January 22, 2013

By Phil Maynard

It is rare that I work with a church that says it has more than enough leaders to support its ministries and that its leaders are equipped to what is expected of them (and by rare I mean never!).

When I talk with pastors and leaders from congregations and ask them why it is so hard to get leaders to step up, the responses are pretty much the same:

  • People are too busy these days
  • People don’t feel qualified
  • It is too much work to be in charge of something 
  • It’s the pastors job to lead
  • The pastor likes to be the one in charge
  • We don’t really know what we are supposed to do
  • We’re afraid of failing
  • And much more!

I think there are many reasons that people feel the way they do about stepping up to provide leadership. But I think the most significant reason is that we start in the wrong place when we think about building/getting leaders.

We tend to separate leadership from discipleship (followership) and here is where everything begins to break down.

We wonder why so many people in leadership in our churches are looking out for their own interests instead of kingdom interests; why so many leaders are seeking to control rather than serve; why so many leaders protect their turf rather than developing others and seeking to support the common good.

The answer is pretty clear: We are starting at the wrong place!

A recent book, written by Lance Ford, quotes Todd Wilson from the Exponential Network:

Discipleship is cited as a uniquely … separate thing from leadership development in the report. Where leadership development is in the context of building the institution bigger, discipleship is in the context of growing the believer better…. What if our paradigm of seeing them as distinct … is actually part of the problem? Isn’t it strange that we are coming off two to three decades of LEADERSHIP … as the silver bullet (or pill) for everything and now … we’ve entered a period where the most elusive, frustrating issue for most pastors is with ineffectiveness in DISCIPLESHIP? Down deep most know … we are struggling to make disciples who are a distinctly different aroma to the world.11 Ford, Lance (2012-09-01). UnLeader: Reimagining Leadership…and Why We Must (Kindle Locations 444-449). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

The starting point for leadership is a growing maturity in discipleship. In fact, I believe that leadership is the natural continuation of the discipling process.

How can someone in finance make decisions about the Kingdom use of resources if they are not growing in their own generosity and making Kingdom use of their resources? How can a trustee make decisions about the Kingdom use of facilities if they see them only as something to be protected rather than tools for accomplishing ministry? How can a small group leader, with any kind of integrity, inquire about and challenge people to apply the principles of scripture to their lives when the leader is not doing the same thing?

Leadership needs to be part of the discipling process and leaders need to be disciples who are moving toward maturity.

Imagine having mature disciples in positions of leadership, making decisions and engaging people in ways that reflect a personal commitment to being a follower of Jesus.

We have developed a discipleship matrix and Discipleship Growth Survey that helps us identify those who reflect this type of maturity:

Using this tool, it is suggested that those being considered for leadership be in the Deepening or Centered phases of development as a disciple. You may have another way to determine this that works better in your situation.

But, whatever way you do it, the starting point for leadership must be a growing maturity as a disciple of Jesus.

How do you select leaders for your congregation?

Do you have clear guidelines for consideration as leaders in your congregation?

What difference might having maturing disciples in leadership roles make for your context?