In one of his latest podcasts, Dr. John C. Maxwell briefly touched on a list he had written years ago on the 10 ways to recognize a healthy growth environment. I found the list inspiring and it reminded me of Paul's challenge to pastors in Ephesians 4 when he instructed us to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry." The word equip means skill development. In short, our role as pastors is to create a positive growth environment for our people to develop in the skills of ministering to their community.
Here is Maxwell's list with a few of my thoughts thrown in.
10 ways to recognize a healthy growth environment:
1. Others are ahead of you.
We as pastors need to continually push ourselves ahead of our people. This means we must be personally growing. We are to be the models and examples of ministry to our people. Do you do all of the ministry in your church, or do you develop your people to do the work of the ministry?
2. You are continually challenged.
There are many pastors who are afraid to challenge their people. They feel if they challenge them, they will lose them. What I have discovered is you will lose people either way, it's just the nature of ministry. However, you chose who you lose. If you challenge them, you will lose the uncommitted follower types. If you don't challenge them you will lose your committed leader types. When is the last time you challenged your church?
3. Your focus is forward.
Too many pastors lead by reaction rather than leading with vision. If you are constantly making decisions based on your past or current problems you are leading by reaction. If your church celebrates it's past more than it's future, you have a major problem. The best leaders focus ahead and lead with foresight. Where is your focus?
4. The atmosphere is affirming.
One of the greatest ways to repeat your vision is by celebrating your victories. What is celebrated will get repeated. It's easy to see what is going wrong, but what if you could catch your people doing something right? When you do, celebrate it! It will get repeated.
5. You're often out of your comfort zone.
I go to the gym 3 times a week to be worked out by my trainer. The reason I still employ a trainer, after years of being at the gym, is because a trainer has the ability to push me further than I think I can go on my own. In the same way, I believe we as pastors are called by God to challenge our people to ministry they wouldn't necessary feel comfortable doing on their own.
6. You wake up excited.
How would you rate the expectation of the people in your church? Are they excited about what you're doing and for what is coming? Or, do they attend out of pure obligation? It's important to keep a pulse on the expectation level. If it drops, you may need to shake something up to keep their anticipation up.
7. Failure is not your enemy.
In the church world, we are guilty of thinking that failure is fatal. When we do, we stop moving forward. As my mentor, Dr. George Hill often says, "the greatest risk of all is a life of riskless living." In your church, are people willing to take risks?
8. Others are growing.
The Bible calls growth "fruit." In fact, it says that we should judge everything "by it's fruit." How is your fruit? You can judge your ministry right away by the fruit it is producing. Are people growing? If so, celebrate their growth! Use their examples in testimonies. Again, what you celebrate will be repeated.
9. People desire change.
To most churches, change is a four letter word. The last thing they want is change. Yet, John Maxwell says if you are in a growth environment, people will desire change. It is a good idea to get your people used to change. This takes creativity. Being creative means to be consistently inconsistent, predicably unpredicable, to be on the radical edge of change. When is the last time your church did something for the first time?
10. Growth is modeled and expected.
I am shocked how many pastors and churches are content with maintaining what they already have. Jesus gave us a huge warning about this mentality in the parable of the talents. He called the one who maintained "wicked and lazy", took what he had and gave it to one who doubled what he had, and then threw the maintainer into a place where there was "weeping and gnashing of teeth." Yikes! I don't want to be a maintainer!
Based on this list, how would you rate your church? Pastors, I would recommend asking your board, staff, and/or key volunteer leaders to rate each point on a scale of 1-10. How effective is your church at raising up leaders?