What is the best advice you have received as a church leader? I continue with my second piece of advice given to me that I now pass along to you.
“Give yourself to the dedicated few.”
When I consult with churches on stewardship, I often get a common question from the new stewardship chair, “What can we do to effectively reach all the people in the church who give so little?” I know exactly why this question is asked.
The chair person has looked at the data and discovered that 70 to 80% of the income of the church comes from 20 to 30% of the members. Looking at the large percentage of parish givers who give a very small amount, it is natural to start thinking about how well the church would do if all the people giving little stepped up to the challenge of the primary supporters. My advice? “Aim your principle efforts are the dedicated few!”
I have heard a number of different leaders give this advice in one way or another from John Maxwell to Bill Bright. The most direct was told me by John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard Church Movement. When I told him that I was having trouble getting everyone in my parish to deepen their commitment, he pointed out to me that in scripture we constantly see God working by calling first the most committed to deeper commitment.
Of course, we also have the example of our Lord himself. He had many admirers, but he gave most of his energy and time to “the twelve.” This inner circle became the first leaders of the Christian Movement after the Resurrection. It helps to remember that Jesus ministered to “the crowd.” He also taught his disciples. However, he chose the twelve to lead. I have often noticed clergy who aim their energy and efforts only at the congregation in general (the crowd?) Lasting and deep change seem to me to come when a leader gives herself or himself to an inner circle of more dedicated people.
As a student of history, I have also noticed that movements that have had long lasting effect usually have a leader who created and disciple an inner circle of dedicated people.
Over the years, I have constantly rediscovered this principle. If I want to get something done, or move the congregation forward, I start with the most committed. This is also true for me. When faced with a costly or sacrificial decision in my congregation, I first have to deepen my own commitment.