8 Common Mistakes Church Leaders Make

Where would we be without those faithful workers who regularly give of their time to serve in our churches? I think we all know the answer—in a world of hurt! Dedicated workers are the backbone of any ministry. Churches could not function without them.

But frankly, as I travel, I’ve noticed a growing challenge for our churches in this area. In short, most churches need more workers. The needs seem greater than the number of available and willing servants. Those who do serve often feel overburdened, discouraged, ill equipped, and underappreciated.

As local church leaders, we need wisdom in leading our volunteers: enlisting them appropriately, training them regularly, supporting them effectively, and affirming them constantly. In light of this need, consider some common mistakes to avoid.

Overlooking prayer

In our zeal to fill ministry positions, we sometimes overlook the obvious priority of prayerfully seeking God’s guidance. I’m impressed by the commitment of pastors and deacons I’ve met who regularly schedule time to pray for the current volunteer staff as well as about the need for additional workers.

Waiting for people to volunteer on their own

Let’s face reality here—while we may expect godly people to volunteer to serve on their own when they hear of ministry needs, for a variety of reasons, most don’t. My advice: don’t waste time reminding your people of how deficient they are in this area (it usually doesn’t work anyway). Just take the initiative to do the necessary enlisting, making individual contacts and sharing the ministry vision and needs.

Seeking to enlist without personal involvement

There’s a place for worship-folder requests for help and public announcements in services (they make people aware of the needs and can lay a foundation for a personal contact later on), but we cannot rely on these alone. The most effective enlistment takes place when we take the time to talk personally with someone about a specific ministry need and ask them to pray about getting involved.

Failing to define tasks

Confession time: I recall, earlier in my pastoral ministry, seeking to enlist workers without explaining exactly what the ministry job entailed. I just assumed they knew! I’ve since learned the importance of job descriptions for even the most basic church volunteer roles. Keep the descriptions concise and include the desired time commitment (don’t allow a ministry to be open ended), and both leaders and workers will benefit.

Delegating without accountability or follow-up

The “dump and run” approach to delegation is all too common. Often we are so relieved to find anyone who will help that we pass the baton of service and disappear forever. In reality, effective workers who stay on the job are those who have regular contact with leaders who provide help and encouragement.

Forgetting to provide adequate training

Not everyone, even with a job description in hand, has the ability to accomplish the task of their ministry without the necessary training to do the job well. We provide training venues for church workers through the GARBC Resource Center (see www.regularbaptistpress.org/resources/training/), but leaders can also strategize their own training efforts at the local level.

Neglecting to provide adequate supplies and resources

As a follow-up to the previous thought, I suggest that church leaders make sure workers have the right equipment to do their ministries well. It’s a mistake to ask our workers to fend for themselves. Write the provision of supplies and resources into the church budget, and make it a priority to support workers with whatever they need to serve effectively.

Ignoring expressions of appreciation and recognition

Most who serve faithfully in our churches aren’t looking for applause. They’re simply happy to do whatever God enables them to do for His glory. But they do appreciate expressions of thanks. Church leaders who regularly honor workers in appropriate ways reap significant benefits in their ministries!

Jim Vogel (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) was a pastor for 30 years before becoming associate national representative of the GARBC.