I’m sure you have figured out—no matter how long you have been in your church—that everyone isn’t a leader. That isn’t to say people aren’t in “leadership positions” because they are. But having a title doesn’t translate into leadership ability. Every “leader” isn’t a leader.
Just as certain, I’m also sure you have figured out every church needs leadership. Training and developing a band of qualified and passionate leaders is absolutely essential for the health of any congregation—and especially for a congregation whose pastor is bi-vocational.
But, whether a pastor is full-time in ministry or bi-vocational there is still a responsibility to develop leaders in the church. Here are six things I’ve learned in my efforts to find, develop, and utilize leaders.
If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to begin praying that God would raise up more leaders in your church. Of course He’s not really surprised you need more leaders. In fact, He already knows who He wants to send (or raise up within) your congregation. He cares more about your church than you do. So pray and see what He does.
2. Look within your congregation.
The sometimes-frustrating truth is that for many pastors in smaller congregations, it may be that you just don’t have many leaders yet. But before you write everyone off, you may want to consider what qualifications you are requiring. I know many gifted leaders who don’t have theology degrees or years of ministry experience but who are uniquely gifted by God to lead in His Church. Obviously the Bible has qualifications you absolutely cannot ignore, and you certainly don’t want to ignore your God-given wisdom and common sense. But don’t require leaders to meet your own non-essential criteria.
3. Cast a clear vision.
When I find someone with leadership potential, one of the first things that I do is sit down with them and cast a vision for their potential leadership role. Leaders need to know what they are working toward, and having a clear end goal will allow them to develop more quickly and get others on board.
4. Avoid titles.
I have seen that when someone has a title they begin to fill in the blanks with what they think that means (and it also becomes much more difficult to remove them if need be). They really need to prove their faithfulness over time and to allow the church to affirm their gifts. When the appropriate time comes, their title will probably not surprise anyone.
5. Create real community with them.
As a young Christian and leader, I believed the seasoned leaders in my church were pretty much perfect. So I was either left with the daunting task of measuring up or with the disappointment of their failures. But they were humans, and so are we. Young leaders need to see how you deal with your faults as much or more than how you excel. Don’t hide your brokenness from the leaders you are developing, but show them how you are overcoming weakness and sin. They will never be just like you, but they will often make the same mistakes. Give them the real picture of leadership—one of daily humble, repentance. In the process, you’ll actually grow as well as you experience this honest Christian community that pastors so often miss out on.
6. Give them consistent, constructive feedback.
This is not a license for micromanagement or nitpicking but growth and empowerment. If you’ve cast a clear vision and set reasonable expectations, then you need to help them see their progress and areas for improvement. What did you desire from your mentors as a budding leader? I wanted them to notice when I excelled, I wanted to be approached respectfully (though directly and clearly) when I messed up or fell short and I wanted to be trusted when appropriate. And, adding on to the importance of Christian community, invite open, honest feedback from them. These should be two-way conversations, not simply “employee” evaluations.
If you will practice these six disciplines expect to experience some of the most difficult and frustrating, yet beautiful and empowering moments in your ministry.