Standards for Those Who Serve
It seems harder and harder to find “qualified” people (according to the standards in 1 Timothy and Titus) to serve in leadership and helps positions in the church. Do pastors ever modify their standards in order to get people involved serving, even in entry-level types of positions? What kinds of character and lifestyle standards do other pastors and churches communicate for those who are going to be involved in serving?
This is a critical question. I understand the struggle and agree it does seem to be getting increasingly difficult to find the kind of leaders that are needed in the church that fit the scriptural qualifications given to us in God’s Word. Yet the secret to church growth that is rarely talked about has everything to do with adding volunteers and leaders to meaningful areas of ministry.
My mentor and the previous pastor of Mount Hope Church, Pastor Dave, said for years that for every one person you add to meaningful involvement in the church, the church will grow by 12 people. Then recently, Dr. Samuel Chand spoke at one of our leadership conferences, and during a Q&A with our pastors and daughter churches, he shared the same thing—the secret to growth in the church is adding more people to involvement within the church.
When it comes to people being involved as volunteers in the church, the general rule of thumb we have is that they must:
- Have a servant’s heart—this is the standard Jesus set for all Christians.
- Have a teachable attitude—a person may be very gifted, but my experience is that if they are not teachable, there will be problems.
- Have a desire to constantly draw closer to Jesus—of course this is the most important. If they don’t have a desire to abide with the Lord, to linger in His presence, to know Him more, Jesus said these words, “Apart from me, you can do no good thing.” That’s pretty strong language. Yet we know that if we abide in Him, if we remain attached to the vine, if the Great I AM lives in us, all things are possible.
Now, leadership is a different thing altogether. We have an “Approved Leader” process. To be a leader, you must first meet the requirements of a volunteer and then:
- Be a member
- Take and pass our Accelerate Leadership course
- Fill out an application for leadership and be approved by the Pastor
Scripture holds leaders to a higher standard. Here’s the problem if you start lowering biblical standards for leadership—it will eventually affect your entire church. After all, everything rises and falls on leadership. So, what’s the higher standard for leaders that we see in scripture? 1 Timothy 3:
- Faithful in marriage
- Must have a good reputation
- Able to teach
- Must not be a heavy drinker—we ask that leaders not drink alcoholic beverages
- Must be honest with money—must tithe and give offerings
- Must be proven—have shown themselves to have a:
- Servant’s heart
- Teachable attitude
- Desire to draw closer to Jesus
The important thing is that your leaders will reproduce whatever they are. If they are solid leaders, people of prayer, than that is what they will reproduce in others. So you have to ask yourself an important question when you look at a potential leader: Is their life worth reproducing in others? Would you like more of that person around?
Hope this helps.
One potential danger we face is requiring so much that no one qualifies to do anything for God. We are dealing with people in many different stages of growth and spiritual development and their active involvement is part of this process. So, although we should never bend the standards of righteousness, we ought to function with much grace—allowing people room to work out their own salvation in the context of serving in the local church. I think it should be clarified as to whether a person is serving in a leadership capacity or not and would definitely set a lower bar for those not directly leading others. Judgment is needed for each area of ministry to determine what minimum standards must be met. My encouragement is to allow, and even encourage, new believers (who may have more worldly baggage) to get involved on some level right away.
We have created an Honor Code that all of our partners (what many call members) sign when joining one of our ministry teams. While, at one time, we had a list of unacceptable behaviors, we have moved away from listing sins (that list can get pretty long) to using more general terms. Also, we try to avoid adding conditions the Bible is silent on. We use language like, “we want to live a life that refrains from behaviors that would grieve the Holy Spirit and cause others to stumble.” Also, “behaviors that would limit your involvement would include sexual immorality and dishonest dealings.”
Obviously we wouldn’t promote individuals to leadership without knowing them and their manner of life. When handled relationally, issues of disqualification are often revealed without creating a law-like system that intimidates even the most committed believers. Having said that, the scriptures mentioned in the question are standards we should follow for those who lead and give us the basis for raising up qualified people.
When it comes to determining one’s qualifications for leadership, I feel that the level of qualifications needs to match the level of authority given. In the past, I had been too eager or quick to put people in positions, thinking that it would make my life easier, and was I ever wrong! I have now come to the place in my life that I would rather go without a position being filled than to appoint the wrong person to a position. Even though it might mean more work for me, I have a lot more peace of mind not having to contend with the wrong person in a position.
Too many times I see leaders dumbing down qualifications so they can get more people into leadership roles, but if we lower leadership standards, then what are we leading them too?
In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul told Timothy, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” NIV.
Join one another in following my example, brothers, and carefully observe those who live according to the pattern we set for you.
1 Corinthians 4:16
Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
Even though God is the ultimate standard, we have to maintain the ethics, character, and morals of leaders to lead people to Christ. Therefore, I believe, one’s qualifications need to match the level of authority given to them. This means we have different standards for different people.
…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Our level of expectations and accountability rank in this order:
- Senior pastors
- Staff pastors / vision team (elders)
- Key leaders
- Dream team
- Non dream team
When it comes to entry level areas we require the following:
- Agreement to our doctrine
- Evidence of salvation
- No public morality issues like co-habituating
- Serve for a minimum of 6 weeks
We take our time on promoting people. As a new person to the team produces fruit of spiritual growth, faithfulness, loyalty, and trust, we promote them. If someone is not willing to serve in the shadows for a season, they don’t deserve to be in the light. Talent is not a replacement for commitment.
If someone is being considered for a higher place of responsibility, we will look for ways to bring some type of correction to them to see how they will respond before promoting them. This has saved many of sleepless nights.
While I believe there can be exceptions to these principals, they are far and few between.
I’ve been a pastor for 35 years and have sadly seen the change of attitude in many pastors and people sitting in the pew. It seems that, in most cases, pastors are more concerned about quantity rather than quality (much different than Jesus — John 6:66,67).
Many years ago I read from a pastor that has made a big contribution to my ministry, Bob Yandian, who wrote, “Babies do not produce babies, adults produce babies.
That’s true in the natural and that’s true in the spiritual.” I’ve been tempted over the years to compromise in order to get a crowd, but the Holy Spirit continually brings me back to 1 Timothy 3:12,13. The office of deacons does not refer to “board members” only, but according to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, it can also refer to, “those who do what promotes the welfare and prosperity of the church.”
At Franklin First Assembly of God we do have different qualifications for those who “deacon” in the Nursery and who “deacon” to keep the church looking good. But when people represent the church by wanting to “deacon” the Word to others or in leadership, higher qualifications are required which include meeting the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:12,13 as closely as possible. As pastor, if I keep lowering my expectations, people will only lower their effort to qualify, which causes me to be an enabler.
My desire is to hold true to Scripture and not get caught up in the expectation of religion or to “keep up with the Jones.” I must admit, by doing so, there seems to be fewer willing to qualify. But if I stay faithful to the Word, Jesus will build His Church (Matthew 16:18) and what I do will not be in vain (Psalms 127:1).
Let me begin by saying that I believe that there is one primary qualification to serve in the local church, and that is a proven lifestyle of faithfulness. That is the first character quality we look for in a person being considered as a recruit for the ministry of helps, or who has volunteered for a specific positon in the church.
We have established basic standards that are defined by the position being filled, and the level of influence the person will have. I can’t think of any occasion or incident where we’ve had to “modify” those established standards, even when it’s been an “entry-level” position.
For those who desire to serve in the ministry of helps, we do not hold them to the “standard” defined in 1 Timothy and Titus. We only use those standards as a guideline for anyone who desires a position of leadership.
The question of scrutiny and personal examination of someone’s “character and lifestyle” is primarily reserved for those in a more defined position of influence in the ministry. And if we intend to use them in the pulpit, or leading a mid-week home group, then we will begin to consider both their natural and spiritual life based upon the guidelines found in 1 Timothy and Titus.
We will always consider the natural “qualifications” of a person who desires to join the ministry of helps team, regardless of where they will be serving in the church. During the recruiting process, a person’s temperament and skill-sets must be considered. Obviously a person who desires to be part of the music team and stand on the platform will hopefully have some level of natural ability and musical talent!
Ultimately, as I stated in the beginning, the best qualification or standard for any position in ministry is faithfulness! Jesus repeatedly makes this point throughout the gospels, and specifically He addresses it three times in the Gospel of Luke: (KJV)
And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household to give them their portion of meat in due season…
Luke 16:10, 12
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?
And he said unto him, Well (done), thou good (and faithful) servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities… (p.p. Mt. 25:21, 23)
This principle of Faithfulness also applies to those of us who will be leading and training the volunteers or staff members who will be given specific assignments and functioning in the Ministry of Helps: (KJV)
2 Timothy 2:1-2
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able [competent ~ in character] to teach [disciple] others also.
Through our lifestyle of Faithfulness, we will set the “standard” that others will learn and imitate, which will communicate the desired character qualifications based on the example Jesus established when He served His Disciples before the Last Passover.
The qualifications, as I read them, for a bishop or an elder or a leader are far different then for a Christian who has decided to serve an area or a position in the church in helps. The description I read is those who are influential with many lives (like an associate minister or a staff person), which as we all know, has about 13 or 14 stated qualifications.
These are not compromised, nor do I believe should be, due to the price paid by lack of character qualifications. I have always noted to myself that these qualifications are not what the world looks for (the world looks for education, intelligence, looks, or even leadership skills).
In the areas of children workers, the potential for crisis is high, so these positions require a higher standard of character compared, for example, to that of cleaning the church or even ushering. Money is recoverable; abuse is too costly.
For such positions as cleaning, ushering, etc., if a person is saved and demonstrates a sincere desire to live and serve the Lord by serving the church, they are put to service.
Here is the defining reason if it can be summed up in few words: Most churches say IF you believe and behave correctly, you can belong. We aim to make people believe, then their believing and behavior is impacted and we have a living epistle.
Other than staff, our requirements are basic, as we raise them in their relationship with Jesus.
Our guidelines or requirements for helps positions at our church vary. When it comes to serving as an usher, greeter, or in hospitality, our minimum requirement is that you attend our church. We don’t have an application or background check for these positions.
For our volunteer positions in babies through teens, there are more guidelines. Every person that helps in these three areas must fill out an application, background check, and meet with the ministry leader. They must attend our church and attend at least one service a weekend.