Making Disciples is The Job

March 6, 2014 — 2 Comments

As I’ve served in the role of Executive Pastor for the past two years, one of the key responsibilities I have is building a staff team.  With the help of Kevin Peck and Dave Barrett, I’ve developed a pretty thorough philosophy and process of staff hiring.  The following posts will develop these ideas:

This blog series will highlight some foundational ideas I’ve utilized in building the Campus and Missional Community team at The Austin Stone.

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Making Disciples is the Job

In obedience to the command of Jesus to make disciples (Matthew 28), our staff is a discipleship structure before it is an organizational structure. Just as we hire staff with the aim to develop them, we expect that the aim of each staff person is to develop others.  To put it simply, a staff role is for the purpose of making disciples.

We don’t hire people primarily to do the tasks of ministry and therefore increase our staff to accomplish tasks. Instead, we hire people “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).  We hire to increase our disciple-making capacity.

This means that we don’t use people to complete tasks, but we use tasks as a context for making disciples of people to make more disciples. We will not hire a position that we believe is an opportunity for a volunteer or intern to learn and grow, in order that they may be trained and deployed in Great Commission ministry.

Secondly, when we do have a person join our team, we are unequivocally expecting that person to make and multiply disciples and leaders.  Regardless of the particular role in ministry or department, the base expectation is that of replacing yourself over time by training new leaders.

Principles such as these drive our practices of staffing. Now, to help illustrate how some of these principles are applied, here is a sample of a few practical implications that we think through any time we first consider hiring a position.

Strategic alignment and the opportunity cost of hiring.
Is this the role that is most necessary and strategically aligned with where our church is headed in the near future? Does our church need this leadership role to be filled full-time more than any other role we could possibly hire right now?  If it isn’t, then we must work hard to grow a volunteer leader into that role.

Am I taking a development opportunity off the table?
Is this role a good candidate for the development of volunteers, interns, or residents? Our volunteers grow when they have real opportunities to grow in the context of real ministry. Additionally, there isn’t an office of “staff” in the bible…only elders and deacons, alongside covenant members of a church.  We don’t want to hire a role when God may have already provided for it through existing leaders in the church.  One of the key distinguishing factors of The Austin Stone is releasing emerging leaders to own significant areas of ministry.

Leadership development, not more task capacity.
Will this role significantly remove a bottleneck to developing more leaders for the care and mobilization of our body? We don’t hire people to make your job easier, or to help you get more of your tasks done. When you run out of time to make leaders in your ministry area, we’ll talk about hiring someone to help you make more leaders.

We want this individual to be in our family for the next 15 years.
When we hire someone, we must believe 1) we cannot do without them – the culture of our team and the effectiveness of our ministry as a team will be significantly hindered by not hiring this particular person, and 2) that this is a person whose life and whose discipleship that I, as a leader, am excited about investing deeply in.  If the church is a family, then I must be committed to that family for the long haul.

Even individual contributors are expected to lead.
A very few roles on our staff have specialized skill requirements that necessitate individual contribution. But even from these positions, we desire to develop other volunteers, interns, residents, or professionals of similar skills by leading them in their service to the church or ministry to the world as a context for community, growth and development.

When you consider staffing and disciple-making, what would you add to this list?

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

2 responses to Making Disciples is The Job

  1. Really well articulated. Thanks, as always, Todd.

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