Four Pillars of a Strong Lay Ministry

By Rick Warren

Cake for VolunteersI was talking with some people after a weekend service once, and I mentioned that we really needed someone to create a multimedia video for an upcoming event. The person I was talking to said, “Why don’t you get her”?

And he pointed to a woman standing a few feet away.  I walked over, found out the her name, and asked what she did. Her reply was, “I’m the chief video production director for Walt Disney”.

Another time, I mentioned that we needed a flower designer to decorate our our worship center for Mother’s Day. Someone pointed to a person in the crowd and said, “He designs many of the prize-winning floats for the Rose Parade”!

It bothers me when I think talent like that could go unused.

You have talented members sitting in your congregation, and you need to uncover, mobilize, and support their giftedness for ministry.

This is vital because your church will never grow any stronger than your core of lay ministers who carry out the various ministries of the church.

Based on Romans 12:1-8, I believe there are four pillars of lay ministry that our churches should be upon –

Pillar #1: Every Believer is a Minister

To be a Christian means being like Jesus. He said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. (Mark 10:45)

We believe these two activities — service and giving — are the defining characteristics of the Christ-like lifestyle expected of every believer.

At Saddleback, we teach that every Christian is created for ministry (Eph. 2:10), saved for ministry (2 Tim 1:9), called into ministry (1 Peter 2:9-10), gifted for ministry (1 Peter 4:10), authorized for ministry (Matt. 28:18-20), commanded to minister (Matt. 20:26-28), to be prepared for ministry (Eph. 4:11-12), needed for ministry (1 Cor. 12:27), accountable for ministry, and will be rewarded according to his or her ministry (Col. 3:23-24).

Pillar #2: Every Ministry is Important

There are no “little people” in the Body of Christ and there are no “insignificant” ministries either. Every ministry is important.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”  (1 Cor. 12:18-22)

Small ministries often make the greatest difference. The most important light in my home is not the large chandelier in our dining room but the little night light that keeps me from stubbing my toe when I get up to use the bathroom at night. It’s small, but it’s more useful to me than the show-off light (My wife Kay says that my favorite light is the one that comes on when I open the refrigerator!).

Pillar #3: We Are Dependent on Each Other

Not only is every ministry important, every ministry is intertwined with all the others. Since no single ministry can accomplish all the church is called to do, we must depend on and cooperate with each other.

Like a jigsaw puzzle, every piece is required to complete the picture. When one part of your body malfunctions, the other parts don’t work as well.

One of the missing components in the contemporary church is this understanding of interdependence.  Our culture’s preoccupation with individualism and independence must be replaced with the biblical concepts of interdependence and mutuality.

Pillar #4: Ministry is the Expression of My S.H.A.P.E.

S.H.A.P.E. is an acronym we developed years ago to explain the five elements that determine a person’s ministry.  Those five elements are:

  • Spiritual gifts
  • Heart
  • Abilities
  • Personality
  • Experience

Each of us is uniquely designed — or “shaped” — by God to do certain things. If you don’t understand your S.H.A.P.E., you end up doing things that God never designed you to do.

When your gifts don’t match the role you play in life, you feel like a square peg in a round hole. This is frustrating, both to you and to others.  It is also an enormous waste of your talent, time, and energy.

Napoleon once pointed to a map of China and said, “There lies a sleeping giant. If it ever wakes up, it will be unstoppable.”

In many places today, the church is a sleeping giant. Our pews are filled with members doing nothing with their faith except “keeping” it.

If we can ever awaken and unleash the massive talent, creativity, and energy found in those pews — if we can mobilize the ministers in our midst — Christianity will explode with growth.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.