“How does someone actually do the vine work?”
Disagreement is not something I meet much when discussing the ideas of The Trellis and the Vine or The Vine Project. There are quibbles here and there, but it has been rare for someone to disagree with the goal of training all people to be speakers of the Word to others in order to move people towards maturity.
The problem comes in with the “how?” question. Often people say, “I completely agree with the book, I just don’t know how to get things going at our church.”
One surefire way to get some movement is for you (whether you’re a pastor, elder, or a lay leader) to commit to infuse vine work into your regular responsibilities, whether this means in your committee meetings, family car rides, one-to-one meetings, setting up chairs or counselling.
To give you an example of what I mean, I’ve asked my friend Chris Drombetta to sit down with me for a few moments with this topic on the table. He is one of the finest examples I know of someone who has made good progress infusing vine work into all aspects of his church role.
Marty: Chris, what are your responsibilities at church?
Chris: I serve as the Executive Pastor, which means I oversee the management of our staff, facility usage and care, church finances, and general day-to-day ministry operations. The role places me in a lot of meetings with our team, practical problem solving situations, and other administrative responsibilities that come with keeping the wheels of ministry turning. I also oversee our music ministry, which includes planning the main weekly gathering alongside our Senior Pastor, leading the music ministry team, selecting substantive songs that support the Biblical text being preached, and the like.
Marty: So, your ‘official’ role is more heavily slanted towards trellis work (i.e. structures, committees, systems, budgets, etc.). In my experience, men with the title of Executive Pastor, while called a pastor, are much more given to making sure things and people run and work well. If that is the case, how is it that you stay committed to your role as pastor? How do you continue to move people towards maturity in Word and prayer?
Chris: It is certainly a challenge at times! But one of the key points I took away from a Trellis and Vine Workshop years ago is this: infuse as much vine work into your necessary trellis as you possibly can. For example, running a budget meeting or performing a staff review don’t need to be tasks that are missing the important component of vine work.
In the case of the budget meeting, I have an opportunity to cast a vision to our finance team around our vine-centred ministry values that drive every area of ministry, including our budget. It connects the work of budgeting (a helpful trellis) to people-centred Word work. In the case of the staff review, we have an opportunity to evaluate, influence, and deploy our team with a vine-oriented view of their job. This is true of building staff as much as it is the pastoral team. In both of these examples, I think it’s really important to harness the vine work of prayer. In this sense, we might think of every meeting as a prayer meeting of sorts.
Marty: So, let’s talk about your role as Music Team leader. How have you infused vine work in there?
Chris: I think the music ministry piece is a little easier; we have a more explicit mention of a connection between singing and word work in the New Testament (Col 3:16). With that in mind, there are several things we do to infuse vine work into music ministry. One is to get the Bible open with our musicians. An easy way to do this is introducing them to the preaching passage during a midweek rehearsal. Another way that we’ve done this over the years is to run a training course on music and the church. I’ve found Matthias Media’s Sing for Joy to be the most clear, concise, and comprehensive Bible study on the topic. It’s been a great blessing to me over the years.
Marty: And how have you intentionally pursued vine work in the context of your role at church?
Chris: It really starts with the mindset of not unnecessarily bifurcating trellis work with vine work. One very simple and practical example is a little experiment we tried years ago called discipleship training teams. These are essentially small groups (3-5 people) that meet regularly for training in Word work over the course of a year or so. We cover everything from how to read and study the Bible to developing a biblical framework and philosophy for the Christian life. One resource that has been especially helpful in this setting is the book The Thing Is. It’s an accessible but rich little book that challenges our groups to rethink the big idea of the Christian life and Christian ministry.
Marty: Thanks, Chris, for your time and efforts for the gospel.