Empowering Ministry


We live in a world in need of healthy churches. That drives Rev. Ken Nash in his desire to make things better. Unfortunately, that drive has taken him to the place where he believes the model of ministry he has spent most of his life promoting is not the way to go, and now is the time to turn things upside down. 

Nash is the lead pastor at Cornerstone United Methodist Church, a multi-site ministry in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was at Community UMC in Columbia on October 12 – 13 to talk about empowering ministry. He opened by acknowledging that although the upheaval of the last two years has undoubtedly been traumatic, we should look for the blessings. 

“God works through crisis and resurrection,” he said. “God is going to redeem what has happened here.”

Nash believes the pandemic just hit the fast-forward button. “The pandemic exposed where the church was headed anyway. It sped up the timeline by 15 to 20 years,” he said. 

Nash presents the church as two models. One is the Moses model, in which the leader hears from God and comes down the mountain with the vision, and his primary job is convincing people to follow this vision. It’s the model Nash used himself in building his multi-site ministry, and he believes it’s the model most churches are using now. However, he also believes it’s a model that often will not be sustainable in today’s culture. So instead, he is now subscribing to what he calls the Ephesians 4 model. 

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4: 11-13)

With the Moses model, Nash would have a vision for ministry and work to lead his congregation into the vision, being the vision caster. With the Ephesians 4 model, he is concerned with equipping people to live out their calling from the Holy Spirit. 

“It’s not ‘How can I lead you to my dream?’ but ‘How can I serve you to help what God is calling you to do?’” Nash said. 
It comes down to giving people authority over the ministry. Nash said if you give someone a task, you gain a follower, but if you give the person authority, you gain a leader. 

Nash organized his presentation around the model of the apostle Paul equipping Timothy, with the idea that all leaders need to have a Timothy and be a Timothy. 

“The pastor's job is to equip the people of God for service,” he said. “The layperson's job is to serve God out of their calling. 

Nash said that for years he had read the Book of Discipline and tried to do all 75 things a pastor is supposed to do. He got burned out. He nearly quit. As pastor of Cornerstone Church, he has given authority away to several people, but he hasn’t given away ultimate responsibility. It’s not an easy road to take. 

“You get none of the credit but all the blame,” he said. “That’s why I go to counseling.”

Through counseling, he’s learned to step away from performance orientation and to try to stop taking credit and glory for successes in the church. Earlier in his ministry, he grew a church from 80 to 500 people, but he did so through direct leadership rather than empowering others. As a result, when he left, the ministry dwindled. 

“I was building Kenites, not Christians,” he said.  

When Nash returned to Cornerstone after serving a church in Buffalo, NY, he changed the senior leadership team to the servant leadership team. He went to work to get the core leaders to understand they are not the boss – they are there to serve. He now has a servant leadership team with only two staff members and six lay members. 

Nash shared a formula that is a variation of a method often used for training leaders. 
  • I Do. You Watch. We Talk. 
  • I Do. You Help. We Talk. 
  • You Do. I Help. We Talk. 
  • You Do. I Watch. We Talk. 
  • You Do. Somebody Else Watches.

Nash said things commonly get sabotaged in stage 3: You Do. I Help. We Talk. 
“It’s because clergy is still holding on to authority,” he said. “People will do things differently than you, but they will probably do it better than you.”

To evaluate someone’s capacity for leadership in the church, Nash goes to the five Cs. 

The Five C’s
  1. Christlikeness. Are they filled with character and integrity and act the same in private as they do in public? 
  2. Calling. Do they have a passion for the ministry?
  3. Capability. Allow someone to demonstrate capability and offer training where they come up short. 
  4. Chemistry. Are they good with people?
  5. Courage. Do they obey God’s voice when prompted?

Don’t use the 5 C’s to limit people.

“In a church of 500 – you are lucky to have one or two 5c people,” Nash said, noting that most people are strong in one or two of these areas but not all five. 

When leadership teams are being built, Nash said leadership styles should be considered to have a well-rounded team. It also helps people live into their called role instead of awkwardly trying to fill a role that doesn’t come naturally. He presented eight leadership styles. 
8 Leadership Styles
  1. Big Picture Leader: Someone who is wired to see the future. 
  2. Start-Up Leader: Like Paul planting churches, someone who starts something then moves on.  
  3. Procedural Leader: Someone who believes procedures prevent problems, has an organizational thought process and gets systems in place. 
  4. Team Builder: Sets up systems like Jesus bringing together diverse disciples. 
  5. Bridge Builder: When anger rises, their blood pressure goes down. They know how to diffuse tension. 
  6. Critical Crossroads Leader: Understands times are changing, can read the perspective of where the world is evolving. 
  7. Cheer Leader: Someone who will stop and smell the roses and says, “Let’s just celebrate what God just did.” 
  8. Pastoral Leader: Someone energized by providing care and compassion for others.  
Nash said he’s never met someone who is all eight, and he most identifies with being a 1, 2, and 4. 

“As you think of your Timothy, where do they fit in compatibility to your life and ministry,” he said. He said all leaders in the church, including pastors, staff and lay volunteers, should be working to raise Timothy’s who will take their job. That includes pastors raising lay members with a gift for preaching who will preach on Sunday morning. 

“It is fun to say to your congregation: What is your holy disturbance? What keeps you up at night? What makes you angry?” Nash said. “I tell my congregation that my holy disturbance is you. I want your calling to come to life.”