This is sad to say, but in many churches, lay leaders – elders or deacons – have become obstacles to church ministry rather than helpers. Instead of being honored and respected, they are resented and ridiculed by church members. How do we become and remain respected church leaders to the end? Let me share my thoughts based on my experiences as both a lay leader and pastor.
First, you must be involved in actual ministries. Our deacons are respected by our congregation because they’re willing to get their hands dirty. They’re seen as role models because they’re the first ones to volunteer for hard work and the first ones to make sacrifices. If you feel like stopping doing actual ministry and just giving advice, you’re in danger of losing others’ respect. If you’re unwilling to do front-line ministry, it might be best for you to quit before you lose that respect.
Second, you must encourage people – especially young people – who work with you. One responsibility of a leader is to motivate others. People are motivated when they’re encouraged. However, it’s human nature to be afraid of things that are unfamiliar or you haven’t had experience with. The older you get, the more reluctant you become to try new things. You must beware of this tendency if you want to remain a respected leader as you get older. Don’t discourage younger people by finding little faults when they try to do new things. Encourage and support them.
Third, you must support your pastor. Many church conflicts stem from conflicts between lay leaders and their pastors. I believe that pastors are ultimately responsible for church conflicts because they are the leaders of their churches. But lay leaders are partially responsible. If they support their pastors’ efforts as long as they are biblical and their ideas even if they have some flaws, conflicts won’t arise. Instead, their pastors will be encouraged and become better people. Their ministries will be more fruitful. My ministries have become what they are now because our deacons loved me despite my shortcomings and supported me even when they didn’t fully agree with me.
Some leaders seem to consider it their duty to find faults with their pastors and correct them. But many other people can do that. Lay leaders who work closely with their pastors should be their supporters and friends, not critics. When you honor and respect your pastors, congregations will honor and respect you in turn.
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