In the book, Ready, Set, Grow, Scott Wilson, senior pastor of The Oaks Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, shares how he moved his spiritual community from Sunday attendance of 650 to more than 1,000 in three years. He established a plan and inspired his staff of eight ministry leaders to evolve from workers to equippers to multipliers. He also enrolled his board to move beyond oversight of church business and “assume the role of spiritual shepherds.”
At first, I felt hard-pressed to identify with Scott Wilson’s challenge, his motivational techniques and his results. To start, Wilson was a seasoned senior pastor of a large established evangelical community. His goal was to break a ceiling of 650 people. He had a motivated paid staff leading large existing ministries. They already had in their hearts a desire to “bring more people to Christ.” In contrast, I am a new spiritual leader, pioneering a four-year-old Unity center in a Chicago suburb. We have a staff of one—me! For us, a congregation of 650 is a dream. From this perspective, I was tempted at first to dismiss much of what this book had to say.
But I kept at it. I laid my skepticism aside and ‟listened” for what was mine to hear. I loved Wilson’s ‟aim high” approach. I sensed there were helpful underlying principles for me to glean about consciousness growth and leadership development. After all, in the first chapter the reader is asked to ‟catch the heart of the strategy” and ‟adapt the specifics to fit your situation and your team.” I knew I could learn something if I remained open.
Wilson knew that it would take time to grow his community beyond their 650 ceiling. He devised a three-year plan to shift the culture and expand the capabilities of his leaders. His three steps were:
Year 1: Modeling
To become better role models, Wilson challenged his staff to immerse themselves in inspiring books and podcasts on spiritual life and leadership for the first year. They agreed to each read 36 books and listen to 104 podcasts. “The first stage of our strategy wasn’t to sharpen skills but to fill our hearts,” writes Wilson. At the end of the first year, his staff led differently. They became deeper, more creative leaders, and better role models of spiritual life. They were people who now had the capacity to lead and equip others to lead.
Year 2: Mentoring
Once the staff grew to being equippers rather than workers, Wilson next challenged each member of his staff to identify five key members on their ministry teams who had the capacity to lead and equip others. These identified people were asked by the staff ministry leaders to “commit themselves to filling their hearts with truth, grace and leadership principles so they can pour themselves into others.” Their goals were five books and 12 podcasts in a year. Over the course of this second year, each staff ministry leader and his/her five selected potential leaders met regularly as a group to share what they were learning together. They built strong relationships and lives started changing.
Year 3: Multiplying
In the third year, the staff members became multipliers. They were asked to lay out a plan for their designated leaders, who were in turn charged with identifying more potential leaders and laying out a plan for them. Everyone was engaged in group work reading spiritual books, listening to podcasts and meeting together to share and grow.
Throughout, Scott Wilson openly assesses himself and provides useful insights for those who would follow his path. He shares the lessons he learned and the different choices he would make if he had it to do over. At the end of the third year, The Oaks Fellowship did indeed break their goal of 1,000 regular attendees. Several people on his staff grew substantially and are now serving in much greater capacities, including as senior pastors at their own ministries.
The Lessons that I Gleaned
- The size of a spiritual community that a minister and his/her staff can effectively lead is precisely the size that the community already is. That is a tough pill to swallow, but it is nevertheless one we must accept!
- We as leaders must change if we want to grow our communities. We must grow to become leaders of organizations who are capable of ministering to a much larger population.
- Change starts with becoming people who model spiritual life for others. It takes years to effect this change. We must be patient and take the time to grow hearts, build ownership and raise consciousness.
- As leaders, we must be in continual growth. Wilson says, “We can attract and equip people no sharper than we are, and probably a notch or two lower.” That means our first-generation leaders need to be sharper (higher consciousness) than our second-generation leaders, and so on. If we want to increase the population of people in our communities, leaders must continually grow themselves and expand their ability to model spiritual life.
- Even if we don’t have full ministry staffs, we can still aim high. We can be in constant search for where sparks are igniting in people. We can gather those with leadership potential, establish shared goals to grow spiritually together, be in regular communication with them as they grow, and support them in growing others.
- I am reminded that lay leadership is much more than leading groups or events. It’s about loving and caring for people and influencing them to grow spiritually. It’s about having in our hearts a burning desire to expand our message in the world.
As I read Ready, Set, Grow, I couldn’t help seeing just how much the evangelicals are wired to expand their message. I am personally in inquiry about how we in Unity can inspire our communities to be as fervent. I am open to being in dialogue on this.Take our survey about ideas presented in this article. View the survey results of your peers.