By Steven Ackley
Some things I often hear in ministry are, “That person hasn’t been around in months” or “He wasn’t really committed anyway.” These types of comments frustrate me. Why? Because they demonstrate a lack of belief in the potential of those who are in our ministries.
If we are going to reach, develop, and deploy people for the mission of God and the growth of the local church, we must remain committed to identifying potential in those we lead and developing them toward that end. Consider the example of Jesus. He brought along with Him a group of ragtag guys and identified what could be to help them grow into the significant future that He saw for them.
Here are five things to keep in mind as you identify the potential of those you lead in ministry.
Don’t limit potential to the exact same thing.
Some ministry leaders are only looking for the next worship leader, pastor, or missionary. Some are only looking for the next small group leader or preschool ministry director. Avoid the temptation to put potential in a box. See the potential in every follower of Jesus in your ministry.
Be intentional about the ways that you identify potential.
You must have a plan for how you will assess and identify the gifts and trajectory of those in your ministry. It may be through a gifts assessments or just a keen eye on the life of someone. It may be through a discipleship relationship or a conversation about what they do, enjoy, and hope to become one day. However you deem most appropriate for you and your ministry to identify these things, don’t do this purely with a test or by observation. Always include integration and conversation in this assessment process.
This is where Jesus had something going for Him that we don’t: He knew the very hearts, souls, and futures of everyone He interacted with! We obviously don’t have that ability, so we must take time to know and hear from those we lead to most effectively help them identify and develop toward their potential.
Create an environment where there is freedom to explore and fail.
One of the things that sometimes leads to ministry leaders writing off people is the idea that you can strike out in identifying potential. Give the people you lead freedom to explore different potentials. In addition, there must be freedom to fail at the things that you see potentially in their future. If it doesn’t work one time, it does not automatically mean that all potential is gone.
Be sure you have the right goal in mind when identifying potential in people.
The goal is not for someone to become the best ever in the history of the world at whatever it is that they do in life or in the church. The hope is to help them discover the importance of serving in whatever it is that God has wired them to do. They may not be the best worship leader or the best small group leader. But there is potential for them to serve faithfully and leverage their lives for the mission of God. This is the goal of identifying potential and furthering the mission of God and the growth of the local church. Keep these things central.
Remember that everyone has potential.
The issue is ours if we don’t identify the potential or train our people to see their own potential and develop it for Kingdom purposes. Be committed to helping identify the potential of all the people you lead in ministry. Keep in mind that the Lord often uses the least to do the greatest. Story after story in the Bible is how God used the weak, the unexpected, and the unlikely to accomplish great things for His Kingdom.
Don’t limit your view. See the potential in everyone. Whether you see it today or can’t imagine what could be, help develop those you lead for Kingdom impact and you’ll honor the Lord in your ministry and the world will feel the impact of your ministry for years to come.
Steven Ackley, his wife Emily, and their four kids live out their love for anything sports and Cookout milkshakes in Murfreesboro, TN where Steven serves as the NextGen and College Pastor at LifePoint Church. Steven holds a D.Min. and an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.