Energion Publications uses three words for our mission: Educate, Energize, and Empower.
What do we mean by these words? Are they just buzzwords?
Empower represents the most difficult thing to accomplish as a publisher. We can publish books by empowered people encouraging readers to empower others in their churches and communities. We can talk about what empowerment means. We can try to model empowerment. What we can’t do is actually empower through publishing.
Empowering is frightening. If you are the one in power, empowering someone else is going to limit your own power. The possibility arises that, unlike you (you wish!), the other person may not always make the right choices.
A person who has been educated and energized in the ways I have described in the two previous posts will be ready to be empowered. They hear God’s call. They want to take action.
If they are not empowered, however, they will lose the energy, and they may even forget the education.
Here are some ways I have seen churches and other groups fail in empowerment:
- Assign a leader to a project or ministry area and then provide a detailed outline of what you want that leader to do, not in terms of goals, but in terms of how to get there.
- Add one young person to a committee because we need to empower our young people.
- Allow a young person to lead worship once a year and no more.
- Use a small pool of people to do tasks around the church.
- Expect new members to find their own place to serve. After all, that’s what you did.
- Give an assignment and then watch closely every minute and correct the process.
- Make sure everyone has enough years of experience in the church before giving them anything to do.
Now many of these things are not bad things. Putting young people on the church’s committees, allowing them to lead worship, or assigning a good leader to a project are all quite helpful. But they are not empowerment, and we often think they are. It’s the follow-up that matters.
Let me give alternative suggestions:
- If you assign a leader to a project, allow that person to lead, even to the point of making mistakes. They will learn, and they may also find new successful ways of doing things. Remember that you have failed. If you think you haven’t, that’s a failure in itself!
- The empowerment of a young person in a ministry area or on a committee is in listening and actually implementing that person’s ideas. I have seen too many cases of someone added to a committee because they are “really needed,” only to find that their ideas are not needed, just their presence.
- When you don’t find a place in ministry for everyone in your church, you are denying them the blessing of service. Begin immediately. Find what a person is gifted for. Don’t use a survey, use personal contact. I recall after joining one church I was given a six-page survey to fill out. I put it in the round file. Get to know people, learn what they like to do and what they can do. It’s possible, for example, that using the church introvert as a greeter may be suboptimal.
- When you assign a task to someone, set your goals clearly, but allow room to maneuver. If asked for help, guide, while avoiding over-direction. Give up that control. I say this as a control freak!
- Salvation is by grace through faith. God is working in a person when they come into your church, whether by transfer, profession of faith, or whatever other means. God’s grace is “a blessing to be a blessing.” God is going to be working in that person to make them a servant. Get on board with God’s plan.
(For more on leadership, see Discourse on the Practicality of Elder Responsibilities by Pat Badstibner.)
As a publisher, I hope to publish books by people who will exemplify these attitudes. God’s call is for every believer. God’s Spirit is given to the Body as a whole, to which we all belong.
Perhaps we ought to act like it.