How to Become a People Builder

For 12 years the Green Bay Packers won only 30 percent of their games. By 1958 they were 1 in 10. They were terrible. Then came Vince Lombardi. He was a people builder. During the next nine years with the Packers, he had nine winning seasons. They beat their opponents 75 percent of the time and won five championships, including the first two Super Bowls. That's the resume of a people builder. A people builder makes people better.

Pastor, you're a people-builder, too. God is using you to help people be all that he has made them to be. But more than likely, you've never been trained to do that. How do you bring out the best in people? Whether it's the average lay person in your congregation, a leader you're mentoring, or a staff person you're helping to grow, your ability to build people is essential to what you do. In fact, your need to be a people builder doesn't go away when you leave your ministry role. You also need to be a builder of your family and friends as well.

These four steps will help you build people more effectively:

1. Give people a personal challenge. Paul does this in Ephesians 4:1: "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." He challenges readers to make their lives count. Why? We all need a cause, a project, or a dream that calls forth the best in our lives. Your people need such a cause or dream to strive for as well.

God wants us and our congregations to use our strengths and abilities for him. In the secular world, career planning, temperment analysis, and competency tests are big business. Why? We all need someone who will give us a personal challenge, help us discover what we're good at, and urge us to do it well.

The Bible teaches us that's what the church should do. We should be people builders. That's always been the thought behind our main classes at Saddleback. In each of those classes we challenge people to live out God's purposes. What's your church doing to challenge people to fulfill God's purposes?

2. Give them complete confidence. Paul says in Romans 15:2, "We who are strong in the faith ought to help the weak in order to build them up in the faith." Paul tells us to build up others in the faith. Pastor, to bring out the best in others, we need to give them complete confidence in what God can do through them. Jesus did this with Peter. Peter's name "Petros" meant pebble. Jesus said, "Pebble, you're going to be a rock. I'm giving you a new name." When Jesus said that to Peter, he was anything but a rock. He was Mr. Impulsive, Mr. Foot-in-Mouth, Mr. Let's Do It! But Jesus said he was going going to be a rock. Jesus didn't tell him what he was; he told him what he could be.

Whenever you label somebody, you reinforce what they are. Label the people you lead "lazy," "unorganized," or "a temper problem," and that's what you'll get. Build them up instead. God did this to Gideon. He called him a "mighty man of courage" when he was the biggest wimp out there. God called him a man of courage, and he became one.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Encourage one another and build each other up." If you're going to be a people builder, you've got to be good at encouragement. How do you do that? Here are three tips:

  • It needs to be real – not some kind of phony manipulation.
  •  It needs to be regular. Express it all the time.
  •  It needs to be recognizable or precise. Tell the person exactly what you're encouraging in him or her.

Sometimes you'll hear people say, "Whenever something is wrong, I hear it from my boss!" Don't be that kind of boss; it's poor leadership.

3. Give them wise counsel. You'll see no progress without learning, and no learning without feedback. Since none of us are perfect, our perception gets off base. We need people in our lives who will lay it out on the line and be honest with us.

Proverbs 27:17 (GN) says, "People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron." We bring out the best in others when we're willing to be honest with them. People builders care enough to correct and confront.

Remember, though, correction is very powerful and dangerous. Correction done the right way builds people up; correction done the wrong way can scar a person for life. What is the difference between the right and wrong way to correct? It's your attitude in correcting. If your attitude is: "I'm going to point out this weakness in your life just to point it out," that's wrong. People don't need to have their faults pointed out. Most of us are well aware of our faults. Your purpose must be to change their behavior not to condemn them. Ephesians 4:15 says, "Speak the truth in love."

4. Give them full credit. To be a people builder, you need to praise the growth and the changes you see in the lives of others. I used to have a sign in my office, "God can do great things through the person who doesn't care who gets the credit." That's part of people-building. Usually we like to share the blame and keep the credit. The Bible says we're to do just the opposite. Ephesians 4:15 says, "Let us have real, warm affection for each other and a willingness to let others have the credit."

As a pastor, you'll get a lot of the credit when things go well (and a lot of the blame when they don't). That's natural. But next time someone showers you with praise for something going well at the church (recent growth, a new event that's making an impact, or something like that), find out who should share the credit and give it to them. That's leadership. It's also how you build the leaders you have. If you're always taking the credit for what's happening in your church, it shouldn't surprise you when you have trouble keeping leaders.

Applying these four principles will take a lot of work. I won't sugar-coat it. There's always a price tag to being a people builder. It may take your time, your effort, your money, your energy – and it may lead to losing your privacy. Most of all, it'll cost you selfishness. You can't be selfish and be a people builder.

So why should you do it? Because of what God has done for you. God has been good to you; you should be good to others. Do it out of a response to all God has done in your life. I want to challenge you to spend the rest of your ministry – the rest of your life for that matter – as a people builder. Focus your ministry around helping others be all that God has called them to be. That's what a shepherd does; that's what a pastor does.

I can't think of a better way to spend my life.