What do you do when you find yourself in desperate situations where you know what you are trying isn’t working. I liken it to a battlefield where you are seeing your core, key men and women limping around. They are the ones “laying it on the line” and sacrificing, but inside you really know that you are about to use them up or lose them. They would stay if they had rest, even a little bit of hope. They are all you have. It’s almost as if they have a visible internal countdown clock before they are out of gas. The both of you know that if “circumstances” were different, you would be able to do ministry together for a much longer period of time. Have you ever felt this way?

What about this: Have you ever been frustrated as a church leader and couldn’t find help for your ministries? Do you have thoughts running through your mind like, “No one really cares about volunteering, they just care about receiving?” Or maybe it seems like “All church has become is a pool of consumers, looking for their next greatest fix.” Maybe bitterness and anger have built up over time and you believe that “if I want something done, it’s easier to do it myself.” “Nothing really matters, and it is draining the life out of me.” If you are here, I realize you are discouraged. Do either of these scenarios paint a small picture of your reality?

I would love to be able to write that what you are about to read was learned from my grand training or was some special, secret wisdom that I found hidden somewhere. Although I believe the truth is scriptural, this was birthed out of pain, necessity, desperation, and a friend. In the words of Solomon, there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9). I took what my friend was doing, changed it and made it applicable to my ministry. Hopefully it will be helpful to you and you might do the same.

I believe there is a desire, deep down in every person’s heart, to contribute, maybe even lead, and leave something lasting with his/her life in the lives of other people (Eccl. 3:11). I know that it is in you if you are a leader. God put it there. This truth or belief is foundational in empowering leaders. Think about your own life. Isn’t there a desire in your heart to be invested in by another person? Isn’t there a thirst in your soul to invest in the lives of other people? Don’t you truly want to leave a legacy?

All of us like to be pursued. Many of us want to be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves. I believe this desire is foundational to grasp and understand in leading volunteers, dare I say in equipping God’s people for works of service. It is the motivational factor in every individual that cannot be bought, fabricated, or controlled. There is an unlocked potential in every church in America and around the world. The potential is volunteers, God’s people. God has gifted many in His church according to Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. Romans 11:29 states, “For God’s gifts and His call can never be withdrawn.” He uses all these individuals to represent who He is and display what He is about in the world around us. How do you and I capture this true life in the hearts of individuals? How do you and I develop a process in our churches to help empower those God has entrusted to us?

Remember when Jethro was sitting down with Moses in Exodus 18? Everyone was so frustrated because they had to wait all day in long lines, waiting to receive a decision by Moses himself. Jethro advised Moses, “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing Him their questions to be decided. You should tell them God’s decisions, teach them God’s laws and instructions, and show them how to conduct their lives. But find some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as judges over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten … They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you” (Exo. 18:18-22; emphasis mine). All of us need others and others need you.

Our hope in answering the scenarios above is called the Five E’s, taken from Exodus 18. Empowerment is the goal or fuel and is what actually gives life to individuals. The Five E’s are the development process or conduit to lead them. The hope is that there are leaders who will “carry the load” and invest in the lives of people for God’s Kingdom. As a church body, this is what we have learned to help keep our leaders together and unified. The Five E’s have empowered individuals to lead in their passions and callings. We are still in process as a church and getting rid of what doesn’t work and keeping what is working. When I first started, I realized that sometimes we, as leaders, simply don’t know where to start. I had ideas or thoughts, even theories, but nothing to go on. Exodus 18 and a friend gave me the skeleton or process (The Five E’s) to lead leaders and teach them to lead others. Let me explain them to you.

