Dear Jon Mark,
I have been thinking about our conversation regarding your desire to take your church to the next level and the matter of developing a leadership culture in your church. You are right in connecting these two issues, a fact that is usually overlooked, but is now more and more proving to be a matter of vital concern. I happen to agree with John Maxwell who said “that it all rises and falls on leadership.”
Some years ago Rick Warren studied a large number of successful churches from a variety of denominations and found one consistent characteristic that was common to them all; it was leadership. Sam Chand recently commented, “An organisation will grow to the size of the leader. When an organisation does not grow, we often try to fix things somewhere else in the organisation. Now this might be needed but we should always look first at the leader.” Consequently, I have taken time to jot down a few ideas to pass on to you regarding the high priority of developing a leadership culture within your church.
- First of all it starts with God. Realise that you cannot fulfil the vision that God has placed on your heart by yourself. A God sized vision will always be bigger than what you can accomplish by yourself.
- Then it needs to be said that it involves you, the leader of your church. You can only take the church as far as you have gone yourself. So important is this that one leader I spoke to said that of all the time he spends on leadership development, half of this time he uses to develop himself as a leader. Can I suggest that you also find a gifted leader to mentor you, a person with a proven track record in leading an organisation and who can help you grow to the next level.
- Start to develop a leadership culture in your church. Transition from seeing your congregation as a group of followers to a group of emerging leaders. Start to see your people through the eyes of Jesus who said that the people in your church are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Both salt and light are agents of INFLUENCE which essentially is how I define leadership. So from now on, when you preach to your people, assume you are speaking to a class of emerging leaders and that your church is a leadership laboratory.
- Determine to raise up a growing group of home grown leaders. The grass is not necessarily greener on the other side. See the life of your church as a leadership pathway and know that you are not as likely to have such a turnover of leaders who are home grown as you will have with leaders who are recruited from outside your church.
- Understand that leaders emerge – they don’t just appear. It takes time. I have identified the following four stages of leadership development.
a. FOLLOWER. It is only safe to give a person authority if they have learned to come under authority, especially the authority of Jesus.
b. SELF LEADERSHIP. Leaders cannot lead others until they have lead the most difficult person they will ever have to lead, themselves. Self leadership has been defined as being able to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. It is leading by your convictions and not just your feelings.
c. LEADER OF FOLLOWERS. When a person has been faithful in the little things, it follows that they can be trusted with bigger things.
d. LEADER OF LEADERS. Leaders go to a new level of impact when they make this paradigm shift and see people as Jesus sees people. This step is a breakthrough step that allows for the multiplication of a leader’s ministry. Perhaps the main reason why 85% of churches never break the 200 barrier is simply because there is a limit as to how many people one leader can care for.
- Develop leadership eyes. First of all understand what the person God uses looks like. Study the scriptures and note the qualities that key leaders in the Bible were looking for when they raised up leaders. Take Moses, as one example, who was instructed by Jethro to “select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them……” (Genesis 18:24). Some of the key qualities I look for are availability, a servant heart, teachability, humility, emotional intelligence, and a love for the church. I have learned to see that the whole life of the church is a leadership training school. I am observing people wherever I go and intuitively look for those whom the Lord is shaping for leadership in the church. A friend recently told me that he even watches people at coffee time, to observe those that walk away form a dirty cup and those who stay behind and share the load of cleaning up. Emerging leaders identify themselves in the most ordinary situations.
- Start to review your job description. If you go down the leadership pathway, you won’t be able to continue doing all the things you have been doing. You will burn out. You need to start spending more time with less people, you will learn the art of delegation, you will realise that you don’t have all the spiritual gifts and that there are others who are better gifted than you in various areas of ministry. Jethro, for example, told Moses that his job description would be to teach the people, pray for the people and develop leaders from among the people. (Exodus 18: 19-22)
- People are not necessarily leaders because of their qualifications or titles or years of experience. People are formally appointed to leadership positions as a confirmation that they are living out the life of a leader who is making an impact in the church.
- Make the issue of leadership development a priority prayer point and remember you are looking for spiritual leaders, people with competence and character.
In summary, some of the changes that will occur as you build a leadership culture are:
- going from small church thinking and operating to larger church thinking and operating.
- attending to less of the detail and focussing more on the big picture
- going from being judged by what the leader is doing to being judged by what the leader’s team is doing.
- going from shepherding and leading the people to shepherding and leading the leaders who lead the people. In other words, you will gradually be spending more time with less people.
- going from being responsible for the ministry of the church to equipping the saints to do the ministry of the church. There are few things you won’t be able to delegate to others.
- going from a church with a variety of programs to a purposeful church where every activity finds a place in a well thought out discipleship pathway.
- going from a short term stay at a church to making a long term investment that will take the church to the next level.
Well Jon Mark, may God bless you as you pursue this vision of developing a leadership culture in your church. I will be praying for you and look forward to receiving reports of the progress you are making. And remember that leaders emerge over a lifetime, they don’t just appear.