A couple of weeks ago,a woman who works with the youth in her church told me that she bought my book, “Building A Church Full of Leaders” for her pastor. She started reading it, but in the back of her mind wondered, “Should I be reading this? I’m not a pastor.” She thought this book was just for pastors but decided to “sneak” and read it for herself. She finished the book and gained a number of ideas to strengthen the ministry in which she serves. As she told me this story, I chuckled and told her, “of course you should be reading this book.” And so should you!
The misconception about leadership is that it’s only for a few elite people with specific titles such as pastor, deacon, president or director. The healthiest and most effective organizational leaders look for leaders at every level.
In the Summer 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Management Association, Frank Hanagarne, Jr., Sr. VP and COO of Coeur Mining wrote:
“There is a general tendency in business organizations to think that the success or misfortune of the company is in the hands of the executive leadership.” He went on to say, “The actions that make or break a company are occurring at different levels in the organization. The prospect for success actually rests with people on the front lines who make things happen day by day. Consequently, identifying leadership talent is an activity that needs to happen at all levels of the organization.”
I believe the same thing for churches. Too many people think that true leadership exists only with the executive leader of the church—also known as the pastor. But in reality, like in other organizational systems, the actions that make or break a church occur at every level of the church, from the parking lot to the pew to the pulpit.
True, pastoral leadership is a distinct type of leadership in faith communities, and I would never minimize the distinct call and gifting of pastors. Yet there are other leadership gifts within the congregation that are called to work in concert with and under the direction of the pastor(s). When properly trained and aligned, these leaders serve to create a culture of leadership in which men and women, young and old participate purposefully and powerfully in fulfilling the mission of the church.
I believe this unleashing of leadership potential starts with shifting how we define and live out leadership. It starts with creating and cultivating a culture in which leadership becomes normative for members and leading is infused throughout the church. In such a culture of leadership, every ministry of the church is transformative and has a dimension of leading at its core.
• Evangelism is leading people to Christ, not just inviting people to Church; as followers of Christ, every member has a role in leading people to Christ
• Worship is leading people into the presence of God, not just singing songs on a program.
• Discipleship is leading people to grow in their relationship with Christ.
• Teaching is leading people to the truth and spiritual insight.
• Parking lot attendees, greeters and ushers direct or lead people into a place where they can experience God.
• The finance ministry leads the accountability processes for the church resources.
• Maintenance and janitorial staff lead the maintenance and upkeep of the physical plant.
When we can begin to see leading as a core function of every ministry, and more members discover a place from which they can participate in the leading of those processes, the more we will recognize the success of our church is not just in the hands of one executive leader—but we all play a part in leading a church. Seeing the core of ministry functions through a leadership lens is what I mean by “serving with a leader’s mindset.”
Can you imagine if every person who served in some ministry served with a leader’s mindset?
Serving with a leader’s mindset entails:
• Knowing that we each are both leader and follower, depending on the time, and always servant (as one young, dynamic pastor tells his congregation—we all lead at something, not just the same thing);
• Making and keeping commitments, modeling accountability, taking initiative, working together to make the ministry a success;
• Looking to God the ultimate leader;
• Respecting leadership offices that have been put in place and the women and men called to serve in those offices; and
• Accepting ministry assignments and leading graciously.
According to Romans 12:8, some members will be spiritually gifted to lead and must do so with diligence; others will need to be trained and develop skills for leading that will be of use and benefit to them in and out of the church. Developing the leadership skills and capacity of a church strengthens the church and in the long run, strengthens pastoral leadership.
If you are a pastor, I invite you to check out my book, “Building a Church Full of Leaders,” to energize, equip and engage more leaders in your church. If you are a church member, like the woman whose story I shared, who serves in a ministry at your church, I encourage you to read “Building a Church Full of Leaders.” In it you will discover tips on leading that will be useful to you and will help you bless your church. It will shift your mindset!