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Home > Skills > Leader Training > Turning Pewsitters Into Players
If we broaden the opportunities for people to get involved, potential leaders will begin to shine.
—Marlene Wilson

What motivates a pewsitter to stay in the pew?

Many people in the church have professional or technical skills of some kind, yet are reticent to use them in the church. I've heard pastors say, "I know what this person does outside the church. But as soon as he enters these doors, it's as if he doesn't know a thing." This likely happens because the person feels he is on the pastor's turf in the church and tends not to want to usurp power. Unless he is asked to use his leadership skills, he will backpedal.

I was a member of one congregation for twenty years and another for eight years. Only once in each congregation was I asked to help train volunteers. I felt a great sadness because I know training is my gift. The mind-blowing thing of the new congregation I've joined is that they've already asked me to train.

In every church there are people who are ready to serve but who need help or an invitation to do so. To transform members from passive to active, I recommend the following.

1. Identify and develop skilled people.

I suggest developing an interview process for new members. Even if the church is small, the key is in talking about the possibilities.

In the interviews, the first questions to ask are

"What are your gifts and talents?"

"What do you like to do?"

The next questions are

"Has your experience with this congregation so far been good or bad?"

"Are there things you'd like to contribute to the church that you've never been asked to do?"

"Do you want more, less, or different involvement?"

"What are your dreams for this congregation?"

It is amazing what comes out of these conversations. People share things they've never shared before.

2. Correct the causes of burnout.

Not all people like being thought of as church leaders. Part of their resistance may be to the old model of leadership: They don't want to be at the church every time the doors are open.

Because of what they have experienced, the view that many have of leadership is of someone burning out. For example, why do churches have a hard time recruiting small-group leaders? Because to many people, leadership means "I've got to take over the whole thing." They think, I don't have the time. I want to go where I can be fed. Burnout is why a great many people who were pillars somewhere else are now pewsitters. They're not going to get used up again. They aren't saying yes to anything.

For this reason, churches need to redefine leadership from "How much have you done?" to "How many others have you involved?"

To further prevent people from getting used up, one key is to rethink the work in light of the gifts of the people. I want every team member to answer four questions.

1. What are the strengths I bring?

2. What are the weaknesses I bring?

3. What is my major concern for this group?

4. What is my major dream for this group?

Answer those questions, and the group will begin to know what each one is good ...

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Posted: May 19, 2004

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