In the infancy of my call into full-time ministry, I casually searched through resources that would adequately prepare me to embark in my role as a non-lead pastor, and I learned a great deal.
While I had never even heard of such a role, as I began praying and quickly researching the topic, I realized that whereas the “lead pastor,” in most case, is the chief purveyor in proclamation of the word and casting vision, the NLP’s (non-lead pastor) responsibility is to lead in the implementation of that vision in the church.
It’s not to say that an NLP couldn’t eventually become a lead pastor, but in the interim, his responsibility would entail him having a macro understanding of the life and ministry of the church while overseeing the vision implementation. As it began to be explained to me, I realized that I had a tall order to fill.
Whether you’re a seminary intern, church plant resident, ministry director, or a staff pastor, as an NLP you will greatly benefit from broad ministry experiences because it helps to determine your area of passion and gifting.
Serving in the inner city has especially been a blessing because it has not allowed me to specialize in one area of ministry too quickly.
Generalist vs. Specialist
Specialists tend to work within a single ministry area, devoting the majority or their attention to that one area. Ministry specialists are extremely important to the church, but when budding leaders focus in one area too soon, there can be a tendency to ignore elements of change and valuable ministry experiences outside of their scope.
A generalist, conversely, takes a panoramic view of ministry and sees it as an intricately interwoven and interconnected set of systems that encompass a broad range of skills, and they must be willing to challenge assumptions in areas that are constantly evolving. This doesn’t mean that we should not seek to gain knowledge or mastery in specific areas of ministry, but rather continue to broaden our perspective, knowledge, and expertise.
Maybe you’re an NLP and need some help understanding and cultivating ministry gifts. If that’s you, here are three things that will help you mature as an NLP.
1. Start “Cross-Pollinating”
One of the most helpful ways to gain valuable ministry experience is to “cross-pollinate.” It is not uncommon for members of our staff at Epiphany Camden to learn ministry outside the scope of our church while still honing and developing ministry areas within our church. This cross-pollination brings great value and helps us to cultivate gifts we didn’t know we possessed.
I’ve learned how to not only preach and handle leadership development responsibilities, but I’ve gained valuable ministry experience in the areas of worship, community life, stewardship, hospitality, and other ministries within the church by submitting and learning as much as I can from others. I’ve even tried to sing on the praise team, and while that didn’t go well, I learned all of the systems to have a comprehensive understanding of God’s church.
2. Become A Deep Generalist
Bestselling author Warren Bennis developed a philosophy from which our church has greatly benefited. It has been especially helpful for ministry in the inner city context. He advocates for leaders being “deep generalists.”
A deep generalist is a person that dives fairly deep into several different fields of study. They grasp the most important aspects within each field, enabling them to grow qualitatively and deeply impact their organization through the diversifying of their own skill sets.
Deep generalists are also very helpful to churches because while they can have a specific job title, they are able to handle multiple tasks while training and developing other leaders to fill in other ministry positions. The more you know, the more you’re able to be a benefit to your church.
3. Don’t Become A Specialist Too Quickly
As an NLP grows in ministry experience, they will be able to become a specialist who is able to bring a number of ministry experiences, skills, and value to the church. He will grow in his ministry bandwidth and accrue skill and experiences that will aid in the training of other growing church leaders.
So don’t be so hasty to move into specialized roles. Be patient and submit yourself to the learning process. An understanding of the interworkings of ministry will benefit you for the duration of your ministry career. Becoming a ministry specialist is something that the Lord will bless you with as you mature, and understanding how diverse ministry areas relate will strengthen any future specialization.
Developing leaders with diverse skill sets is imperative to the church.
While we’re not looking for jack-of-all-trades who knows too little about a lot of things, when we become deep generalists the Lord begins to illicit gifting and craft skill that we never knew we possessed.
You’re in a good place. Take your time and learn about various areas of ministry, and it will help you develop as a leader in God’s church.
That’s all I’ve got for right now.
Talk to you soon.
Grace and peace.