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08 Feb '13

Handing over the keys to ministry

Posted by T.J. Addington in transitions
Handing over the keys of ministry to others is one of the hardest things we do whether it is in the development of young leaders, in church ministry or in missions.

A frustration of young leaders the world over is the time it takes for someone to trust them enough to give them significant ministry responsibility. Those of us who are blessed with ministry responsibility often think that our younger leaders are not ready - and we wait - often too long to give them the ministry keys.

In local churches the issue is often whether to hand over ministry responsibility to volunteers. In missions, it is whether to hand over ministry to our national partners. In both cases we are far too slow compared to what happened in the early church.

The result of our caution is often that qualified leaders become disheartened and discouraged while we leave ministry opportunity on the table. In the early church the workers were the new converts who were quickly given appropriate ministry responsibility. After all there was not much of a bench available.

However, the model went back to Christ himself who after three years with His disciples was willing to trust His most precious possession, that which He died for, His church to eleven disciples who were the most improbable individuals from the worlds (or our) point of view.

Jesus was willing to trust the Holy Spirit and these twelve men, knowing that they would screw up from time to time, which they did. Paul did the same thing. He found faithful men and women, built into them while he was in a city and then turned the ministry over to them - trusting them and the Holy Spirit.

One of the principles I have observed in both the local church and on the mission field is that the longer we refuse to turn over the ministry keys, the less likely it is that there will be a successful transition. Our lack of trust fosters an attitude of dependency on the part of those who we lead. The longer we lead the more that dependency grows - unless our younger counterparts break away in frustration to get in the game.

Given the example by Christ and in the early church our reluctance to share ministry responsibility and turn it over to others is an indictment on ourselves. Especially in light of the theology of Ephesians 4:12 where the responsibility of church leaders is to equip others for ministry and to then deploy them.

We can all cite instances when handing over ministry was premature. The key is to start handing over responsibility and see how it is handled. As people prove to be capable and faithful, we hand over more.

The fact that they make mistakes should not deter us. Most of the Epistles in the New Testament are meant to clean up one mess or another, but that did not deter Paul from handing over ministry. Sure stuff happens. But that is the way we learn and leaders grow. That is how we learned and grew! We learn from experience and mistakes along with a few victories.

The best leaders and mentors I know follow the example of Christ and Paul. They find good people, give them responsibility and take a risk. It is always risky but Jesus took a risk with us! Lets be willing to take that risk with others.