The Lone Ranger would not have been a very good kids pastor. Lone-Ranger ministry isn’t effective because it isn’t biblical. Paul makes it clear that God gave many complementary gifts to equip the church for ministry. He points out that there are many gifts because there are many needs. The implication is that just the eye or ear (or hand or elbow) could not function on its own without the rest of the body. The church—and the ministries that are part of it—are meant to be conducted by a group of people with complimentary gifts working together. Effective ministry is not meant to be done alone; it takes a team.
Moses learned the Lone-Ranger lesson the hard way. In Exodus 18 we find an account of a time when Moses was leading the children of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. In verse 23 it says that Moses sat down and the people came to him all day, from morning to evening, so that Moses could hear their disputes and judge between them, and teach them God’s statutes and laws. Moses was doing it alone. He made every decision, addressed every problem, and responded to every need himself. It was the only way Moses knew to lead. Thankfully, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, saw this and shared some powerful words of leadership wisdom with Moses. In verse 17 Jethro says to Moses, “What you are doing is not good. You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone.” Perhaps you need to hear these same words today. If you are struggling to do kids ministry alone, maybe it’s because you weren’t meant to minister alone. Fortunately, Jethro also offered a framework for team development that is equally valid to us today. Jethro laid out a 4-part strategy for building a ministry leadership team.
- Select – Exodus 18:21a – Jethro advised Moses to select some partners from among all the people. He specifically describes what qualities to look for: able, qualified, trustworthy, God-fearing people. I like that he did not say ‘beg,’ ‘convince,’ or ‘take whatever warm body is available’ when he talked about building a team. Jethro advised Moses to select people who are well qualified. Presumably people who have a heart for the Lord, gifts for ministry and reputations as being capable, teachable, and trustworthy. You may need to adjust your current recruiting strategy based on this godly advice. Identify people you’d like to have on your team and prayerfully seek them out.
- Instruct – Exodus 18:20 – Even qualified, trustworthy, godly people need to be trained in order to function effectively and at full capacity. In Jethro’s words, “Instruct them about the statues and laws, and teach them the way to live and what they must do.” Training your team is an absolutely essential part of building a strong ministry. Your teammates are ministry multipliers. Train them how to engage with kids, how to teach God’s Word, and how to disciple children. The biblical role of the pastor is the equipping of others to do ministry. When we shift our self-expectation from being people who do ministry to being leaders who equip others to do ministry, our reach, influence, and impact will grow exponentially, but this does not happen automatically. Equipping requires an intentional investment in the training up of your team.
- Assign – Exodus 18:21b – People need to know what is expected of them. This goes beyond general training to identifying specific areas of coverage and responsibility. Jethro instructed Moses to “place them over” smaller groups of people—thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. In your environment that may look more like fifth grade, third grade, first and second grades, or preschool. I believe that discipleship happens best in the context of relationship. By assigning specific leaders to specific groups, they can enter in more deeply and lead more personally.
- Empower – Exodus 18:22a – Once they have been selected, instructed, and assigned, Jethro encourages Moses to empower them to do what they have been chosen to do. He says, “They (emphasis mine) should judge the people at all times. Then they can bring you (Moses) every major case but judge every minor case themselves.” When you have the right people in the right positions it is essential that you empower them to do the job you have given them without scrutinizing or micromanaging every detail. This does not mean a ‘turning loose’ forever without any additional input from leadership. It means trusting those whom you have trained up.
Leaders, please listen closely: People who are well-selected, well-trained, well-assigned, and appropriately empowered will lighten your load. That promise is recorded for us in Exodus 18:22b, “In this way you will lighten your load, and they will bear it with you.” The promise of the payoff continues in verse 23, “If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home satisfied.”
Endurance and satisfaction: Which of us doesn’t long for these two things? If you continue to muscle forward as a Lone Ranger you, and the people around you, may never experience either. Invest time, care, training, and prayer into selecting, instructing, assigning, and empowering your team. The promise of Exodus 18 may be closer than you know.
Chuck Peters is Director of Operations for Lifeway Kids. A graduate of Columbia Bible College, Chuck has served vocationally & voluntarily in Student and Children’s Ministry for many years.