1. Engaging is where you walk up to someone and begin a conversation.

The first “E” is called Engaging. This is the beginning process for every leader looking to recruit others. A person has to go and pursue another and know why he is even looking for other leaders. He needs to have some type of measurement to know if an individual would be a “fit” in the vacant leadership position. Is there a common passion, interest, or calling? Usually you know right off the bat if you think someone would fit as a leader. Engaging is where you walk up to someone and begin a conversation. Maybe a potential leader’s name was passed on to you, and you are making a call to see if a person is remotely interested or if you are interested in them leading with you. Engaging is the beginning connection point in this new potential relationship. Below are some key questions for you to ask yourself when you are in the Engaging process.

Engaging—Approaching, pursuing and recruiting people

  • Do I believe I can do this ministry on my own?
  • Am I convinced that I need others?
  • Do I know the type of leader I am looking for to invite into my ministry?
  • Do I know why I choose the people that I choose?
  • What are the recruiting questions I ask to see if someone will be a fit in my ministry?
  • Is there a way that our church or ministry could create clearer opportunities for others to connect to our ministries?

How do you and I engage leaders?

  • Create environments of connection. Whether it is email, websites, personal invitation, recommendations, or referrals, you are creating opportunities to find and recruit leaders. If you are not personable, find someone who is to help you meet others.
  • Identify the reason and purpose of why you are searching for new leaders. Then pursue them. Give people the opportunity to respond to the need. Find a visionary person to help you inspire others to invest in your particular ministry.

After a potential leader has responded and he/she could be a fit, the second “E” comes into play—Examining.

2. Examining is the interviewing, screening, and explaining stage.

This is similar to when you might take someone through a job interview. You are explaining the ministry you are leading and helping the potential leader understand what your ministry is all about and the role that is available for leadership. Here are some questions to think about in developing the Examining stage:

Examining—Interviewing, screening, understanding and explaining ministry

  • Do I have any form of application or questionnaire for a potential leader to fill out? Keep it simple but useful.
  • Do I have clear, written expectations of what I need a leader to do and be?
  • Do I have clear, written responsibilities of what is needed in order to do a certain ministry role?
  • Have I explained clearly my ministry’s mission, values, and programming to the potential leader?
  • Do I know what skills, experience, character, and understanding the potential leader could bring to my ministry?
  • Can I trust this potential leader with my ministry? How do I know I can trust him/her?
  • Do I have screening questions I could ask to see if someone will be a fit in my ministry (potential questionnaire or background information you would like to know)?
  • Is there anyone I could talk to who has seen this volunteer in a leadership role?
  • Who knows this person?

How do you and I examine leaders?

  • Take the potential leader through an objective interview process where you are explaining the ministry.
  • Go over the prerequisites for leading in a particular leadership position or role.
  • Define why the position exists in the first place.
  • Help one understand the overall vision and define how this role helps the church live out its mission. You may find out the answer to some of these questions when you first meet the person.

At this point you pretty much know if you want the person that has been interviewed to be on your team, and they know if they want to commit to leading in your ministry. Assuming the leader wants to be a part of your ministry, the easy part is finished and doesn’t take a whole lot of time to accomplish.

The next three “E’s” take much more time, effort, and intentionality. Ironically, they kind of happen all at once instead of one at a time. You have probably experienced this yourself. They are much more fluid than the Engaging and Examining stage. In my opinion, they are the most rewarding and fruit-bearing. In these next stages, longevity begins to gain momentum. It’s in these next three “E’s” that life transformation and leadership growth take place. It is also in these three stages where others begin to carry the ministry with you.

3. Equipping is how you will do training for your leaders.

The third “E” is called Equipping. Equipping is how you will do training for your leaders. The training is usually immediate and ongoing. Often in volunteer positions it is “sink or swim.” If you desire leaders to lead long-term with you, you must build here. Immediate training is explaining how the person is to fulfill their responsibilities. This is kind of “on-the-job-training.” The ongoing training is intentional time set aside throughout the year to raise your overall level of leadership. If you do not embrace the Equipping stage, you will not keep leaders. Here are some questions to think about and answer:

Equipping—Immediate and ongoing training

  • Do I see any value in training and equipping leaders? Is it a necessity to me?
  • What immediate training does my new leader need in order to carry out his/her ministry responsibilities? What are the topics?
  • Have I developed a checklist of immediate training necessities so that someone else could train a potential leader?
  • How often will I train my leaders?
  • What criteria will determine how I train my leaders?
  • What values will I deliberately communicate through training?
  • How will I protect my leaders and make sure that they are trained and equipped for my ministry?
  • Will I plan intentional leadership training days? Do I know how I would train them if I had training days?
  • Am I willing to make this area of my ministry a priority? If so, how am I proving that it is a priority?

