Call Me Coach!
By Carlton L. Coon Sr.
For continuity, let’s begin with review.
1. Each person is intended of God to do something meaningful. To provide a path for greater local church involvement, Fitly Framed is available. For this free resource email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Many saints are not involved in their local church. Why? In general:
(A) Lack of affirmation for various roles of service.
(B) A consumer mentality.
(C) No paths are provided to discover gifts or put them to use.
(D) Insecurity about empowering people.
(E) Involving people is hard work.
3. Of those who call you “Pastor,” a high percentage should have a defined role of ministry (requires a job description with responsibilities and expectations.)
4. Involving people should be intentional, including a systematic approach for new people (and long-time members) to learn about opportunities to serve.
5. Both privately and publicly, say “thank you” to those who are already serving.
The end result of the work of the five fold ministry is to equip people for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Part of that is to help people find their role. It involves evangelism training, Sunday school teacher training, leadership development, etc. Scripture emphasizes that corporate gifts are given to build up the total body. Each person in the church serves well when
Edification is the purpose, Unity is the context, and Love is the controlling principle.
Are we lacking the ability to see what could be? Elbert Hubbard said, “There is something that is much more scarce, something finer far, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognize ability.” Average people can accomplish extraordinary things for leaders develop them.
History recounts many gifted persons whose talents were overlooked by a procession of people. Einstein was four-years-old before he could speak and seven before he could read. A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he had “no good ideas.”
Whom have I overlooked? Why did I fail to see what they could be equipped to be?
What Coaches Do
Elton Trueblood said, “The glory of the coach is that of being the discoverer, the developer, and the trainer of the powers of other men. But this is exactly what we mean with the equipping ministry.” I’ve always enjoyed athletics (as a hobbyist, not as an idolater). Sports coaches are among the leaders most likely to intentionally develop the skills of their followers. The coach helps a fellow find his ideal position and trains him to play it. What if we preachers became coaches?
Coaching is about providing support and guidance; it is very person-centered. Coaches hold practices to increase the skill levels. Equipping people is concerned not only with but also how-to’s. Ought-to’s without how-to’s actually demoralize people by making them feel like failures. It�s like showing film of a world championship football team to novice football players and saving. “You should do that.” without coaching the skills needed to pull it off.
The distance between where they are and where they should be is too wide, with no identifiable path to the top. Good coaching imparts skills and competency but also encourages followers by showing the path. Also, coaches work one-on-one with certain players to overcome their individual weaknesses. Coach�s help people see what they can be, which is usually much more than what they are now.
Coaches emphasize commitment and excellence to develop camaraderie.
Tom Landry coached the Dallas Cowboys for many years. Landry had more undrafted players become all-pro than did any other coach. When asked how he did it, Landry responded, “First, you’ve got to see potential then keep telling them that they’re going to have to work to get that potential into action and I discovered that I’ve got to repeat to a player over and over again what his strength is. I keep telling him, ‘you can, you can, you can.'”
That is a huge investment in a player and all that simply to play a game! Why would we assume that athletes need coaching, but those who become part of our church will somehow figure out how to make an impact? Come on preachers, let’s put on a coach’s cap.
Practical Things to Employ People’s Gifts
(1) Job Descriptions are important.
Total Church Growth by Tim Massengale is a good place to start. Home Missionaries have free access to an abundance of job descriptions at Apostolic Information Service. Be sure to adapt any job description to match your approach to ministry.
(2) Points of entry into service should be readily available.
There should initially be opportunities to serve in small ways. Don’t put people in leadership who’ve not served well in smaller roles.
(3) As you challenge people, ask yourself if you are also equipping them.
Do we sometimes assume they will just figure it out? Telling people what to do without providing the means to do it is cruel and defrauding.
(4) Annual Volunteer’s Banquet.
Once a year we had a banquet honoring every volunteer. We’d have a catered meal (so none of our usual cooks were burdened to prepare food). The leadership team (including Pastor and wife) donned serving aprons and waited on tables. Many young people wanted to be at the pastor’s table. With me pouring their iced tea and bringing the dessert tray. It was a night of serving. Those who serve! This single night was one of the most effective things to provide a morale boost! It let people know they were appreciated.
