Choosing Church Leaders

This is the time of year when United Methodist pastors begin to look at leaders to select for the coming year.  Some pastors casually think about it while others work hard on a plan.  When I first began, I used who I could and we ended up rotating the same names around to different positions.  In the small membership churches I served, these committees were hardly ever troublesome or misguided and bringing folks in the fold was rather easy.  Yet, I have learned that to casually go down the list and say, “he’ll be good at that and she’ll be good at that”  without a deeper reflection could short cut a very serious process for calling, equipping and sending leaders to serve the church.

The longer I serve, the more I realize that most churches need transformation to position them for the future. The more a congregation grows, leader selection is a critical job for the healthy environment in the congregation.  Here is what I’ve learned (the hard way) about selecting leaders. 

1. People who are good at things, i.e., organization, contract negotiation, accounting, education, etc.  are not necessarily cut out for effective leadership in the life of a congregation, just because they have secular skill sets.  

2. People who excel in their work environments may not utilize the sames skills to excel in a church environment, i.e., completing tasks, being dependable, showing up at meetings on time, respecting co-workers and supervisors, etc.  Sometimes, they don’t utilize any of those traits when it comes to the work of the church.

3. People with terminal degrees; Ph.D., Ed.D., etc. are not more gifted than anyone else for the work of ministry in the life of the church.  Further, just because one is a teacher or an accountant doesn’t mean they want to come and work in Sunday School and the Finance Committee respectively.  Also, sometimes, people who have been excellent in one area may thrive in another.  It’s okay to take risks and give people new roles to play.  It is one thing to be good at something but it is another to be anointed to do something and both are not always the same.

4. People who do not respect the pastor probably won’t anytime soon.  Spending a lot of time trying to win respect from those who have decided not to give it is not always a good use of time.  This may be a time to transition them to another ministry environment and setting.  

Well, then what shall we look for in leaders?  I think we all need to come up with our own lists.  However, following are mine.

A. Does the person have a concept of what it means to be a missional church?  Is the person willing to submit themselves to workshops, books assignments and leadership training to enhance their skills?

B. Is the person coachable?

C. Does the person participate in the larger life of the congregation, i.e., regular Sunday attendance, Sunday School, United Methodist Men or Women, volunteering in the kitchen for funerals, receptions, etc.?

D. Is the person supportive of the pastor and the pastor’s ministry in the congregation?

E. Is the person being considered able to serve in an environment of trust, confidentiality and team?

F. Is the person objective enough to devote service to the church in a mature way?  

G. What relationships and connections does the person possess in the life of the church?  Are they positive, healthy and wholesome?  

H. Does the person possess a working knowledge of the Bible, committed to prayer and the means of grace?

I. Is the person able to give feedback in a healthy way as well as receive it?

J. Is the person being considered a tither or at least a regular and consistent giver?  

K. Does the person being considered a good person to have in a meeting, around the table or are they a worker.  Those are the two types of committee members.  Both are useful.  You need people to help you think around the table but you also need self starters, people you can count on to do the work of the committee.  Both types are not always the same.

Now, to be sure a person may not have all of these qualities but they may have some and they may be working on the ones they don’t have.  Nevertheless, these are guidelines worth considering for the following reasons.

A. The leadership of the church sets the tone for the body.  If leaders are confused, disgruntled, angry, non participatory and out of alignment with the vision it will infect the congregation as a whole in a negative way and create a toxic enviornment.  

B. The leadership must have a quality of service (character) that is worthy of the gospel and that is Christ like.

C. The leadership must be a cohesive team where honesty is allowed to exist, in trust.  The leadership must be committed to being the church of Jesus Christ, for all other ground is sinking sand.

If you have to be at every meeting because of fear of misrepresentation of vision and mission by a leader or a group of leaders, you have the wrong team in place.  Therefore, it takes time, to build up, recruit and equip leaders properly.  It’s not always a perfect process but it is definitely necessary.  

What if I don’t know whether these leaders possess these traits?  I’d ask them!  I’d go through the list and have lengthy conversation about what is ahead or else you can move too quickly and make a choice that is not good for the person considered or the church as a whole.  I would also include a member from the Lay Leadership Committee who is able to assist in these conversations.

Well, I don’t know about you, but it looks like we have much work ahead of us as we dare to transform congregations to really, truly and faithfully March to Zion, the beautiful city of God!

Be careful out there and let us pray for one another as we get a little closer to realize the whole Kingdom of God!





~ by bkevinsmalls on June 23, 2013.

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