Being in an community of rich relationships tempts churches to become internally focused and forget that the Bible repeatedly calls Christians to make a difference in the world--to be salt and light as Matthew 5:13-16 puts it.
So a core practice for us it to help our members get involved in a ministry project that serves those beyond our community. My job as a leader in our church is to help them figure out how best to use their time, treasure, and talents to make a difference. My job as leader is NOT to decide what ministry activities they're supposed to do, but to enhance their decision making process.
This involves asking the right questions and making them aware of resources. And their decisions change from person to person. The stay-at-home mom with small children has a very different range of options than the just-retired schoolteacher, for example. Members need to learn how to choose the best options for them in each season of their life. Spiritual gifts should affect their decision. And the needs of the community they're in should matter, too.
By the way, this is a picture of one of our members, a stay-at-home mom, doing the ministry project she launched which now includes multiple churches and huge impact in a poor community--I'll share that story in a later post. Apparently, face painting was involved that day. :) It's awesome what can happen when you empower "regular" members.
So I don't decide what the ministry departments are for the church. Except for our Sunday gathering, which requires a kids ministry department, everything we do is chosen by a member in our church.
After getting an idea on how they want to minister, we tell them to first search for someone in our region doing that kind of ministry. Why should we compete with them? Why not join them? Who cares who's name is on the ministry? It's about Jesus, not our church.
If they can't find anyone doing it (or, sadly, who will let them participate), then we'll help them start their ministry project. This can include doing it through our church's non-profit status or even helping them set up a local non-profit (not hard or expensive where I live).
We've designed a church structure that requires members to step up and be mature. Is it risky? Sort of. But you might be surprised at what your people do when you give them the opportunity to live like they really do have the Holy Spirit indwelling and empowering them. You might be surprised at what happens if you really let your members drive the ministry of your church.
(For those of you thinking ahead, you're right. You can't do the money collection the normal way if you want to empower your members like this. More on that in a coming post.)