July 12, 2012

By Phil Maynard

Jim Collins made this first part of the description of effective leaders almost a household term. It, of course, refers to selecting the right people to be leaders for any organization. The question is: How do you know who the right people are?


I, for much of my ministry, often looked for the right people in the wrong places. I think this is true for many pastors. And the result of this oversight has been more than a little damaging to our ministries.

My tendency was to look for people who were good in their secular jobs and then recruit them to offer their expertise to the church. I assumed that a good HR person would be a good staff-parish member; an accountant would be a good finance committee member; a manager would be a good Trustees chair; and so forth.

Occasionally I was right. But probably not a majority of the time.

In the church there is an often overlooked quality that in fact is the most important qualification: Does this person demonstrate a mature faith?

The church is different than a business. Specific skills, although helpful, are not all that are required for effective leadership. We have a different set of values and priorities.

In Acts 6 we are introduced to some of the qualities sought after by the early church: full of faith, full of wisdom, full of the Spirit. They should still be at the top of the list when we go seeking leaders for God’s Church today.

It was the practice of the early Methodists to select their leaders (class leaders, band leaders, lay preachers, etc.) from the most spiritually mature. You didn’t get to be a leader unless you were the best of the best in spiritual maturity.

The value of this approach to selecting leadership for our churches was recently affirmed once again in the Towers Watson study of Vital Congregations conducted by the United Methodist Church. The study determined that those persons with a strong spiritual life – regularly practicing the disciplines of prayer, Bible study, worship participation, proportional giving, participation in mission opportunities, and personal faith-sharing were 5 times more likely to be effective leaders in the church.

So like God instructing the priest Eli when selecting leadership for the people of Israel, what is in the heart is more significant than the outward appearances – even specific skills.

What qualities do you look for in identifying leaders for your local congregation?  How do you measure the spiritual maturity of your leaders?

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