A, B, and C Team

Turning Pew Sitters Into the Ministry A Team

“I’m not interested in being on somebody’s B team,” my friend said.

He was talking about churches that distinguish ministry work and responsibility based on whether a person receives a salary from the church. Those on the A team (pastors and ministry staff) call all the shots, closely control all the work of the church, and lead all initiatives. The B team is expected to pay the salary of those on the A team, follow orders, and be quiet.

My friend is a highly capable, extremely successful guy in the real world. He has lots of ministry ideas and the leadership talents to make big things happen. But he’s been told to conform to the status quo of the A team. Now he’s become frustrated enough that he’s given up completely on the organized church.

Though rarely referred to as such, the A and B team distinction is widely evident. It is one of the significant factors causing the decline of the American church today. Unfortunately, the majority now perceives that ministry–and being a disciple–is something that paid professionals do. The role of the people is to attend a presentation once a week, watch the rehearsed show, pay the performers, go home and resume life as usual.

This A/B distinction is not only disempowering the disciples, it’s discouraging our most capable, highest capacity people. They’ve somehow construed that they’re just members, second-rate Christians because they lack a theological degree, and cannot truly lead without being on the church payroll.

What’s more, members and attendees sometimes gather the impression that the clergy have attained higher favor with God.


How are the people getting this sense of hierarchy? It often comes across in subtle and unintended ways. Some examples:
— The church’s website illustrates its ministry with dominant pictures of the pastor.
— The church attributes its success (Sunday attendance) to the work of the professionals on stage.
— The staff describes ministry fruit in terms of the number of members who have gone on to pursue full-time ministry (paid).

This concept of ministry and discipleship is not what Jesus advocated. I do think he wants all of us to be engaged in full-time ministry–right where we are, all the time, in our vocations, at school, on the bus, at home, and even at church. But his end game was not to convert everyone into paid A-team church employees.

Paid staff play a crucial role. They set the tone for ministry. And most would love to see more and more of their people move from being mere pew sitters to become full partners in ministry.


So, how might we promote everybody onto the ministry A team? Some ideas:

1. Listen to people. Suppress the temptation to do all the talking. Respectful listening telegraphs that others have something important to contribute.
2. Devote time for people to share their God stories, which often can be more powerful and authentic than typical sermon illustrations.
3. Let capable people run with significant ministries–without bridling them with the urge to control.
4. Act more like a coach than a guru. Equip people to flourish on the real ministry field–where they live every day.
5. Spend ample time out on the ministry field–helping and cheerleading (not lording over) the people on the field.
6. Celebrate the wins on the field. Dedicate time every week to highlight how God is working through your people in remarkable ways.
7. Remind people–every week–that they are the ministers, the disciples, carrying out real ministry in ways for which they are uniquely qualified.

The church is the Body of Christ. Every part is important. We’re all in this together.

21 Responses to “Turning Pew Sitters Into the Ministry A Team”

  1. Wow. Finally something my Presbyterianism gets right. Well truth be told, not entirely right. When we as clergy Truely embrace our own reformed history and endorse and cheer on the priesthood of believers we start to get it right. I’ve never been the pastor of a church where the “laity” did my bidding and jumped when I speak. Praise God! I myself am a product of a pastor who empowered me as a volunteer to experiment and shoot for the stars. Indeed we are all in this together. Aren’t we to be equally yoked with differing gifts. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. Peace of Christ, Mark

  2. What you say may be true in some churches. Not in ours. The church council and board of elders has a lot to say about the functionality of the church.

    • I think in some churches the church board and council act like a board of directors and the head pastor acts like the CEO. At times, I’m not even sure it’s deliberate. It just tends to be how things are organized in the business world and at times transfers over to how the church runs.

  3. Agree. Very good article. All are called to be disciples of Christ. Not pews sitters for anyone. We are all commanded to serve God in divers ministries. None is spared from serving God. Otherwise we will be cast away like the unfaithful servant with one talent.

    • My question would be: What are those “divers ministries?”
      Are the ministries to the congregation (local) or to the Church universal or to the unbeliever? Much of what we have classified as ministry – isn’t ministry at all.

  4. And sometimes those reinforcing the “A team” and “B team” mentality are lay leaders themselves, many of whom have held power within a congregation for so long, that they decide who’s worthy to lead and who isn’t. And all too often it comes down to whether someone is part of their clique or not.

  5. Looks like your friend has a problem with pride and rebellion. These are two things that tear churches apart. Fortunately he is no longer attending there.

    I have seen his kind before. Never happy unless he is in the spotlight. Can’t take a lowlight position in the church and be happy with it. Has to be on the “A” team.

    I was like this at one point in my life. Thought everyone should do it MY way. Why don’t they ask me my opinion? It was all about ME. I left the church mad and angry. Went a different way. To a different church. Did it differently.

    Then one day God told me (through a book I was reading) to go back and apologize. To ask forgiveness for my rebellious attitude shown toward the leaders of the church. They forgave me and welcomed me back.

    I’m not in a paid position. But I have the privilege of teaching a weekly adult class. This is my job. I love it. Not for the pay…but for the OPPORTUNITY to WORK in the MINISTRY of HIS church.

