Chapter 5 – Equipping

Typically, when we talk about equipping in ministry settings, we focus immediately on the needs of the person who is being trained. Jay suggests that we begin instead by examining the qualifications of the one who does the equipping. He recommends four critical qualifications in equippers:

  • Growing in an intimate relationship with God.
  • Being a life-long learner who keeps up with the issues of the day.
  • Willingness to risk disappointment and handling the failures of others with grace, such as when protégés may fail to follow through with training situations or ministry assignments.
  • Being a servant, including service in areas that might be perceived as below one's rank or out of one's comfort zone.

Without these characteristics in the equipper, training can only transfer theoretical information and task skills, not practical tools and life skills. We may think that theory and task "equip" our flock. However, such an approach ultimately creates a membership that may be wide but is inevitably shallow. Also, over-simplicity in training is not a wise response to cultural complexity. We need well-equipped disciples to face the difficult issues of our time with maturity, wisdom, grace, and servanthood.

Jay offers two key reasons why the church in America now struggles to equip its members for ministry. First, people have changed their priorities from a life revolving around spiritual matters to one revolving around worldly matters. Second, we have succumbed to justifying the need for Christians to be involved with non-Christians in the non-Christians' environment, when it should be the most natural thing in the world to connect with people in community settings. In reality, this means we have exchanged time we used to invest in ministry equipping for activities that neither equip nor minister, and no equipping has been put in its place.

Also, it does not benefit the Kingdom when we lower the bar of equipping in our attempts to market our supposed cultural relevancy. So, it does not matter what methodological model of being/doing church we use – attractional or missional, house church or mega-church – if we put no intentionality, evaluation tools, or accountability into our equipping, then the long-term ministry results are minimal, despite whatever short-term success we may perceive.

If we fail to connect, identify, and equip every member for meaningful ministry, then the gulf between "professionals" and "lay people" will continue to widen. And that is the same slippery slope as faced by the Church in Europe over many centuries. Given the dismal modern history of impact through the Church there, shouldn't we expect similarly negative results here in North America?

Fortunately, there are now countless resources available as solutions for our general and specialized equipping needs. Many of these use multiple means of presentation and distribution. So, we can now better accommodate different learning style preferences of people and still transfer the essential information. However, much equipping will always need to be done face-to-face by committed, qualified mentors (or whatever other term we want to use). Only then will character issues and ministry skills remain integrated.