How do you and I equip leaders?

  • Decide to provide immediate and ongoing training.
  • Show your new leader how to fulfill the role in which you recruited him/her. The immediate training is very important and practical.
  • Provide ongoing training that may be once a quarter, twice a year, or yearly.
  • Spend intentional time and energy into equipping your leaders. Usually this is the most neglected area of leadership development but the most apparent when problems arise. We have more tasks than we have time, and training gets lost in the shuffle.
  • Grasp that training is the easiest to cut but the hardest to recover.
  • Don’t dismiss the value of training. I know that we can come up with all kinds of reasons not to equip. The list of frustrations or excuses could go on and on! Mark it down. You can’t build and have longevity if you do not train.

As you are planning how you will train your leaders on a regular basis, you are also gearing up for the next “E,” which is Energizing.

4. Energizing is caring, guiding, and leading your leaders.

Energizing comes in all kinds of forms and is usually where community is birthed on a leadership team or small group of people serving together. Energizing is caring, guiding, and leading your leaders. As you can see, the Energizing stage is very complimentary to the Equipping stage. This is where you take a bunch of individuals operating individually and you make them a team. You go from “me” to “we” and from “I” to “us.” Below are some questions to wrestle with:

Energizing—Leading, caring, guiding, and cultivating leaders—weekly, monthly and yearly

  • Do I believe that I need a team of people to carry out significant roles and responsibilities in my ministry?
  • How will I trust a team of people to help lead, guide, and carry the ministry I am responsible for?
  • Will I give leaders on my leadership team significant lead roles? Will I hold them accountable to what they have agreed to?
  • Will my leadership team be individuals with responsibilities or a team of people who carry out individual responsibilities?
  • How will I cultivate a team atmosphere?
  • How will I care for my leadership team? How will I teach them to care for others in my ministry?
  • How often will I communicate how valuable my leaders are to me?
  • How often will I meet with my leadership team?
  • Will my leadership meetings consist of only business and getting things done, or will I cultivate the relationships of the team?
  • Am I willing to be personally involved in the lives of my leadership team members?
  • How will I develop the individual character of each of my team members?
  • How will I lead, guide, care, and develop my leadership team, and encourage them to do the same for leaders who are under them?
  • Am I willing to challenge my team to create and have their own teams to share the ministry?
  • After a big event am I willing to send a thank you card or small gift?
  • Do I acknowledge my leaders significant life events (birthdays, anniversarys, children’s birthdays, etc)?
  • Am I willing to make sure my leaders are checked on when they are sick?

How do you and I energize leaders?

  • Meet with your leadership team on a regular basis (here it is monthly)
  • Build and delegate the ministry. Give your leaders significant responsibility and leadership platforms. Let them spend the money, execute events, and be responsible for the outcomes.
  • Create an environment of care. Acknowledge special days like birthdays, anniversaries, births, children’s birthdays, make sure they feel cared for and they are cared for.
  • Give regular guidance. Be aware of their leadership and how they are leading. Inspect and find out the details. Ask questions like, “When is your next leadership meeting?” “Are all of your leaders showing up for the meetings?” “Have you gotten out all the communication you need for your events?”
  • Ask the hard questions (some are gender appropriate). “How is your purity?” “Do you feel supported and cared for?” “Do you feel you are connecting with the rest of the team?” “Do you have any frustrations with those you work with?” “How well do you feel I am leading?”
  • Communicate how you are going to handle conflict.

