How to Light a Fire Under Your Church Members Without Getting Burned


Why can’t I get new people to join the evangelism committee? We really need some new ideas from that group?

What ever happened to Bill? He was gung ho on starting a new members class six months ago. Now he never turns up for planning meetings.

Pastor, I’d love to see that job done, but nobody around here wants to do anything.

Are these typical of some of the things you have heard around your church lately? I recently heard Dr. Win Arn refer to the results of a survey which asked pastors what their greatest obstacle was in moving their church toward growth. The problem most often given was “Motivating lay people to get involved and be a part of the process.”

How do you motivate people? How do you light a fire under laity to get them moving in an enthusiastic, committed way, especially ways that result in new growth ?

The answers are not simple. The fact is, it’s very difficult to motivate people. We would like to suggest a way for getting things done . . . rather than simply continuing to “pull teeth.”


People are motivated by their own goals. “Good goals are our goals.” Begin any new program or ministry in the church only after seeking out those individuals who are already attracted to the goals. How do we do this?

First, recognize that not everyone is either motivated, equipped, or called to the same task. For example, while everyone is expected to be a witness, not all are gifted as evangelists. If we attempt to enlist everyone in one program of evangelism , we will not only fail, but we will leave a lot of people with great feelings of guilt. Don’t expect that everyone will be interested. At the same time, don’t mistake lack of interest for antagonism.

The place to begin is with a clear vision of what needs to happen and why it needs to happen. Lay people need to first understand and identify with the problem to be solved. Later they will think about how to solve it. For example, let’s assume you felt the need to begin a regular new members’ class next quarter. You believe if there was a regular class for new members, these people would have a place to immediately make new friends within the church, they would have a class of their own right from the start, and these new members (many of them new Christians) would have a curriculum of study specifically geared toward their needs. “We need a new members’ class” is a solution. It is not the problem itself. What do you do? Where do you begin?

As publicly as you can, begin to share your concern about the problem with others. Paint a picture as to why things would be better if the present problems did not exist. Usually you will find those who agree with you and can identify with the problem. Perhaps, in this case, they might be recent members themselves.

Encourage the appointment of an ad hoc “new members’ class” Study Committee. Let the group write the goals and do the planning together. It could very well be that they will come up with a different solution than the one you thought was best. Fine. Remember that the goal was to incorporate and train new members, not necessarily to use your solution.

Typically, you will find that as people make their own suggestions, they will become enthusiastic about playing a part in implementing them.

Let’s assume that you were right, and the rest of the group decided that what really was needed was a new members’ class. Take the next step in finding goal owners : call a meeting of all those who would be interested in doing the planning for (not serving on!) a new members’ class committee. Take this group through the initial planning of how the committee will function and what assignments will be given.

Take care that as you give assignments you recognize the capability of each person. Attempt to tailor the size of the task to the gifts of the members.

We’ve already said that it’s very difficult to motivate people. They are motivated by achievement, by recognition of their efforts. by challenging work. by being made responsible, and by experiencing personal growth.

Let’s apply these to our class for new members. What is likely to motivate such a planning committee? Achievement-which perhaps can be experienced by learning or doing something new. Recognition-by seeing their names in the church bulletin or having some recognition from the pulpit thatthe committee is doing a good job. Challenging work-in the sense that there is an understanding that the new members’ class is helping the church become a better church, and that the project will not succeed without dedicated effort.

Responsibility-as people are held responsible and expected to be accountable. Personal growth-not only because the person sees himself as doing something worthwhile but because the common bond of commitment to this goal provides a sense of identity and unity with other group members.


Let’s look at some de-motivators: Lack of administration-a feeling that “no one cares about the new members” can quickly lead to the committee feeling like their job is not important. Poor supervision-can become demoralizing. Poor inter-personal relationships-between members of the committee will soon cause some to quit. Lack of status and security-feeling that the job is just not worthwhile and nobody appreciates it. Notice that having good administration. good supervision. even good interpersonal relationships, will not necessarily motivate people, but their absence will certainly de-motivate them.


Recognize effort-if you see someone obviously trying to do a good job, strengthen their efforts by pointing out to them that they are doing a good job.

Recognize results-when the new class becomes a success, let the committee know that they had a part in it.

Be committed to their ability to do it-if you as the leader of the group don’t believe in the group, who will? Let people know that you’re committed to their being able to do it. Don’t step in and do it for them.

Finally, don’t compare people with people-compare them with themselves. There will always be somebody to do the job better than the person who’s doing it, but that person is not here and this person is. God placed him here. You placed him here. Believe in people and trust in God.