make my initial response, "Why not?" I may have seen the idea
bomb three times before but I’m not going to be a dream-buster. This
person may be just the right person to pull it off.
Sometimes a person will have a great idea for ministry but
personally doesn’t have the leadership skills to pull it off. In that
case, it’s important to pray that God will raise up a leader who can
take the ball and run with it. But if you spend all your time telling
people what won’t work, they’ll eventually stop trying altogether.
The key to unleashing the talent, resources, creativity and energy of your people is to delegate authority with responsibility.
People respond to responsibility. They thrive and grow when you trust
them. When you give authority with responsibility, you’ll be amazed at
the creativity of your people. On the other hand, if you treat people
like incompetent babies, you’ll have to diaper and feed them the rest
of your life. People are always only as creative as the structure
allows them to be.
People want to make contribution with their lives. They want their
lives to count. They want to feel that they matter. When you can show
people that they can make a difference with their gifts and talents by
joining your church, they will want to be involved. If you give members
responsibility, they will respond to it.
To bring out the best in people, you must give them a challenge and
— when they succeed — give them the credit. You also have to give
them the freedom to make mistakes. That means you have to quit hogging
all the mistakes for yourself and let others make some of them! How did
you become so experienced? You learned by making mistakes.
To bring out the best in people, it also 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
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. But I went on to say that God didn’t expect me to do all the
ministry. The Bible is very clear that 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. So
many pastors are so afraid of wildfirethat they spend all their time
putting out every little camp fire that’ll warm up the church!
From Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox #193, March 2, 2005, © Copyright 2005 Pastors.com