Navigating high turnover

By Gary J. Moritz

In the Washington, D.C. area, we have found that there’s a high turnover rate within our church lay ministry leadership. The trend seems to be that our leaders spend about a year and a half with us. People do not settle down in our area, which has a high concentration of single adults, military personnel and government workers.

People come to our church because they have moved here for work, only to be transferred elsewhere after a few years. In church leadership, this can become exhausting and frustrating as right about the time you have a leader built up and trained, they leave.

We had to develop a method around this madness, a way to navigate the problem. We had to learn how to mobilize people for service and for the Great Commission. What worked for us was to start training the best to train the rest.  People are going to pass through your church, and you have to realize that God brings them to you for a reason. Find out why they have come and how they are best able to lead. Then take ownership of them and train them to lead, whether it is at your church or elsewhere.

In the book of Acts, we see the new believers praying, training and sending. Their mission was to see people come to Christ, and their focus was on training people to go and make disciples. Their passion was part of a larger picture that extended outside their walls and penetrated the world with the Gospel. This was the model we wanted to emulate, where everyone was trained to take responsibility for the work of the church.

We had to learn that we could have a much bigger impact on the world if we stopped focusing on how long a leader was going to stick around to serve with us before we invested in them. We started praying for people to come through our doors who desired to be trained, we prepared them for their mission and we let God do the rest. It’s an employ-to-deploy mentality, and you know that you are making a global impact when you can say that you have leaders all over the world who have passed through your church and are now serving someplace else, bringing people to Christ.

So how do you become a training center for leaders? How do you keep a constant flow of leaders streaming through so that when the turnovers happen, you have enough people to staff your ministries while at the same time you are launching people to serve elsewhere?  We have found four principles that can be used to shape and mold leaders for their mission and ministry.

GROW: We desire life change for every individual who walks through our doors. Let’s face it, they are a miracle from God, and it is not by chance that they are with us. Our purpose statement is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything from our teaching series, programs and events revolves around helping people grow.

Your leaders may come from all walks of life, backgrounds and educational levels, but there must be one common denominator – continual growth in their relationship with Christ. When people are growing in their walk with God, they will naturally want to serve and lead others to do the same.

KNOW: We want people to know that everyone matters to God and has a job to do. We emphasize that each person is uniquely created and gifted for a specific purpose. We are all to be about our Father’s business, and it is our job to create an atmosphere within the church that will allow God to do great things in and through our people.

When people understand that they have a responsibility to use the gifts God has given them to help advance the cause of Christ, they will be more likely to lead others to do the same.

SHOW: We want to show people what they are gifted to do and where they fit in. First, we train them in the DNA of our church and in the habits of a growing Christian. Then they are given a battery of self-assessments and inventories on their spiritual gifts, strengths, weaknesses and personality so that they see how God wired them for leadership and service.

We show them their options for using those skills and where they are best suited to lead, and we provide them the opportunity to do it. For many people this is a valuable time of self-discovery as they learn where they best fit into our mission and purpose.

GO: Lastly, we want people to go. After their time with us, we pray that our lay ministry leaders will have discovered who they are, what God wants from them and what they want God to do in their lives. In the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20), we see how Jesus trained his leaders and then told them to go and do the same. This should be the heartbeat of every church, training people to go and train others.

Don’t be afraid to invest in leaders just because they may not be around for the long haul. Use the four principles of grow, know, show and go to train, utilize and launch leaders that are going to make a difference for the cause of Christ wherever God takes them.

Gary J. Moritz is executive pastor at Capital Baptist Church, Annandale, VA, and board member and advisor to Outreach to Asia Nationals.


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