This is a great article that may help ministries better understand why some people won’t stick around, and also as they let them go, it is actually a good thing, “seeding” them for greater ministry elsewhere. We never “own” anyone in ministry. This article can certainly help some ministries release people without burning their bridges.
– Kendall Cobb, ActsCo Printing
I have lived my whole adult life overseas as a cross cultural missionary focused on reaching unreached people groups in Southeast Asia.
Perhaps that’s why this culture of releasing people to flourish in their own unique callings—even without strings attached—is a natural style of leadership for me, and standard approach at Within Reach Global.
On the flipside, I have seen an unspoken trend in Christian ministry that causes us to hold tightly to the staff/volunteers that join missions organizations and churches. The goal is that they remain with our ministry/organization/church as long as possible.
That’s not a bad thing. But I think we’re missing a powerful point here. The purpose of an organization is not to “keep” people as much as it is to “release” them into the higher callings God has for their lives. The point, I think, is to be a platform—a launching pad or diving board, if you will—for bigger, cross organization partnerships.
Creating a culture of freedom that allows staff and volunteers to thrive in their giftings, while exploring other opportunities alongside valuable ministries and organizations, allows for great partnerships and even expansion.
At first glance it seems counter intuitive. “What if all my staff leave?” “How can I get them to stay the course in our organization?” To be sure, these thoughts have naturally crossed my mind on more than one occasion.
I’ll be honest: it’s a scary thought. But I have enjoyed watching a synergy take place between likeminded organizations as we share the human resources in our ministries.
The fact of the matter is, as you release your staff and volunteers to explore opportunities to serve in environments that line up with their gifting and callings, I find that they never really leave. They only go on to bigger and better service for the kingdom, and that’s where unique partnerships take pace. That’s where natural ministry expansion is activated.
Of course, not everyone will “stay” forever. I don’t think that’s the point. But as you invest into people, many relationships will actually be strengthened, teamwork expand, and gospel ministry will have a broader impact.
Take Eli, for example.
He came on board as a volunteer at Within Reach Global for 2 years. An incredible photographer and talented media storyteller, Eli grew in his passion for ministry, narrowing down his focus to speak on behalf of the persecuted Church. After serving at our ministry for 2 years, he approached us about his heart to start his own organization, The Human Rights Network. HRN is now a partner ministry of Within Reach Global. Our reach has expanded and more stories of the persecuted Church are being told. Why? Because our culture of releasing people allowed Eli to thrive in his gifting, enlarge his territory, and focus on the niche ministry that God created him for.
I can mention a number of other names who share this culture of releasing people…
Like Dan and Cassy Silva, founders of Love For The Poor. Their orphan home, Father’s House, is a thriving ministry that we partner with every single week as we send college students to minister to orphans and underprivileged children.
Like Kendall Cobb of ActsCo Printing, whose very nature is to create partnerships with no strings attached. We regularly partner together for fundraising efforts, ministry outreach and sharing of resources.
Like Chuck and Wendy Lenhart, founders of Frontier Harvest Ministries, who mentored me for many years with a culture of releasing people. Over the years, Within Reach Global has adapted many of their strategies for reaching unreached peoples.
Like Todd and Michelle Rosenwald, founders of His Feet International, who are fundraising with us to reach unreached people groups in Southeast Asia.
Like Juliann Itter, who first came to China to visit me, then went on to use her incredible photography skills to empower multiple organizations through Jumay Designs. Her work is found all over the Within Reach Global website.
Like Ron Luce of Teen Mania International, who provided a platform for me to thrive in reaching unreached people groups. When I had dinner with him in Myanmar a few weeks ago, I told him how I would always stand behind Teen Mania International, and believe that he will be credited for many of the successes we see at Within Reach Global.
So in the end, I’m not only talking about partnerships that simply exist on paper or in social media statuses. I’m not talking about hoarding our staff and volunteers. I’m not talking about an introverted perspective of ministry. I’m talking about sharing human resource, ushering in unity and releasing people to go on to bigger and better things.
This is one of our cultures at Within Reach Global, and though there are often uncertainties and even friction between relationships, I pray that our volunteers and missionaries will do greater things than I am ever able.
Special thanks to Chuck Lenhart, Todd Rosenwald, Henrik Jensen, Glenn Robinson and Chris Mak for creating this culture of releasing people during my early days in China.
More special thanks to Richard West and Joanne Mara for helping me articulate these thoughts.