Mobilizing and Motivating People for Ministry

When it comes to mobilizing people for ministry action—either inside or beyond the congregation—recently ordained clergy rely most heavily on themselves as the source of mobilization. This is consistent regardless of whether or not they benefitted from post-seminary Transition into Ministry (TiM) development programs.

Clergy report that their preferred methods for mobilizing are setting an example by getting personally involved (a version of being a role model); extending personal invitations to individuals; using one-on-one conversations to explore and encourage people’s passions; and preaching as a way of generating interest. Almost all newer clergy reportedly use these methods at least somewhat regularly—much more frequently than any other method.


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Example, proclamation, and direct personal invitation are powerful means of motivating and mobilizing people for engaging in ministry, outreach, and mission. They are essential tools: people are moved to get involved when they hear a clear call, see a living example, and receive a personal invitation. Perhaps the most powerful motivation comes from conversations in which a leader invites someone to name her passions, concerns, gifts, and strengths—and then invites her to get involved, based on what she has shared.

But these are not the only ways to motivate and mobilize people. Indeed, while they can be essential for “getting the ball rolling,” often they are not enough to mobilize people into action. One of the problems with clergy relying too much on these four strategies is that they can end up thinking of themselves as the font, the source, of all mobilization in a faith community.

It seems that recently ordained clergy drift toward this way of thinking. They are less likely to think of themselves as creating settings or situations in which leaders and followers can step forward. They do not regularly create and strengthen groups that require leadership for mobilizing people, nor do they regularly position the congregation and its members for roles in a wider community or judicatory effort. TiM-trained clergy report only a modestly higher frequency of forming community groups that act for change.

In the age of Twitter, Facebook, and other web-based and texting social media, recently ordained clergy still depend most heavily on personal, verbal connection. They make modest use of their church’s or organization’s websites to recruit and mobilize people, and they use interactive social media modestly for these purposes as well. Their primary reliance on mobilizing people through example, proclamation, and personal conversation and invitation suggests that they have internalized the classic wisdom in evangelism and ministry: lead first with the personal invitation, then move from the personal to the impersonal.

Newer clergy rarely turn to external sources of insight and expertise, such as a leadership coach or community organizing training, for help in learning to effectively mobilize people. As in other types of leadership development, clergy tend to develop their capacities mostly through the ups and downs of on-the-job learning. Again, TiM-trained clergy report a modestly higher frequency of using community organizing strategies, revealing that they have had somewhat more exposure to these approaches.



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