Are You a Pastor of Programs or People?

Jimi Williams —  August 21, 2013

Are You a Pastor of Programs or People?

A few weeks ago, we talked about resisting the temptation to immediately change everything when stepping into a new role as worship leader or worship director in our post, Put Down The Hammer. This time I wanted to expand on the idea of serving people and talk about the idea of being a pastor of people instead of programs.

Any leader in a growing church will tell you their most pressing, on-going need, is volunteer recruitment. If you are a small group pastor, you are looking for group leaders. If you are a youth pastor, you probably need youth workers and someone to drive a van. If you are a worship pastor, you are looking for musicians, singers, sound techs, lighting tech, etc.

There’s no end to the need for volunteers in church. There is turnover as people move on to other things or burn out from being over committed. So about the time you start feeling really good about your ministry, someone quits. Unfortunately the ministry doesn’t stop or take breaks and you find yourself constantly in “recruitment mode,” feeding the beast.

Thus, the situation many church leaders find themselves in has their needs elevated above the needs of their people. Not true, you say? Can you relate to this scenario? “Hey, I heard you play guitar and we just had a guy quit. You want to join us Sunday?”. Or maybe, “Hey, our sound guy quit last week and I think you would be perfect for it.”

The problem here is that as leaders often we are merely filling holes without regard for what our people are gifted in or what ministry God has put in their hearts for them do. We ask people to fill roles without ever asking them where they want to serve. Nobody wants to be recruited. They want to be pastored.

Here are some tips to make sure you are being a pastor to your people and not a shift manager:

1. Never let your first conversation with a person be a “recruitment” conversation. Make an opportunity to get to know them a little bit. Find out about their family, church experience and their relationship with God.

2. Decide that you are going to care about that person whether they help you out or not. Nothing seems more fake than a pastor being really nice to you, then ignoring you when you decide not to serve in their area of ministry.

3. Ask your volunteers questions like, “If you could do anything for God, what would it be?” Or “What do you do that makes you feel closest to the Lord?”

4. If their interests overlap with your area of ministry, win! If not, help connect them with other leaders in the church that can help them live their dream.

5. Meet regularly with the people you lead to find out if they are fulfilled in their roles. Don’t be afraid to “release” people to other ministries. God will provide for your ministry.

Jesus didn’t tell Peter to “feed my program”, but to “feed my sheep”. As pastors, our responsibility is to the people that God has put under our leadership. If you pastor your people well, they will make your program successful.



Jimi Williams

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Jimi is VP of Worship Resources for Capitol CMG Publishing, overseeing all Worship Together initiatives and resources. He also leads worship at his home church and at various events and conferences.

3 responses to Are You a Pastor of Programs or People?

  1. Thank you for posting this! As a ministry student preparing to work in the field of music ministry, this gave me a different perspective on relationships with the people I will be ministering to/with in the future. Number Two really speaks to me and reminds me that I need to keep up relationships with the people around me whether they end up helping in my area of ministry or not. While many people would unintentionally have less to do with a person if they go into another part of the volunteer base, it’s important to be intentional about relationships. This applies in all parts of ministry.

  2. Well said, thank you for this! Just what I needed to hear.

  3. This is such a wonderful reminder to all of us in ministry leadership! I’ve recently become the new worship leader at my church. My personal mission has already been to employ this philosophy of loving and putting my people first before my program. This article is confirmation for me that I’m on the right path!!!! :-)

    It is a critical component to developing a team mentality among our volunteers. Everyone needs and wants to know that they are loved and appreciated…and their time is valuable to others as well. Being prepared as a leader shows the teams we work with that we value the time they give us!

    If we can’t show love and respect for the people in our churches, then we are not truly showing God to our faith communities. So happy to know that others share this vision!