    • From the article, I’m not reading his friends has a problem with pride and rebellion. One can question leadership without being in rebellion. A great example is recorded in Acts 17 where the Berea believers searched the Scriptures and were questioning what they were being taught. And, they were being taught by the Apostle Paul.

      One can question with a MY way attitude, but it’s also possible to question with a HIS way attitude.

      • The problem I see here is that this fellow, after questioning it, he seemed to give up on organized church. So now he has joined the ranks of “they’re not doing it my way, so I quit.”

        If he doesn’t feel he’s getting what he needs, he should go somewhere else. But if he is just quitting on church, because he didn’t get his way, I don’t feel sorry in the least.

  6. Our denomination (yes, I know denominations aren’t relevant to people on the outside of Church looking in) is struggling with this mindset as we try to resource more and more smaller churches with professional and semi-professional clergy. These days I find myself wondering if we’d be struggling to do this and closing churches if we had invested more completely in equipping all Christians for the ministries Christ calls them to and the Spirit gifts them for. Unfortunately, our upper level leadership is still trying to put a lot of its eggs in the basket of calling people to “representative” professional ministry. My fear is that we will continue to get the same results we’ve gotten for the last forty years if we continue to do this. Our church is striving to get serious and be intentional about equipping ministry. I think it is a positive way forward for churches seeking to be vital and make a difference.

  7. Charlie Robinson Reply June 24, 2014 at 7:23 am

    1. Too many “laypersons” (I hate that term – it is by definition divisive!) want a hero/leader person to look up to and follow. Church members need to remember I Corinthians 1.
    2. Too many leaders want the adoration and praise of their church and when they get it feel they deserve it.
    3. Therefore, we all need to stop being people/personality centered and go back to being Christ-centered. Maybe if we focused more on God we could find we actually can work together without any “A” or “B” or “C” group. To God be the Glory!

  8. That in ALL things HE might have the pre-eminence! Problem solved.

  9. I know the pattern in my life has not been positive in regards to finding the perfect church. I was tempted to give up but the bondage of legalism kept me attending — somewhere.

    Eventually God got ahold of me, not in the church, but in the normal course of life, doing the things I do. I have been learning, and I suspect will continue to learn, many people want to serve God. Many people want what they have not been gifted to earn. Most people want what someone else has, whether that be time, talent or treasure. Few, if any, live out life as “the good and faithful” managers of what God has given us.

    It is most valuable to learn that I am a forgiven adopted child with all the rights and privileges of Jesus’ inheritance. That I am a servant of THE Most High God. Understanding and living in the knowledge that God knew me and formed me to be “just me” even before the beginning of time.

    We should be, as so called A-team and B-team members, reminding each other and encouraging each other daily to live the life we have been given for others following Jesus’ example.

  10. Not disagreeing with this at all, it seems like an accurate depiction of churches I’ve experienced. The bigger question for me is how the A team who are often paid full time to be on the A team can come up with such a vanilla experience each week. There is more to worship than singing, and more to learning than a lecture.

  11. What i gather from the article is that the person mentioned feels as if he’s being used while being slighted. In other words – he doesn’t want to be someones doormat worker/drone at the same time paying their salaries.
    This dichotomy that exist in most organized churches tends to be very hurtful. When we look at Christ as preeminent, we will stop much of the silly notions of “A” team and “B” team. We have developed a system of ranks that are not validated by scripture. As a believer, I should feel free to enter any assembly and function as part of the body. However, because of the “kingdom” culture that has been taken out of context – everyone is trying to rule their own houses with “diligence”. The house belongs to God and everyone else is just part of the Body. Some of you may cry rebellion – no… I’m a former traditional pastor (I say traditional because I still pastor – or mentor, just not the same way I used to). I got tired of the cliques and and wanted to get back to a simpler time. Now – I no longer attach myself to a building, branding, or denomination – I just want to share what God has given me as I receive what God has given you according to the scriptures…so all can be edified.

  12. I Cor. 12:22-24, “No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor, and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body having given greater honor to that part which lacks it,…” It is humbling to see that the church at Corinth had the same struggles and need for encouragement that our modern churches have…for some odd reason we forget that there is, “…nothing new under the sun” Ecc. 1:9. The greatest disappointment, that has helped this, is that the church has been conditioned by our culture to believe that the only person “worthy” to be in leadership is paid staff, they are being elevated and being viewed the same way as our mechanic, specialized Dr, pest control specialist, air conditioning service provider, etc…the specialization of secular work catalyzes the mentality that only group “A” is qualified. While I am not a negative person I want to end by saying that the beauty of 1 Cor. 12 is that Christ is the Head of the body and He is always ready to use “less honorable” people…because, as evidenced by all of Scritpure, He will receive the most glory!

  13. And most important, get rid of the A team and everyone becomes a member of it.

  14. The Bible does not validate all the ranks we have in our churches today. This is not the church that Jesus was teaching about. I understand his frustration with being expected to just walk in, sit down, shut up, listen and leave. Come back next week and repeat the process. Oh and don’t forget to give money so many salaries can be paid. This is not ministry. Every person in the church has been equipped with a gift that is to be used to further the kingdom of God. It takes us all to be complete. There should not be an A team and a B team. All equal.


  1. Leadership Roundup | Worship Links - July 3, 2014

    […] Thom Schultz explains how to get everybody on your team on the same team: […]

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