Effective organizations build their own leaders instead of only buying them. Effective organizations develop people to deploy against their mission.
That is to say, they take the people they have, develop their capacity and hand increasing amounts of responsibility to them.
Much more than any organization, a local church should excel at developing and deploying people. And they must be developed and deployed for the mission of God.
Embedded in the Christian faith is a history of multiplying, a command to make disciples and a promise that our mission will not be thwarted. Sadly, many churches struggle to develop leaders.
Here are four warning signs:
1. Staff who “do the ministry”
The task of a “pastor/teacher” outlined in the Scripture is to equip God’s people for works of ministry, not to do the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). When staff “do the ministry” instead of equipping God’s people for ministry, they choose an unbiblical paradigm. While they are likely affirmed, they are choosing a path the Lord did not give His church.
The long-term implications are a church that hires the ministry out to “the professionals” and fails to see pastors as equippers. When a church has a staff that does all the ministry, there is certainly very little leadership development taking place.
2. Few examples
If you have a difficult time thinking of people who have been developed in your church for ministry within and mission without, this should be a major red flag. If there are few stories of people who have been equipped to serve Christ within and without the church, your church is likely not developing leaders.
3. No system
A church that has no plan for caring for new believers cannot claim to be passionate about discipling new Christians. A church that has no plan or system to provide care for the hurting cannot claim to be passionate about serving the body. And in the same way, a church that has no system (or leadership pipeline) for developing leaders cannot claim to be passionate about leadership development.
4. Only external hires
There are definitely times where hiring externally is the wise move. Sometimes a new leader with fresh eyes and a different perspective can add great value to the team. But a church that only hires externally is clearly not developing her own leaders.
Where to begin? Not with a system, not with a pipeline on a napkin (that comes later). Begin by looking at your convictions. Do you really believe all believers are qualified by God to serve? Do you really believe that every Christian is a minister?
If every believer is a minister, then clearly the role of a ministry leader is to prepare, not to perform. Howard Snyder said, “If the pastor is a superstar, the church is an audience, not a body.
Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, Eric served local churches, most recently investing eight years as the executive pastor of Christ Fellowship Miami. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary.