Friday, September 26, 2008

Review - The Equipping Church

"The Equipping Church: Serving Together to Transform Lives" is an outstanding book by Sue Mallory that addresses the question: "What might your church look like if its members were vital, fully empowered partners in ministry? How can you help them discover and release their full potential? How would their roles change - and yours?" The goal is to help church leaders customize an equipping system and culture in their church.

Mini-review: An excellent book that is a must-read for pastors and church leaders seeking to develop an equipping culture (and systems) in your church, especially those of you dreaming about or involved in making a difference who are yourselves a 'volunteer.'  (Of course I can't stop with just a mini-review, so if you're in this category, please read on!)

The approach taken by Mallory is very practical, with a lot of examples and encouragement, and clear explanation of bibilical principles behind the priest of believers. She also highlights several good examples in each chapter of churches that are doing a good job today at putting these principles into practice. In addition, there are appendices looking at core values of an equipping church, how to change the culture, how to build a system. A key point made is that addressing issues of culture or system alone are insufficient for change, but that when both are understood and developed, lasting and transformational change can occur. The table of contents is...

1. Starting the Journey in Helplessness
2. When the Church is Healthy, She Dances
3. Making Systemic Changes Can be Shocking
4. Examining, Poking, and Prodding the Church Culture
5. Checking the Conveyor Belts at the Exits
6. Launching the Vision
7. Discovering Gifts, Talents, and Experience
8. Matching People with Strong Connections
9. Pushing Back a Little
10. Viewing the Vision of Three Equipping Churches
11. Perpetuating the Transformed Vision

Each chapter draws some insight from Ephesians 4:11-13. I thought the paraphrase from The Message quoted in chapter two was particularly interesting: "He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ."

Personally, the thing I like most about Mallory's book is how her journey and passion to be an encouarger and equipper for ministry had so many similiarities to my own. Sue talks about the desire that grew in her heart to make a difference, an "experiment" in her church for her to become the directory of volunteer ministrires, and her decision to do so as a nonpaid staff (and just how awkward this was for the pastor and the church! She was full-time however.) God's call and her impact did not stop there, but her ministry has really taken off, to the point where she became founding executive director of the Leadership Training Network and is now active nationally in consulting and training.

The scary part? The role of volunteer ministries director came with high expectations but low specifics. She had to define the role and figure out how to meet long range objectives, without much specific guidance. "The church by definition is the greatest gathering of potential servants in the world, but she is also the most notorious vehicle for disappointing, discouraging and even destroying them. Only a small percentage of willing volunteers can succeed without specific training and clear direction - and the church seldom offers either. Addressing this failure became one of my primary goals."

So for any of you out there in the position of helping develop volunteer ministries and leaders, as well as those of you who are passionate about making a big difference in your church despite being a volunteer, "The Equipping Church" is a must read!

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