(5) Establish a Volunteer of the Year
Elected by their peers in the church at the annual Volunteer Appreciation Banquet. The Volunteer of the Year was recognized, given some token gift, and their name put on a plaque as an ongoing tribute. The first volunteer of the year was Ray Stokes. Ray was a retiree who would do anything you wanted and sometimes things you did not want done. When I last visited the room of his nursing home, he had the Volunteer of the Year letter and award sitting right alongside his WW II medals. The second year Larry and Bethel Bagley were honored for faithfully working a bus route for over twenty years. The third year Brad Terry. a relatively new believer, was honored for his service in Sunday School and multiple other ays. The point: none of these volunteers held center stage. They simply served.
(6) Annual Job Fair
For three weeks each year I’d preach and teach on service and servant-hood. After weeks of preparation. we would turn the fellowship hall into a job fair, allowing each ministry and leader in the church to display what their ministry was about. The leaders also aggressively recruited additional workers. The booths became quite creative. Two cautionary notes: when you do this be sure you are ready to put people to work. The first time we did it, when our percentage of involvement was in the 20% range, we had more people apply to serve than we had jobs for them. Not a good situation. Second, if certain “jobs” have specific requirements, be sure to clearly communicate those expectations.
(7) Make the expectation of ministry and service a normal part of the way church happens.
As part of our monthly welcome to newcomers, I’d make the offhanded comment, “If you are lookingJames A. Belasco and Ralph C. Stayer, Flight of the Buffalo: Soaring to Excellence, Learning to Let Employees Lead (Grand Central Publishing, 1994), 78.
For a place to be member, there are many churches in this city to consider. We don’t need any more members, we are already carrying all the ‘dead weight’ we want.” I’d laugh a bit and follow-up with, “If you are looking for a place to make a difference, Truth Tabernacle is a place for you to call home.” An old stage coach ad listed prices for first, second, and third class passengers (getting less expensive the lower the class). All traveled alike till they reached the foot of a hill. Then the driver called, “First class passengers sit still, second class get out and walk and third class get out and push.” Are there too many first class people in our churches? We need more in the third class who will get out and help push the church, instead of riding.
Dangers to Be Aware of
1. Moving People outside their Gifting
When we have people operating in gifts that are not their own, such as someone trying to lead who has not been gifted as a leader, everyone is left with a sense that this person is outside of his or her element. But when people are launched into ministry according to how God designed them using the gifts God placed in them, they thrive and significantly enjoy themselves.
What happens to a team if a member is constantly playing out of position? For example, what if a person is asked to teach a youth class but is not a good teacher and does not really like teenagers. What do you have? It is a recipe for disaster. First, morale erodes because the team isn’t playing up to its capability. Then people become resentful. The teacher resents that his or her best is untapped. And other people on the team who know that they could better fill the mismatched position resent that their skills are being overlooked.
In the instance of the youth teacher, you can expect frustrated kids, but you can also expect that teacher’s morale to go down. It may well be that the same person has a gift of service and would thrive for the Discipleship class_ setting up the room and staying afterward to clean up. Its areas.
2. Sensitivity to the Seasons of Life
Each season of life is different. When a mother of four young children frets because she cannot serve in the church kitchen, that person and the pastor should be aware that this is a season of waiting. Sometimes one’s plate is too full to use his or her gifts. It may be the four young children, illness, or other situations.
There are seasons of simply waiting. David waited ten years to become. Paul spent years in the desert of Arabia and then in his hometown of Tarshish before beginning his missionary work. In God’s way of doing business, waiting never goes to waste. During these seasons encourage people to identify how they are serving God right where they are. The mother of the four young children is certainly ministering to the needs of those kids.
Advise people to reflect on what might come next and how this particular season could be used to obtain training, study the Bible, or investigate a ministry of interest that could fit into the next season.
3. Minimize no gift.
Whatever your gifting, you are needed; whatever their gift, they are needed. To some, using your people’s gifts may sound risky. It might mean change or uncertainty. Bill McCartney, former football coach of Colorado, said it this way, “Anytime you devalue people, you question God’s creation of them.” Come on coach, the converse is also true, when we put our church members to use by equipping and actively involving them in service, doing the hard work of equipping them to be effective we are celebrating God’s creation and allowing Him to be magnified in them and in His church.