The designation “active member,” in most churches, simply means those who attend regularly and financially support the church. Not much more is expected. But God has far greater expectations for every Christian.
God expects every Christian to use their gifts and talents in ministry. If we can ever awaken and unleash the massive talent, resources, creativity, and energy found in the typical local church, Christianity will explode with growth at an unprecedented rate.
I believe that the greatest need in evangelical churches is the release of members for ministry. A healthy pastor nurtures a healthy church by creating an intentional, well-planned system for uncovering, mobilizing, and supporting the giftedness of its members. People must be given a simple process to follow that will lead them to deeper commitment and greater service for Christ. They need a track on which they can move forward.
At Saddleback, we use the CLASS system to accomplish this. We offer four separate classes, all designed to move people forward incrementally in their commitment level to Jesus and to the church.
- In Class 101, we move people into membership.
- In Class 201, we teach members how to be spiritually mature.
- In Class 301, we help maturing members plug in to ministry.
- In Class 401, we empower people for their life mission in the world.
One of our biggest goals with the first two classes is to get everyone plugged in to a small group. That’s where the real life change begins to happen. And small groups are the ultimate launching pad to send people into their ministry and mission.
There are people in your church with all kinds of abilities that are not being put to use: recruiting, researching, writing, landscaping, interviewing, promoting, decorating, planning, entertaining, repairing, drawing, and even feeding. These abilities should not be wasted. “There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:5 NIV).
You need two things to help everyone start using their gifts.
First, every church needs to empower people through a discovery process.
Your placement process should focus on empowering people, not filling positions. Focus on the individual, not the needs of the institution, and you’ll have a much higher success rate with those you place in ministry. Remember, ministry is about people, not programs.
Every member who attends Class 301 at Saddleback is engaged in a conversation and a process to help them discover and examine their spiritual gifts, their heart and passions, their abilities, their personality, and their experiences. And once they have discovered their SHAPE, we then know where to direct them to start serving.
Second, every church needs to encourage people through small groups.
Without a small group, individuals who try to plug in to ministry in the average church wind up frustrated and intimidated. But a small group is a place where people cheer each other on and take next steps together. Small groups provide the moral support of friendship when people are stepping out to try new things.
The best-kept secret in the church is that people are dying to make a contribution with their lives. We are made for ministry! The church that understands this, and makes it possible for every member to express his or her SHAPE in ministry, will experience amazing vitality, health, and growth. The sleeping giant will be awakened, and it will be unstoppable.