Is it solely the responsibility of pastors to develop churches, or is it necessary for both new and seasoned church workers to participate in its development? In the aftermath of the three-year pandemic, there has been a discernible shift in pastoral ministry: a growing number of pastors are providing additional training to church workers and decentralizing authority more than in the past.
The following are a few examples from different cities, which may account for the attempt at a new pastoral ministry strategy.
Firstly, pastors are training church workers using a mentoring approach.
Pastor Z, who leads a church of almost 200 members in City A in East China, is a case in point. Before the pandemic, the church gatherings were held in the lobby, but they transitioned to small-group and online meetings due to the pandemic. Their church is comprised of a mother church, district churches, and local churches. As the senior pastor's energy was limited, he was unable to cater to the needs of eight different churches in a balanced manner, and Pastor Z often felt overwhelmed. Later, he recognized the significance of performing well at the top level of the church, so he started focusing on the current full-time church workers while also promoting new personnel and providing them with spiritual and church management training. Pastor Z remarks, "It typically takes three years to train a worker capable of leading the church. I will establish and reinforce three core workers in a local church and provide them with regular in-person training. Then, I will also share with them my own experiences of ministering to the church and the challenges I face, so that they can observe how I lead and conduct visitations."
At the specific operational level, Pastor Z will use straightforward teaching materials and combine learning with practical activities to foster the growth of workers. He explains, "Now, some new, young workers in my church have emerged and started leading different churches, and the atmosphere has changed. I am no longer as fatigued as I used to be. Currently, I concentrate on supervising and guiding them, so that they can progress together in leading and training new people. They can be strong and resolute."
Pastor Y is from City B in South China. His church has about 100 members in both online and in-person modes. During the pandemic, Pastor Y established a prayer ministry and invited all church members to participate. Through the ministry, he found more responsible workers and then deeply led the workers to commit themselves to the church. Through their participation in service and life changes, Pastor Y became more powerful in his ministry.
Secondly, church workers undergo training by means of being invited to participate in church services.
Pastor Y is from City B in South China where his church caters to around 100 members in both online and in-person modes. In response to the pandemic, Pastor Y established a prayer ministry and extended an invitation to all church members to take part. Through this ministry, he was able to identify responsible workers and then effectively led them to commit themselves to the church. Their involvement in the church's activities and their personal growth had an empowering impact on Pastor Y's ministry.
The prayer platform operates almost continuously and is available every night. During the day, church believers are encouraged to participate in a relay prayer that lasts for half an hour every day and to lead the prayer meeting. Pastor Y explained, "City B is characterized by a tendency among its people to stay up late and find it difficult to wake up early, so we come together both online and in person to pray at night. There were over 20 workers each month, and each worker had the opportunity to participate once or twice a month, for about half an hour. A short five-minute speech was given, and the remaining time was spent in prayer. Ordinary believers in the church were also invited to become workers on the prayer platform. Over the course of three years, many ordinary believers have transformed into influential church workers, enabling them to assist pastors in practical ministry work. As a result, our church has become stronger."
"As an example, we previously provided meal services after each gathering, but as everyone grew increasingly fatigued at the end of each worship service, they were no longer able to provide meals. However, through participation in the prayer platform, more people became willing to serve the meals. The meal service after Sunday worship became more gracious and could be held regularly. Furthermore, newcomers felt a sense of belonging, and membership has increased," he added.
Pastor H, from City E in South China, oversees numerous churches and congregations. He believes that the church should give special attention to the education and personal growth of its workers to promote their development. He embraces the concept that "everyone is the protagonist." During different gatherings throughout the week, especially on Sundays, spaces are reserved for people at each meeting point to participate in the ministry, regardless of its size.
Pastor H says, “The opportunity of the serving positions helps pastors select workers who can be trained continuously. When necessary, they will also give the new workers the opportunity to lead the fellowship. We will also train new workers through marriage and family courses, discipleship courses, practical guidance courses, and different service positions, thus promoting development. In the process of training, the number of new members of some churches is increasing; some pastors have had the joy of serving the church as one with their workers in Christ, while others have a deeper understanding of the importance of their limited and joint service.”
As for the church workers, the training given by Pastor H is a division of labor and cooperation because the number of churches is greater than that of his workers. Therefore, a co-worker is usually responsible for 2-3 local churches, and each will go to different local churches to preach and minister. They will not be confined to one church but also take care of different meeting points. In this process, they can also learn from each other.
Pastor H says, “When the number of workers is not enough, we will train and recruit. Meanwhile, we link the existing workers with the overall resources of our church so that they can get priority training first, and then they will give full play to their specialties in their respective churches. Apart from serving on the podium, they will also take care of the meeting places that others are responsible for according to their specialties, so as to solve some problems encountered in actual ministry. We will also have regular assessments and exchanges.”
Third, pastors train church workers to explore their gifts and expertise to improve the quality of pastoral care.
Pastor J, from City C in South China, has a church that is mainly composed of young and middle-aged working-class believers. Because they live in different areas of the city, they have different needs for meeting in different locations. During the pandemic, Pastor J insisted on training workers as a means to promote development. He has built different service platforms through the expertise and gifts of believers in their professional fields to attract and serve interested new friends. Every half a month, their church will hold professional lectures in the fields of workplace, psychological counseling, and marriage and family programs. These seminars are all done by church workers in their church, and they are also recognized professionals in their respective fields.
Pastor J says, “Every time before giving a lecture, I will lead them to pray and let them spiritually watch for each other as an add-up to the preparation in their professional field. That is done in order to ensure their gifts and talents are valuable to the Lord.” Before giving the lecture, each speaker will explain to the new friends that the lecture will use Christian values and ideas. In this process, we find new friends who agree with the content of the lecture and Christian values and continue to carry out follow-up services.”
In addition, Pastor J arranges a weekly Bible study, the interpretation of the Bible, and basic theological courses for pastors and workers in different churches. He will also discuss with his coworkers how to deepen the quality time. Meanwhile, he listens to the suggestions of each coworker and lets them practice freely. Finally, there will be an evaluation and arrangement of their work every month.
Fourth, pastors train preachers through Bible education programs.
Pastor L, from City D in Northeast China, has served his church for nearly 30 years. He once worked as a mobile preacher for many years, relying on some 20 sermons that he knew by heart. At that time, he felt that these sermons were completely sufficient. But later, when he settled his ministry in a city, he found that he could not understand the Bible and could not grasp what the whole Bible and every book were talking about. Therefore, after he and his followers launched the activities of reading and taking exams again and again, he gradually explored a set of ways and methods to understand the Bible and summarized each book of the Bible with the help of interpreting the Bible. Pastor L sighed with emotion: “I now find that many believers and pastors in the church have only read the periphery of the Bible, and their understanding of each book of the Bible and the overall relationship are still vague. Therefore, in recent years, I have begun to train church workers to help them get into the Bible and eliminate ‘biblical illiteracy’ (a figurative expression meaning not really understanding the Bible, translator’s note).”
Pastor L is still training workers in different churches, and his purpose is to make more and more workers go on a healthy and stable service pathway at the podium. “Preachers are no longer worried about preparing sermons. Listeners can understand the platform information. They can clearly grasp the core points and preach the truth of the Bible to more people. When believers integrate the Bible into their own lives, the construction and development of the church are in line with God’s wishes,” Pastor L adds.
- Translated by Charlie Li