I’ve been on staff at several churches for the past 20 years. When you’re in ministry, you spend a lot of time discussing ways to get people, especially volunteers, to own the ministry that they’re serving in. After all, we want people to take ministries seriously and care for them as they would care for their own personal affairs. However, I recently had a conversation with a pastor regarding teaching people to let go of ownership! Many of you in ministry may totally disagree… but in the process of trying to encourage people to take personal and earnest care for these ministries, we’ve created monsters. (I can just feel all these crazy eyes right about now…)
Let me explain… I’ve come across dozens of stories of a single person who has such tight hold on one aspect of ministry that other people are too scared to get near it… or that one person who is THE obstacle to making any changes… or that one person drives people out from getting involved or worse, out of the church altogether! It sounds crazy, but it happens more often than not! It’s often that ONE person who has such tight hold on whatever they’ve taken ownership of that it alienates or discourages others from serving joyfully.
We’ve forgotten that this is God’s ministry… not mine nor yours nor Mr. Smith’s. We’ve led people to take ownership in such a way that it’s become their personal ministry with personal agendas and personal directions rather than God’s ministry with His agenda and direction. What starts out as a good intentions often lead to disasters… and I think this is one example. I have witnessed a church where one elder single-handedly drove out all paid staff, other leaders, and eventually majority of the congregation. And it came down to the fact that he felt too invested in this church… and if ministry direction didn’t fit his vision, it was rejected. He was very dedicated… he was at the church practically every day… He served with much passion and commitment… In fact, I believe he truly loved the church… but his tight ownership of the church eventually led to people being hurt, rejected, bitter, and departure from the church.
So what if we encouraged people to release their tight grips… and release their ministries into the hands of God… after all, God is the owner of the ministries that we’re in, not me nor you nor Mr. Smith! What if we encouraged people to really listen for God’s direction… and be good stewards of the ministries instead of owning it? It may just seem like semantics, but would that change people’s thinking and attitudes?