I’ve yet to enter a congregation where their biggest complaint was that they had too many leaders and not enough ministry for their leaders to do. Obviously, the opposite is the rule. However, over the years I’ve discovered that, except in churches embroiled in conflict or in some other downward spiral, churches generally have all the leaders they need … they just don’t know how to tap that resource.

In many, if not most churches, we find leaders who have been in the same positions for literally decades. Even in churches where there are term limits we find a stagnant pool of leaders who have rotated from one position to another until they’ve completed the vicious cycle, at which point they start all over again. Although these leaders complain that they’re tired and wish someone else would step up to take leadership, the reality is that over the years any new leader who has tried to step up has not been able to succeed in that ministry.

The remedy to this malady is a liberal dose of the following: One Person, One Passion, One Position.

You may remember that the Pareto principle states that 20% do 80% of the work. We all know this is generally true in business, and unfortunately, it’s also been true in the church. But it was never meant to be that way. Paul wrote that we are all a part of the body of Christ. In the church, frankly, there is no place for pew sitters and spectators – everyone is supposed to be fulfilling their role and active in ministry. However, when a church begins to take seriously the truth that each individual is called to be a specific part of the body, that is, that each one has a ministry that they’re called to and that they have a passion for, then the body can and will function as a whole.

Which brings us to the One Person, One Passion, One Position rule. Whenever a church makes a commitment to the adage “every member a minister,” it must begin by helping people identify their passion. Over the years we’ve found that those who truly pursue their passions literally never burn out in their positions. Indeed, the more time, energy, and success that they have in their ministry passion the more passionate they become. On the other hand, when someone leads or participates in a ministry where they have a lack of passion, ministry mediocrity reigns and, ultimately, burnout is certain to follow. What has always amazed me is that churches will place people as ministry leaders in positions for which they have no passion and then blithely wonder why the ministry isn’t a roaring success. Do we really want people leading ministries they only marginally care about? And yet, this is the normal operating procedure for many (if not most) churches.

There are many tools to help churches identify members’ passions. We recommend using the Personal Ministry Assessment from 21st Century Strategies if you haven’t found a passion’s instrument for your congregation. Once you’ve identified an individual’s passion, the next step is to help them find a ministry that matches that passion. This is not the time to put willing bodies into open positions. That’s how accountants end up teaching middle school Sunday school classes, and within six months have left the building wild eyed and screaming as they go. If there isn’t a ministry that matches their passion then help them find a ministry beyond the congregation… don’t let them fall into the second-best trap. Help fan passion in ministry by never settling. The Kingdom deserves our best.

The second step to the One Person, One Passion, One Position rule is to help your current leaders let go of the 14 jobs each of them holds. No one should have more than one ministry responsibility because no one has more than one driving passion. Certainly, we all have several areas in which we have some passion for, but when we look under the hood honestly we discover that we have confused multiple talents and skills with driving passion. By insisting that each member have only one position, a ministry position that reflects their driving passion, not only will they have more time to devote to that passion, but they will free up the other 13 positions for would-be leaders who have real passion for those positions.

When a congregation implements the One Person, Passion, Position rule they discover a number of their congregational ministries suddenly have no leadership. This panics some in the congregation; however, I repeat: do you really want ministries that are led by people with limited passion? It is better to let a ministry die for which there is no passionate leadership than to undergird it with less than the best. On the other hand, when this situation arises we find that churches suddenly discover untapped leadership. Often when a ministry is about to be closed because of a lack of passionate leadership, someone in the congregation will emerge with a burning passion to lead that ministry. This person may not have been serving in this ministry because they felt they were not needed, since the ministry was already led by another (who may have had very little passion for that ministry). If this new leader is allowed the latitude to step into the ministry and to make adjustments that mirrors their passion they are likely to succeed beyond the congregation’s wildest dreams.

One Person, One Passion, One Position. This is a recipe for raising up the leaders that you need. It isn’t necessarily easy to implement, but it does work… and it has the side benefit of raising the faithfulness and effectiveness of your ministries.

Question: Do you follow the One Person, One Passion, One Position rule? How did it work? What were some challenges you faced while implementing it? Share your experiences and thoughts in the Comments section below.