I’ve just taken on the role of developing leadership within the church I serve as a pastor. It’s a wide role and open-ended. What type of leaders – do you mean pastors and ministry apprentices? Will it include members of the congregation? Is this about growth group leaders? What about children’s and youth leaders? Aren’t they someone else’s responsibility? Will this involve women as well as men? Shouldn’t each area of ministry be doing this anyway? Will you be creating new opportunities for leadership? And these are just some of my questions! I’m sure you can think of dozens of others. The role is really about making sure we’re recruiting, training, equipping, supporting, and multiplying our leaders across the church. The answer to every question above is ‘yes’!
It’s easy for us to be very monochrome when it comes to thinking about leadership. We might limit our focus to paid staff for example and say that they’re our leaders. We could think of the governing body of the church as the leaders. Or we might limit our thinking to all the people who have the title of ‘leader’, such as our growth group leaders, kingdom kids (Sunday School) leaders, youth leaders, service leaders, and so on. If we think role as well as title, then we have leaders (or at least we need leaders) in all kinds of places. Every ministry team needs a leader. The growth of a church requires a corresponding growth in the numbers and calibre of leaders. Leaders need to understand God’s agenda for church, the church’s vision for ministry, the needs of the people they lead, and the importance of continually replacing and reproducing themselves.
This may seem like common sense – and it is! But, as someone once said, good sense isn’t that common! It’s easy to assume that leadership will arise naturally, that people will automatically understand what’s expected of them, that they’ll step up to the plate, do a great job, and all will go well. In the real world, leadership needs to be taught and caught. It needs to be encouraged, supported, resourced, and held accountable. We have to develop pathways to move the right people into leadership, and equip them so that they’ll lead people in the right way.
The Scriptures are the foundation for understanding leadership. God made people. He knows us inside out. He knows how we tick psychologically and engage relationally. Jesus, Paul, Peter, Moses, Joshua, David, and others, show us and teach us God’s purposes for leading his people – why to lead them, where to lead them, how to lead them, who should lead them. My plan is to draw on the riches of God’s word to build and inspire leaders in our midst. And, more importantly, for each of our leaders and yet-to-be leaders to dig deeply into the Bible, to shape and equip their leadership.
And yet, I don’t subscribe to the view that says “If you can’t find it in the Bible then it’s not worth knowing.” The Book of Proverbs shows how much can be learned by astute observation of this world we live in. God has created sharp minds who have much to teach us in many areas including ‘leadership’. We can learn from great leaders throughout history. We will be warned to avoid the mistakes of the past and inspired to reproduce the wisdom that worked. Bookshops abound in leadership books and, while many aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, there are some real gems out there. Leadership happens in all areas of life and organisation and we can draw on our experiences in other contexts and the experiences of others in similar situations. All this must be firmly bracketed by the understanding that leadership in church should be fundamentally about leading people in their relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, in the strength of God’s Spirit. No Harvard Business Review best-seller will take you there.
I’ve been in this leadership game for years and years, but I’ve still got so much to learn and apply. My hope is that this old dog can learn a few new ‘tricks’! My goal and prayer when it comes to leadership is to develop God-informed and worldly-wise, practical and principled, organisational and personal, uncommon and common sense.
I’m keen to grow in my ‘leadersense’.