Reflections on 20 Years of Team Leadership

Posted by Dan Jarms on March 8, 2024
Reflections on 20 Years of Team Leadership
Dan Jarms preaches for Resurrection Sunday service in 2023.

My wife Linda and I reach two significant milestones this spring: We cross 25 years of vocational ministry and 20 years as teaching pastor. What have we seen?

These words from David ring true: “But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children” (Psalms 103:17). We have seen the blessing of the goodness of God in our whole family’s life as God has given me the privilege of serving as a pastor at Faith Bible Church.

Dan takes one for the team at an outreach event in August 2000 before being sent to seminary.

In 1999, I began a full-time pastoral residency in children’s and family ministry at Faith Bible Church. I also began seminary classes. In 2001, we moved to Los Angeles with our three children and served at Grace Community Church while I finished seminary. In 2003, we moved back. Nine months later, I was asked to take the teaching pastor role. The church had gone through several rough years of leadership turmoil. Linda and I loved Faith Bible Church and agreed to serve the church family that had so beautifully served our family.

The grace of God marks the entire time we have served here. I want to share some of the most important things we have learned.

1. Christ and His gospel are more precious than ever.

Early in my Christian life, I would have described the gospel as critical because it was the entry to eternal life. That Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead is the amazing news.

Still, as I have studied the Bible front to back repeatedly, I see that the gospel is the A to Z of the Christian life. Paul’s exposition of the gospel in Romans was to stabilize and transform the life and worship of believers. It is precious because I still fall to sin and am reminded of Christ’s full payment. It is precious because the gospel guarantees that I will one day stand in His presence.

When Linda and I agreed that I would take the lead role, we knew we had sin tendencies. But we didn’t know how hard it would be to root out a host of functional saviors. Now, we are as aware as ever that everything except Christ is a rotten savior. The fact that we stand on the love of God in the gospel is the most truly refining reality of our lives.

Several years ago, we reworked our Sunday services at Faith. One of the central elements is the re-presentation of the gospel in different ways throughout the Sunday gathering. The visible fruit in the congregation is astounding. The fruit of the Spirit is more evident than ever.

2. The Holy Spirit really does transform people.

We knew the promise of God from Philippians 1:6, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” It had been happening in us for over a decade, but 25 years in, we can step back and marvel at how the Spirit works. The Word of God, illuminated by the Spirit of God, changes people.

I have the easiest pulpit in the world to preach in. Faith loves the Bible. The first weeks of my role as team lead, I still had responsibilities in children’s ministry. Jeremy Kuhn had recently trusted Christ and helped me watch toddlers on Sunday evenings. I watched him study, grow, lead his family, lead a Growth Group, go to seminary, and he is now at Trinity Church as an elder with Paul Funchess. I could list dozens more names of men and women. Most are not in vocational ministry; they are all full-time servants of Christ and mature in the faith.

At the interpersonal level, Linda and I learned how to disciple and counsel from Earl Dannen. Earl was blind, but gifted with great insight into God’s Word. Earl is now with the Lord, but I watched hundreds of people transformed by God’s Word as Earl had them read Scriptures out loud and think through the implications in their lives. It continues in all our discipling to this day. Some of the hardest counseling cases come to the Faith Biblical Counseling Center and we see God’s Word do dramatic work.

The Jarms family Christmas card from 2004, the year Dan was appointed as teaching pastor and team lead.

3. The church has truly ministered to my family.

I know a lot of husbands and dads take seriously the charge to lead their wives and train their children (Ephesians 5-6). I took the charge seriously too. But we needed the whole church.

From the example of Ron Rodolph and Kurt and Linda Kimball, my boys saw adults who were passionate about serving and teaching kids. Teachers and leaders were joyful, fun, and scripturally saturated in every grade level. At pivotal moments in each child’s life, a fellow believer was there. Corey Millican, Isaiah Mackler and Nathan Thiry played critical roles coming alongside each. Caroline (Belch) Vaughn comforted my daughter after a painful breakup. At moments when their faith could be on the edge, someone from the body of Christ was there for our children.

When they grew up and went to college, it was still the most natural thing to do what they saw: serve the church. The church even with her flaws is God’s beautiful idea.

4. Shepherd the hearts of leaders.

You might think that preaching is my number-one job, but really it’s elder soul care. Without spiritually healthy elders, pastors, and their wives, we are just one crisis away from division or disqualification.

Central to our role has been shepherding the hearts of the elders, pastors and wives. Linda’s number-one ministry has been as wife and mother; number two has been to the pastors’ and elders’ wives. Only recently has she added a role in MomLife and women’s Bible study.