Energizing is one of my favorite stages. This is where you get to experience leaders as they blossom and develop into incredible leaders. Most of my deepest personal relationships have blossomed from those I have served with. Ownership is high in the energizing stage. There are multiple opportunities for conflict (this is a whole different article!) Iron is sharpening iron. The fruit of your efforts is beginning to transpire.

5. Entrusting is truly empowering your leaders to lead.

Hopefully you are still “tracking” with me at this point. As you are Equipping and Energizing, it’s time for the final “E,” Entrusting. I’d like to camp here for a while and define what it could look like for you to Entrust your ministry to key volunteer leaders. Entrusting is truly empowering your leaders to lead. Entrusting is giving them the freedom to lead out of who they are. You have trained them. You have watched them lead. You know their strengths and weaknesses. Only you can release them to lead. Sometimes there was a fear in me to give the ministry I had built, cried for, organized and invested in to someone else. The questions in my mind were, “What if they won’t do it like I do?” “What if it collapses and then I have to rebuild it?” “What if they do it better?” “What if I don’t want to give it away?”

In my opinion, Entrusting, is the most important “E” and leads to the craving of a volunteer leader: True empowerment. When you and I entrust, we find our “right hand” person, our “second in command.” This person has learned to love the ministry as you have. They understand it and have gained your trust. They are ready to lead. If and when you can entrust the ministry that you have built to another, you have built something that lasts. This can be very satisfying. Chew on these questions:

Entrusting—Developing, empowering and multiplying leaders

  • Am I willing to trust a few people to be point leaders with me over my entire ministry? Will I empower those leaders with my authority to lead?
  • Will I choose to develop individuals who are, in turn, capable of developing others?
  • Do I know every component of my ministry? Do I know why I do what I do in my ministry? Do I know where I am going or would like to go?
  • When will I take intentional time to train these leaders throughout the year?
  • Who could I pour myself into and then he/she would pour him/herself into others?
  • Who will be the two leaders that I will select to teach my development process, and then empower them to teach it to other future leaders?
  • Who loves the ministry, kind of like I do?
  • Who could shepherd the ministry as if it was their own?
  • Who is demonstrating, now, by personal time and effort, that they own what we are doing?
  • Am I willing to give up my influence and responsibility to another leader?

How do you and I entrust leaders?

  • Teach your right hand person all of the five “E’s” until she knows it backwards and forwards.
  • Release the ministry to your new leader. If you don’t entrust, the process stops with you. All the balloon strings are still in your hands. All decision making is left in your court.
  • Don’t allow the ministry, humanly speaking, to rise and fall with you being present or not.
  • Reproduce yourself. The true test of someone mastering the five “E’s” is that there is now another leader who knows and understands how to reproduce himself. You know the old saying, “Fish for a man and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.” The responsibility is now on your new leader to pass along the Five “E’s.”
  • Build your leadership

You may wrestle with the all of the Five “E’s” or maybe there are one or two that cause you stress. A part of our existence on this earth will be being led by others and leading others in one type of capacity or another. This takes place in the work place, marriage, parenting, and throughout life. It is both a privilege and an honor to have the place of “leader” in a person’s life. Yet with that opportunity there are complexities. There are huge responsibilities on the part of the leader and one’s decisions carry innumerable ramifications. You can’t do it by yourself.

My favorite verse in the Bible for investing in others is found in 3 John 4, “I have no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in the truth.” There is something very fatherly and lasting in this verse. It’s my heart passion that many years down the road, we will all still be walking in the truth. God has given us an opportunity to lead and shepherd in His Kingdom. Jethro ended his exhortation to Moses saying, “If you follow this advice, and if God directs you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace (Exo. 18:23).” May God grant you and me the grace and perseverance to invest in the lives of people for eternity. I haven’t arrived and I am still growing and learning about the Five “E’s.”