Train New Workers, Don’t Fill Gaps

One of the immediate pressures upon ministers is to fill gaps left by leaders who leave our programs.
But if we just focus on gap filing we’ll never move out of maintenance mode: we’re just keeping existing ministries afloat instead of branching out into new ones.

We should start with the people that God has given us, not our programs.


(The Trellis and The Vine – Chapter 2, Ministry mind-shifts)

I read this book last year and it had a pretty profound impact on me. I had heard things similar to these ideas like teachings of 5-Fold Ministry — Equipping the saints — but the way these Aussies articulate their philosophy of what they call “vine growing”, is pretty different and refreshingly down to earth.

This mind-shift from filing gaps to training new workers is a huge one. I’ve been guilty of this pattern myself. We’re too easily effected by sudden gaps and deficiencies that arise in our already-ticking-along-ministries. What can happen in such a case is that we end up putting the program or ministry first — before the people who serve in them.

Here’s what so often happens

We fill a vacant spot by someone who may be less gifted in that particular area, and we’re willing to do it because we depend too much on the idea of the program or ministry.

As a result the person filling the role is more susceptible to eventually feeling taken advantage of. They may enjoy being needed for a time, but if they’re gifts are better used somewhere else, they will soon realize it and potentially resent the job we’ve placed them in.

This will especially be true if we only thank them for serving; over and against acknowledging their giftedness. People will feel most appreciated if we thank them for serving while loudly and genuinely affirming their skills and qualifications.

People first No exceptions

Much like this mind-shift I posted on last week, the people God has put around us must be the primary focus. They need to be trained; and their unique skills are to be developed and released.

This also helps us identify those with potential for vocational “word ministry” as the book calls it. In other words our own church is the best place where it’s leaders are born. Not

Future shepherds and disciplers are mentored, developed, and grown in the local church.

Look at the jobs in our churches themselves. How are they changing and adapting with the types of people God has sent your way? Are you fitting them into an already rigidly defined role?

Or are their giftings and callings informing the description of the job that they do?