Linda is the unsung hero and invaluable glue to the transparent and tender relationships we have as leadership couples. It’s not an exaggeration: After every meeting I have with an elder or pastor, she will ask, “How are they doing?” She means, “How is their marriage and their soul?” She isn’t looking for dirt. She is looking for health and ready to help. Healthy leaders are key to healthy congregations.

Dan and Linda at The Master's Seminary Spokane graduation in May 2021.

5. Authentic ministry feels like weakness.

During my time in seminary in California, there were two years of leadership turmoil and turnover back at Faith. I came back to a fractured eldership. Nine months later, I was asked to take the role of teaching pastor. More trouble plagued my first six months. Literally hundreds of people left the church, and some of my children had no friends their age left.

It was a heart-breaking reality. These were my brothers and sisters in the Lord. Fundamental issues of fractured leadership and legalism slowly repaired. The people-pleaser in me was frustrated and the people-lover was grieved.

In 2005, Linda and I picked up Kent and Barbara Hughes’ Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome. It gave us the singular word for a life of ministry: faithfulness. All God requires is our faithfulness. I have no illusions about my preaching and leadership gifts. I was not going to fill the seats with my wit, my vision, my oratory or my charisma. But, if we abide in Christ, we can be faithful.

Somewhere in 2008, I came across a life-changing sermon series by William Taylor, who preached out of 2 Corinthians 12:8-11. He said, “You know when you are doing authentic ministry when it feels like weakness.” It has always really felt like that. An issue, a conflict, a potential division kept us weak, dependent on the Scripture, and prayerful.

Yet, if you look at the fruit of Faith Bible Church even through the hard times, it is astounding. While hundreds did leave, even more stayed. Thirty-five couples are now in full-time ministry. Some are global partners. Some are pastors. Dozens of couples have become Growth Group leaders. Hundreds of people have served children and families. Hundreds of singles have served and discipled in all ministries. We have planted three churches. We have a seminary on campus. Every year I look back and think, “How did that happen?”

6. Admit your limits and let the church fill in your gaps.

For so many years, I thought I had to be the charismatic visionary leader, master pulpiteer and dynamic leadership guru. I worked in too many areas, said yes to too many things and then underperformed. At a crucial point, godly and patient elders helped me shrink my focus and gave me the permission to let other things drop.

I didn’t need to be super pastor. It wasn’t working. I am surrounded by a team of extraordinary pastors and elders. We have great preachers, equippers and trainers. Our elders are exceptional shepherds. Our counselors counsel pastors from other churches. That’s how skilled they are. Sometimes the most important leadership action I take is to ask the team, “What should we do?” I am not Solomon. I don’t need to have all the answers. I just need to make sure the team finds them.

My preaching prep team is insightful and fills in many gaps each week. You all benefit from their work.

7. Please Jesus and you can rest at night; please people and you will never leave the treadmill.

The pandemic cemented a lesson the Lord has been working in me for years. All I really needed to do was please Him. But, many times I approached a problem or a project trying to make everybody happy.

During the pandemic and the political upheaval of the Black Lives Matter movement, churches across the country were racked by division. We had our share. In a one-hour period, I could be on the phone with someone who thought we were too reckless in our ministry approach and another who claimed we were too politically conservative. The next call would be from someone who thought Covid was a hoax. The next claimed I was too politically liberal.

What a relief it became to know that all I needed to do was please Jesus.

The elders were phenomenal during this period. We were united, patient and diligent to weigh matters carefully. In the end, all we had to do was please the Lord. All in all, our core members were thankful, prayerful and supportive.

I may always have the besetting sin of people-pleasing. But, I am quicker to turn to the Lord and trust Him. What Jesus has done on the cross for us has shown us that He loves us. He is already pleased to call us His children. That is all I need.

I really am more energetic and excited about ministry than ever before. Twenty years of team leadership has shown me that God will be on the other side of the next crisis and the next blessing. Even better, He has shown that He will be near us in both.

Dan helps set up for family camp at Templin's Resort in 2001.

Dan teaches at a children's event in February 2001.

Dan Jarms

Dr. Dan Jarms is teaching pastor and team leader at Faith Bible Church in Spokane Washington, as well as associate dean at TMS Spokane. He has been married for over 30 years to Linda, and has three adult children. He earned his B.A. in English at the Master’s College, B.Ed. at Eastern Washington University, M.Div and D.Min in Expository Preaching at The Master’s Seminary. His other interests include NCAA basketball, gardening, brick oven cooking.

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