Some years ago, at a church which had grown for a number of years previously, one of my friends from seminary corroborated my observation that it seemed now like the same people were being asked to take up all the new ministry responsibilities. For example, if they were looking for people to read scriptures during a service, it was from the same group of people they would find the ones to do it. And it seemed that the others who were in attendance and who would have been willing to take up new responsibilities were never even given a chance to know about them. All of a sudden, there would be an announcement that something new had started, and good ol’ Joe, who may have been teaching Sunday School, serving as an elder, singing in the choir or leading an outreach Bible study, had been the one tapped to lead or participate in that something new. So one person is probably being asked to do more than is either wise or within God’s will when others are willing and able to help with the load of ministry.
That church had plateaued at that point. And the same kind of pattern is often found in small churches. The same core of the same people do the same things for years. They decide to try something new, and it’s mainly those from the same core who are tapped to lead and support the new activity, program or outreach. And the new activity, program or outreach dies, and the same people from the same core group of people keep on going with the same kinds of church activities and ministries that they have been doing for years. And there may be people who are in attendance who could but do not participate, support or lead the new activity, program or outreach because they are not given the opportunity, and they may eventually end up leaving the church because they get tired of being treated like spectators, or they feel like people trapped on the outside looking in.
Here’s what I’ve seen happen: when people think of some new kind of activity, ministry or outreach, they may immediately think of someone to fit into the slot. And that person may simply be good ol’ Joe, whom they have known for years. It’s someone they know, may be comfortable with, and may think be capable of the job. But the problem is that they don’t stop, pray and ask God for the right people to fill the position. And then they don’t make the need known beyond the same core group. And if they do, the person is not given a chance to pray and think about it; it’s more like they are being forced into a slot or trapped into something.
So, be careful to pray and be open to the leading of God first. Maybe there’s someone besides Good Ol’ Joe to take that ministry.